The Emperor Lives! Long thought dead after the events of The Return of the Jedi, Palpatine makes his presence known throughout the galaxy, brandishing a reinvigorated Empire, touting a legion of Star Destroyers, each with the power of the Death Star. All worlds in the universe will bow before him or perish in his final act of revenge. The Resistance Fighters and the First Order forces set aside their tug of war as they turn their efforts on the elimination of this sudden threat to the galaxy, each with their own agenda: the Resistance to restore peace, the First Order to continue and expand their oppression and dominance.
As the Emperor, with the help of old Imperial Moffs from the the days of the Empire, put the finishing touches on the massive plot to extinguish hope from the universe, Rey and the newly anointed Supreme Leader Kylo Ren race across the galaxy to track down ancient Sith and Jedi relics that will lead them to Palpatine. Their paths cross multiple times on their journey and with each meeting, Kylo Ren continues to urge Rey to join him on the Dark Side and Rey urges him to come to the light, both with the understanding that only together can they destroy the Emperor.
Meanwhile, at the behest of General Leia Organa, Poe, Finn, and Rose Tico (Along with C-3PO), physically go planet to planet hoping to find the ally’s to the resistance who refused to answer the call for help on Crait, to convince them to join the fight to abolish the Emperor and whatever armada he may have amassed. They find a broken Lando Calrisian, far removed from the charming charismatic hustler we last remember, now just a rudderless old man who has lost touch with his friends and couldn’t be there for his best one when he was needed. Poe and Finn convince Lando to rejoin the fight and he helps gather more forces, tapping into his old ways to get people to rise to the occasion.
As their paths cross, Kylo, who til this point was looking for Sith relics, winds up finding Jedi relics and the pull to the light commences as he experiences strong visions through the force, he begins to allow himself to feel remorse for what he did to Han, the dagger driven home when he finally feels his mother’s presence as she speaks to him through the force, passing away as she too has exerted herself as Luke previously did. We leave Kylo torn and conflicted before his Knights of Ren brethren.
At this moment, Rey is finding Sith relics and through these relics, Palpatine reaches out to her, trying his best to seduce her over to the darkside all the while hiding his true intentions. He shows her her lineage as she had so much desired, angering her beyond control, stoking the fire of hatred. She is then confronted with a test of her own, a vision of herself more powerful than she could ever imagine, shrouded in darkness and pale skin.
In the end, Kylo Ren and Rey arrive at the same time on the planet where Palpatine is hiding neither say a word to each other, each conflicted with the emotions that are causing their soul to turn in turmoil. Above them, the Resistance and the first order arrive to try and destroy the large fleet that Palpatine has been building for years. As the fight rages above, the fight below begins and Rey and Kylo clash one more time only this time, Kylo seems to be fighting for the right cause and Rey is not. Instead of pulling Rey to the dark, he implores her to come to the light while Rey, her soul conflicted, admits that Kylo was right all along. To show her how wrong he was, Kylo tosses away his lightsaber and drops to his knees before her, asking her to execute him. Coming back to her senses she tosses her saber aside and drops to her knees before Ren. They now see each other for who they are, unfortunate pawns and casualties of an ancient war that has nothing to do with them. They turn to the Emperor together, an air of proud defiance before them.
Enraged, Palpatine summons all the strength he can to kill them both, starting with the nobody Rey. Kylo Ren jumps before the powerful lightning, seemingly sacrificing his life for Rey’s. The Emperor then turns his powers on Rey and she nearly succumbs to his power, but before she gives up, she hears the voices of Luke and Leia urging her to carry-on and finish the Emperor. With what’s left of her will, she summons Luke’s and Kylo’s lightsaber’s to her and tries to bend the lightning back to him. Still the Emperor proves too powerful and just as he is about to deliver the final blow, Kylo Ren rises and force chokes Emperor Palpatine, holding as long as he can to allow Rey to over take the Emperors power and fry him to ash.
Kylo Ren and Rey collapse to the floor exhausted. Free from the bondage that is “Jedi” and “Sith” or “Darkside” and “Lightside”. They only see each other, they smile and embrace.
The battle above is won by the Resistance and First Order. Rather than turn against each other, the First Order feels the cloud of Palpatine’s dark side manipulation dissipate and decide to retreat and regroup, maybe to evolve into something less sinister, especially after what they have witnessed.
Finn, Poe, and Rose go to retrieve Rey before the ship she’s on explodes. When they find her, she’s with Kylo who they immediately see as a threat but she convinces them that he is no longer Kylo but Ben. Hearing his name from her mouth brings him a solace he felt he had not deserved. They board the Millennium Falcon and take off.
They celebrate back on the Resistance Base. While they celebrate, Lando is told that Leia knew he’d return and left the Resistance and Rebels under his and Poe’s command. Lando has found his purpose again. Meanwhile, Ben stands above his mothers resting place, sad and remorseful. He is joined by Rey who nearly asks him a question but before she can get it out he tells her that as much as he’d like to stay and help the resistance stamp out the last remaining remnants of the defunct first order and Empire, he needs to walk his own path of redemption and make right what he’s destroyed. He tells Rey that they don’t need him anyway because they have her. They embrace once more. He and Chewbacca go aboard the Millennium falcon and before he gets on, Rey confides in him that she doesn’t know if she’s strong enough to do it alone, to which Ben replies cheekily, “Sure you do. You’re a Skywalker.” She smiles, finally realizing she may be a nobody but she can choose who she wants to be. Ben smiles back at her and tells her “May the force be with you.” in the same fashion as his mother. Rey nods. Ben turns to Chewbacca and says “Come on, Chewie.” He gets in his fathers Pilot seat, savors the moment with Chewbacca at his side, and takes off. Rey watches as the Millennium Falcon ascends passed the heavens and disappears into space one last time. She continues to look to the sky and silently says to herself. “Always.” She turns back to the celebration, finds Poe and Finn, hugs Poe, and gives Finn a giant kiss. They laugh and smile and celebrate as Luke and Leia watch on from the distance.
Now if you’re reading this and you’ve seen Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, you know that this is not the plot to the movie what so ever. My question is wouldn’t this have been so much better? My Answer:
Let me get this out of the way, J.J. Abrams’ final installment to the Skywalker saga tries, REALLY TRIES, to satisfy everyone. It is clear that Disney, J.J., and his co-writer Chris Terrio, love the franchise and did their best to cater to fanboys and girls alike but alas, that has been the mistake from the very beginning. I’m going to keep it very simple: The movie is not great. It’s not good either, but it’s not terribly unwatchable as some critics would lead you to believe. It’s just passable.
Also, I read that there was talk of Star Wars fatigue? In the eleven years since Iron Man first premiered in 2008, Marvel has put out 22 (23 now?) Marvel movies. Shouldn’t there be a Marvel fatigue? Squash that noise. There is no Star Wars fatigue. There is just disappointment over the mishandling of the material and the blatant pandering to the fanbase. You can’t have a great movie with a terrible story.
I’m not playing the blame game because like I said, Disney and J.J. respect the franchise so much, they tried to service the fans but ultimately, that was the problem. When Disney bought all the rights from George, I’m sure they were excited to bring Star Wars back after a decade long hiatus but the pay off would’ve been better had they taken their time and plotted out a solid arch for all three movies at once. To have a truly great film you must have a great story. Unfortunately, that’s where the Rise of Skywalker fails. The acting is very good (Adam and Daisy compliment each other so well in this film), the visuals are stunning as you would expect, and the music is on point thanks to John Williams (who may never be known for anything else is his illustrious career than for creating all the themes in this franchise), but the story is so shallow and convoluted that it destroys everything it has built.
I said this on my review of The Last Jedi, The Force Awakens was nothing but nostalgia bait, an old story retooled and retold for a new generation with the same tropes, the same ships, and the same stakes. Everyone accepted it because it was just nice to have Star Wars back. Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi took those same tropes, turned them upside down, took a real chance and offered a risky but refreshing installment for the follow-up. Yet for some reason, the film left “fandom” devastated and extremely divided. They could not accept that Rey was nobody. They could not accept that Luke was a former shell of himself, devastated over his failure with Ben Solo. They couldn’t accept that Snoke was killed so early.
So in the most disrespectful move I’ve ever seen in a franchise, the first 40 minutes of The Rise of Skywalker completely undoes what Rian Johnson previously set up. From the Opening crawl, the movie moves so fast that it doesn’t allow for truly emotional scenes to resonate with the audience. It introduces characters that we can’t care about because we’ve spent no time with them up til this point, it brings back characters but gives them nothing to do, it gives you something then takes it away then gives it back to you and before you can digest any of it, it moves on to something else. On the other hand, the stuff that does happen that leaves you dumbfounded is easier to accept because, again, they don’t stay on it long enough for you to dwell on it. With this latest and final entry in the franchise, the failure is complete. Whereas the original trilogy and the much maligned prequels flowed from one film to the next, the Disney trilogy does not; each of these films feel disjointed from one another.
That’s about as far as I’ll go. I don’t want to spoil anything but also, I don’t need to analyze further. It’s a Star Wars movie. You’re either going to watch it or not. There were things to like, and there were many things to dislike. Did I wish it would’ve been the contrived story I made up in my head? Sure. I can dream, right? But this is what we got and I’m not going to bitch and moan that I didn’t get my way. I’m going to watch this movie despite it’s glaring flaws. Life is too short to not enjoy things. If I truly do consider myself a fan of this universe, I can find a way to enjoy the film, while admitting that it is a mess.
Naturally, I am sad to see this story come to an end; I didn’t grow up with this franchise as many kids did but it still has a special place in my heart. It’s the movie I watch when I’m feeling hopeless, it’s the movie I can’t wait to watch with my kids when they’re old enough, and it’s the film that stoked my initial love of cinema. Unfortunately, for this finale, you don’t necessarily leave the movie feeling at ease, like when a loved one passes and you feel they’re resting peacefully, you leave conflicted and I’m sure that wasn’t anyone’s intention.
For all the studio tried to avoid, this film has left everyone just as divided as The Last Jedi, only this time, critics dislike it and “fandom” is screaming at the critics to shut up. If anything, this moment encapsulates our epoch. No one can agree on anything. Everyone has an opinion and they believe they have the right to make demands to a property that they did not create. You don’t. However, because the studio did listen to you, the most revered franchise in film history is now a joke.
Moving forward, I hope Disney and all other conglomerate film studios use this failure as a teachable moment. Don’t listen to us fans. Star Wars – at its core – is a film, not a product. I firmly believe, had this started with a great story, there would be no denying these films. Instead, we got a disjointed trilogy, with conflicting ideologies, tons of fan servicing nostalgia bait, and an uneven, empty finale to a beloved epic.