WARNING: Spoilers ahead for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, including details about the ending, story, and plot twists. If you haven’t seen the movie yet STOP reading and come back later.
I took Jack and a couple of his buddies to see Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (TROS) on opening night. TROS is the 9th and final episode of the Star Wars Skywalker saga. All four of us loved the movie, with boys rating it “infinity plus eleven” on a scale of 1 to 10. I ranked it among the best of the 9 Skywalker episodes (see my official ranking of all 9 episodes at the bottom of this post).
Chances are you’ll fall into one of two Star Wars camps: either you’re a fan of the more experimental previous installment, Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi or you’ll be a fan of the more traditional approach J.J. Abrams takes with The Rise of Skywalker. I’m in the latter camp. I thought TROS was much better from a storytelling and mythology standpoint than the previous installment.
As a standalone movie, some people will feel like TROS was rushed or too much like a video game, moving from mission to mission without enough character development. Both the boys and I didn’t mind this though. We were either having fun, marveling at the action sequences, or choking back tears during the emotional roller-coaster moments. I doubt this movie will win Best Picture, but Star Wars was never for the critics. The story belongs to the fans.
TROS is the movie this generation needs. In a world of divisiveness and nihilism, Abrams gives us messages of togetherness, facing fears head on, personal sacrifice, and hope. Writing this post, I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes from MLK: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” I’ll explore some of these themes below.
Abrams has Rey back on track from a story standpoint. She actually learns to become a Jedi the old fashioned way – through training, studying, and hard work. Rey trains under (plot twist) Jedi Master Leia, who we learn herself completed her training with Luke after ROTJ. Rey develops as a powerful Jedi master with a specialty in healing. There’s a nice bit of foreshadowing when Rey heals the snake/monster thing blocking the group’s way.
We learn Rey’s true lineage. The big plot twist is that Rey doesn’t come from “no one”. Shortly after mistakenly shooting some force lightening from her finger tips, Rey discovers that she is the granddaughter of Emperor Palpatine, AKA Sith overlord Darth Sidious. She decides to isolate herself and renounce everything, heading to secluded island of Ahch-To, like Luke did in Johnson’s movie. When she tries to throw away her light-saber, it’s caught by Luke himself, who is back as a force ghost. Luke says he was wrong to try to hide from his problems (a knock on Johnson’s treatment of Luke?), and that it’s a Jedi’s destiny to confront their fear head on.
We learn more about Kylo and Rey’s diad in the force, meaning they are two equal and connected parts of one powerful entity. Kylo’s transition back to the light is completed by acts of healing and love. Leia (through the force), Han (through memory), and Rey (through healing Kylo’s wound) work together to finally destroy Kylo Ren and resurrect Ben Solo. Again, the idea that love overcomes hate permeates throughout the movie.
Ben knows what he has to do to complete his redemption. He’ll have to sacrifice himself for the greater good, a theme that Johnson wouldn’t allow in The Last Jedi. Abrams does a nice job correcting this, with nearly every major character in TROS making a heroic choice, with Ben and Rey leading the way.
Friends, Jedi Tradition, and Easter Eggs
I loved the Fin, Poe, Rey, and Chewy dynamic. C3PO, R2D2, and BB8 were as charming and charismatic as ever, with the new droid D-0 being a fun addition to the gang. The crowd cheered when Lando came back to join the resistance. Lando gives the new group advice on how the original group took down the Empire: (paraphrasing) “We did it together, as friends”.
I’m sure there were a million Easter Eggs that I didn’t catch. My favorite was when force ghost Luke resurrected his “Red 5” X Wing for Rey. Luke pulling his ship out of the water was a great call-back to my all-time favorite Star Wars scenes of Luke and Yoda on Dagoba. We next see Rey flying with Luke’s Rebel pilot helmet on, another crowd cheering moment.
TROS has all of the friends working together, helping each other, and facing adversity head on, where The Last Jedi had everyone separated, bickering, running, hiding, and waiting for someone else to save them.
The ending 30 minutes or so were epic. Rey resists the dark side, hands Ben his mother’s light-saver (I’m not crying, you’re crying), and they face down the Emperor and the Sith spirits together.
Then, in one of the most moving moments of the saga, Rey looks to the stars and hears the voices of the Jedi who came before her. They’re all there, encouraging her and giving her strength. “Rise, get back up, and take that next step.” This is another triumph over the previous movie. Rey will move forward embracing the spirit of her forbearers, where the last movie wanted to burn down the past in its entirety.
The last few minutes were pure fan service. Rey heads to Tatooine and gives Luke and Leia a proper sendoff. In the background is the horizon where we first saw two suns rising in A New Hope. The suns are now setting. An old woman asks who Rey is, and she responds, taking the family name of her adopted parents. She’s Rey Skywalker.
My Official Updated Star Wars Skywalker Saga Ranking
- A New Hope
- Rise of Skywalker
- Revenge of the Sith
- Return of the Jedi
- Attack of the Clones
- The Force Awakens
- Phantom Menace
- The Last Jedi