The Skywalker Saga has officially concluded with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker! We have searched our feelings, and we know this to be true: This is probably the most divisive Star Wars film. (More than The Last Jedi, yes.) The moments we loved, we adored… and the beats that didn’t work were baaad. And, just as we’ve learned with the Force, nothing is ever black-and-white, so we’ve got some complicated feelings in the mix, too.
This contains ALL THE SPOILERS, so don’t read until you’ve seen Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
What We Loved
Jedi Master Leia
Of course Rey begins her training with one Skywalker and concludes it with the other. When she called Leia “Master,” we all almost lost it. And then the flashback (no surprise that Leia kicks Luke’s ass) and the lightsaber, and by the time we lost our general princess, we had gotten so much more insight into a woman who has already lived so many lives. Frankly, considering the filmmakers’ limited constraints, they did so right by Leia, and by Carrie Fisher, as well as they could. (And Chewie’s reaction to Leia’s death absolutely wrecked us.)
The Voices of Jedi Past
Ahsoka! Kanan! Mace! Sure, Anakin too! But mostly AHSOKA!! And also Luminara and Adi Gallia and Aayla Secura! Because we’ve seen a lot of male Jedi, but Rey deserves to know more about her female predecessors!
A nice turn for ol’ Armitage, and still fitting to his character—he doesn’t want the Resistance to win, he just wants Kylo to lose. It used to be him and Phasma and Kylo jockeying for power, but now it’s just him getting silenced and shoved around, so we can’t blame the guy for being over it.
Richard E. Grant
Grant’s Allegiant General Pryde perfectly stepped into the villain roles vacated by Kylo Ren and later Hux. He’s got a real history with Palpatine, and Grant is clearly having the time of his life being odious and unforgiving.
If we couldn’t get Stormpilot to be canon, this throuple hug was the next best thing. Look at the way Poe and Rey, who spend the movie kvetching at one another, clasp hands across Finn’s back. Look at Finn, crying in the arms of his two favorite people, safe and together. Proof that you solve a love triangle with polyamory. You’ll pry this truth from our Force-powered hands (which means you won’t, we’re keeping it).
Onscreen Queer Representation
Commander D’Acy and her Resistance pilot wife sharing a same-sex kiss was a wonderful moment, even if it’s the bare minimum of the kind of representation that should be seen onscreen. Even better that they’re super young spring chickens! The sheer joy with which they greet each other after the battle gives us hope.
D-O and Babu Frik
Two chattery welcome additions to our favorite space crew!
Finn is Force-Sensitive!
Finn has feelings. Well, we already knew he’s our sensitive cinnamon roll, but he also has Force feelings! Abrams had set this up (we’d hoped) with him taking up Anakin’s lightsaber in The Force Awakens, but The Rise of Skywalker confirmed it! Honestly, we were worried they’d back off on this one, but it was a beautiful way to introduce Finn’s abilities, very much in keeping with his character and how much he’s driven by love and empathy.
Memory Ghost Han
A savvy way to get around the problem of no Force ghost for Han Solo was to have him haunting Kylo Ren—another moment set up, this time in The Last Jedi when Luke has a chat with his nephew. And damn if it wasn’t good to see that handsome, scoundrel-y face. (He said I KNOW, which means that him saying that is part of Ben’s MEMORIES, which means that Han and Leia did this ALL THE TIME, that’s it, bury us here where we lay.)
From Finn and Jannah bonding over not being the only Stormtroopers to defect, to Poe and Rose and Finn bolstering each other (even when Poe is being cranky), to Finn and Lando talking about how to keep going when you’re pretty sure you have no idea what you’re doing, to Lando and Jannah’s future space adventures, The Rise of Skywalker passes the DuVernay test and then some.
Threepio’s Protocol Rules
In a movie full of twists and reversals, there’s a strange comfort in being reminded of the inflexibility of droid programming. Which is not to say we support it—we can’t wait to see future movies carry on Elthree’s mission of droid autonomy! But while Return of the Jedi lets Han go off on Threepio for his programming as though it’s a choice rather than an immutable part of his person that humans inflict upon him (he makes the point of this particular rule being the result of a Republic law, for Force’s sake), The Rise of Skywalker makes it clear that there are certain things that Threepio genuinely has no power to control, and it makes his role in the plot all the more rending.
The Lightsaber Handoff
Very Die Hard. Rey and Ben’s faces just make that moment sing.
Thanks to CGI, the live-action movies can finally replicate some of the physical feats of the animated series. It looks otherworldly and makes Force powers just a little extra magical.
Keri Russell’s Eyes
Sexier than the Reylo kiss. That is all.
All the Space Creatures
Yak horses! Ewoks (Wicket!) and porgs and antennae-dish-eared gerbils! There was lots of fluffy cuteness (and badass-ness) spotted in between the big Skywalker moments.
Dominic Monaghan’s Cameo
The Resistance’s Tolkien white guy.
Billie Lourd’s Braid Crown
We are here for Lieutenant Connix’s gradual evolution of Princess Leia hairstyles. It’s hard enough being without Leia’s entire arc that was meant for this film, any echo of her that we can grab onto is good for the soul.
The Manner of the Emperor’s Death Was Seeded in Revenge of the Sith
He literally dies by having his Force lightning directed back on him, which almost happened when he fought Mace Windu, but Anakin interrupted. This time, no one’s got his back, and he’s wasted by his hubris… which was always going to be the way he went.
Rey Finishing Luke’s Journey
Force ghost Luke comes in for a perfectly-timed pep talk on Ahch-To, when Rey has destroyed Kylo’s ship and seems ready to hunker down with some green milk and save the galaxy from her potential dark power. He made a mistake hiding himself away, he admits, one that she should not repeat. But it’s not until she’s standing on Tatooine, staring at the double sunset, that we feel the full impact of the closure that they both get.
Chewie Gets His Medal
Well, Han’s medal. Point is, we’ve waited decades for this, this is the best kind of fan service.
Watching her wield the Skywalker blades against Palpatine was awesome, but Rey’s journey would not be complete without constructing a saber of her own. And after her vision of Sith Rey had that disjointed double blade, it was even more affirming to see that she had constructed her weapon out of her trusty staff. There’s a lot to this symbolism, too: the red double-bladed saber of Rey’s vision had the same handle-type used by guards of the Jedi Temple. In the end, Rey’s staff lightsaber is gold/yellow, the color of the guard blades. Which means that Rey instinctively knew that she would be filling this guardian/protector role, even when she feared she’d fall to the dark side.
What We Hated
Not least because fans guessed it way back when! We have been Team Nobody since The Force Awakens, so to qualify The Last Jedi’s statement with “your parents were nobody… because they chose to be!” feels like Abrams really forcing this “reveal.” And if you’re gonna use Villanelle (a.k.a. Jodie Comer), then tell us much more about her than two quick flashbacks. It’s nice that Rey learns to reject the name, and realizes that her ancestry doesn’t have to inform who she is (which is essentially the inverse of Ben’s journey), but if she’s so powerful, that could have been reason enough for Palpatine to set his sights on her. Also, it forces us to consider the worst thing of all:
Sheev Palpatine fucks.
Palpatine’s Sith Arena
Sheev’s extra AF stadium of Sith ghosts and/or disciples and/or groupies (?) felt very Return of the King, and not in a good way. Ditto his Iron Throne-ass looking throne. We know it must get boring sitting around on Exegol making test-tube Snokes and moving chess pieces, but now we also have insight into his binge-watching habits.
MEGA ELECTRIC TIME
Okay, we get it, Force lightning can be very powerful. But once you have Palps use it to try and down the whole Resistance fleet, it just becomes a variant of the “Giant Beam in the Sky” thing that happens in every superhero film ever.
Barely Any Rose Tico
After shining in The Last Jedi, Rose is very ancillary to the action here, often reacting to the others’ (mostly Finn’s) movements. At the same time, she and Finn have clearly become buddies over the last year, so even in those brief interactions you get the sense of how they’ve both helped each other grow.
No Justice for Elthree
You mean to tell us that Lando was in the Falcon and we didn’t get to see his reunion with Elthree? That after revealing that devastating bit of retconning information in Solo—along with all of the moments about droid agency in this movie—there was no acknowledgement of where Elthree has been all this time? Boo.
Because we knew it was coming, but we were hoping that it might be about changing the Jedi name to something new. So it’s sweet, but a little less complex than we were hoping for. It also smacks of needing to keep the “legacy” of the Skywalkers intact, which we care far less about. They’re fine! They’re having a Force-ghost potluck in the yard. Anakin keeps complaining that everything tastes like sand.
(Wait, do we have to call them “Bey” because he’s Ben in that moment? No.) We don’t disagree with the fact that it happened, especially because it was less a sexy thing than a “oh wow we did that, what a relief” thing, a satisfying bit of closure after these two characters spent three movies clashing. But it only works because he dies right after. Side note: If Palpatine is, in a sense, Anakin’s “father” (no confirmation on that, but he might have manipulated midichlorians to conceive him), that makes Rey Ben’s aunt… ergo, we got major Game of Thrones series finale vibes with this whole scene.
Dyad in the Force
It’s a solid idea that adequately sums up this dynamic… but it wasn’t really seeded as a concept in the prior two films, so it feels like they hastily came up with a cool-sounding term. And we’ve never been fans of constraining ourselves to binaries, so to have a light side user and a dark side user who pair up felt a bit pat.
The Lars Homestead as Galactic Heritage Site?
While Rey burying Luke and Leia’s lightsabers on Tatooine was a lovely close for the Skywalker saga, we couldn’t help but wonder if this was J.J. Abrams/Lucasfilm’s way of keeping two aces up their sleeve for future films. Will the Lars homestead become a historic site for galactic tourists? Those sabers didn’t seem to go very deep into the sand; if they get The Mask treatment and get dug up within a generation, we will not be pleased.
What parts of The Rise of Skywalker got your theater applauding, and which had (as with ours) a complete split down the middle? Share in the comments!