Before we start, first of all, major spoilers ahead.
Also, looking at my TLJ review has me nostalgic right now. Since there is a LONG post ahead, I’ll break it up with some gifs. 😉
Goodness is wholesome, healing, exciting, inspiring, fulfilling, and uplifting. When you say a movie is good, you mean one of those things. When you say a movie is bad, you mean it failed those expectations. And at the end of a four-year sequel trilogy, I’m happy to say that the Rise of Skywalker is, for me at least, a good movie.
I would personally give it 4 out of 5 stars. You may wonder why. Well, it’s because I believe the Rise of Skywalker is an impressive culmination of the quasi-mess that was TFA and TLJ; mainly because Abrams and Lucasfilms were not following a master plan–the trilogy was planned to be “flexible.” The flexibility was interesting, but it caused a lot of problems. Considering the problems, though, I think the writers of TROS did an impressive job pulling together the movie after those problems.
So, get ready for spoiler city. I have a lot of opinions and thoughts on this movie. I’ll start with what I didn’t like.
Sloppiness. I’m sorry, TROS. For this, you lose ¼-½ a star. I understand that this is due to the fact that the series was supposed to be “flexible” but I feel like, especially considering the Rey/Ben relationship, the writers were particularly tentative to establish Rey’s true feelings for Ben in TLJ. They placed her character in a “flexible” position where they could have either said “Oh hey! Rey doesn’t care for Ben at all!” or gone the other route where they affirmed her love for him. But this choice cost her character some realism. Her true feelings should have been clearer if she was to be a more realistic character and the path forward would have been better defined.
And it wasn’t like there were no hints of Rey’s feelings in TLJ–after scouring two novelizations, theories, and pouring over the movies multiple times, you could see them, but not everyone was informed of them clearly enough.
Clarity. Flexibility cost clarity. Throughout the series, there was a lot of tumult about different things–were Rey and Ben really a thing from the beginning? Was Luke actually dead? When was Leia ever a Jedi?
I think the reason Star Wars’ franchise got such bad reviews was because the writers didn’t approach the entire series with firm clarity–they wanted to be creative about it. And that works for some people, like me, but it’s hard to unite everyone around a vague hints of developments. If the writers had been clear from the start about the direction the series would take, it would have greatly improved Rey’s character–she could have, for example, been seen as a person with flaws and weaknesses from the beginning.So, yeah.
Basically all the problems with clarity and sloppiness has me like:
because it COULD have been avoided.
Ben Solo. As you know, I wholeheartedly love Ben’s redemption arc. Honestly, it’s one of the best I’ve seen, considering the circumstances. However, I believe–especially because the movie was called the Rise of Skywalker–that he deserved slightly more credit. He did get a lot; but again, the writers should have made these facts more clear:
-Ben was the person who restored Rey to life and subsequently, made her belong to the Skywalker family through his redemption of her
-Because of Ben’s metaphorical and literal “rise” from the pit of darkness, Rey was saved from a dark future and death.
-Because of the Force dyad, and Ben’s actions, Rey was deeply affected. She should have remembered him and sort of paid tribute not just to Luke and Leia in the end scene, but him too–and maybe even Anakin and the other Skywalkers who led up to that moment.
when ben doesn’t get the recognition he deserves.
Rey. I feel like there should have been more to celebrate Ben and Rey’s reunion as people working for the Light Side and for good. Ben’s sacrifice for Rey was phenomenal, and their Light relationship was a way for people to see how Reylo truly works without either of them being evil.
and who does she see here?
But that’s a little off topic–my real problem is that the Jedi were telling Rey that her “final steps” were about to be taken. So she fulfills her destiny by killing her last living family member through the power of the other Jedi (truly phenomenal) at the cost of her life, (very appropriate) but then when Ben comes and raises her back to life, what’s next for her?
Both from that scene about her “final steps” and the way her family is dead, her friends have significant others, the Rebellion is over, and Ben dead, it kind of leaves her in an almost useless position. Of course Rey will find reasons to live and it’s good that she’s alive, but I feel like Ben’s sacrifice for Rey added more to *his* character and character development than it did for hers. She was raised to a seemingly purposeless life involving a yellow lightsaber with which she will fight a nonexistent enemy (?) To amend this, I believe it would have been better to emphasize her equal union with Ben if:
-she and Ben both survived and began a new (Grey?) Jedi Order together
-she had a clear purpose that Ben would have supported her on (like training the Force sensitive)
-she died as well as Ben–this would be my favorite as it would emphasize the power of their soul bond and the way that Palpatine could not really break it and it took both of them to defeat him.
Producers probably thought that Option Number 2 was canon, but unfortunately, that was not addressed with clarity. We’re all left to assume that Rey did not hang out on Tatooine forever, which isn’t really a fulfilling close for her.
I believe that Rey and Ben both dying would have been the best option. If the final scene was edited whereas she and Ben defeated Palpatine together (him using Leia’s lightsaber and her using Anakin’s) and both died, it would have–
helped people understand how grave the danger of Palpatine truly was
and how brave both of them were to unite against him for a good purpose, instead of the bad purpose Ren originally had in mind
it would have reinforced the strength of their Force bond.
(Plus, it would sort of canonize the fact that they probably enjoyed some kind of afterlife together to appease the Reylos. We could see their Force ghosts smiling down on the abandoned lightsabers at the end instead of Rey embarking on a life of lonely purposelessness).
You see, I understand how Ben’s sacrifice was necessary to establish how his character truly changed and how his love for Rey was pure and unselfish–I just wish he had sacrificed in a way that didn’t undermine Rey’s sense of purpose as a person. The idea was that having sacrificed, she deserved to live, and we can all understand why Ben doesn’t deserve to live, but still it doesn’t seem fair, because
isn’t the point of redemption that no one deserves to live and that’s why we have to be redeemed?
He both externally and internally saved her: internally, by coming for her just as she was about to turn to the Dark Side out of fear, and externally, by giving his life for hers. That completed his arc.
However, I wish the resounding arc of Ben Solo the Brave didn’t leave Rey purposeless and alone, and because of the Force bond, I feel like they should have completed something together. Even if Ben just had to be a Force ghost by Rey’s side. I want that much to be clear.
I like the fact that Rey is meant for a true Jedi hermit’s life, but it’s also sad that with Ben’s death, she doesn’t really have a clear purpose anymore. That issue could have been amended by instead of paying tribute to the past in the final scene, we could have glimpsed what Rey’s future would have looked like. (Remember how lonely she seemed coming back to the Rebellion celebration?)
Also, Rey has a lack of female friends. Just saying. For all the sequels’ feminist propaganda, we get zero (0) solid female friendships? I’m a little tired of females only being love interests, tbh. (It’s even more hypocritical when you have Disney adding a token “lesbian kiss” but completely in all three movies glossing over any kind of actual female friendship!)
I do support Reylo because Ben, and Rey’s relationship with him, adds a lot to her character puts her in complex, character building situations. Because of him, she becomes much more relatable and in my opinion, strong, of a character, than if she were just the “strong independent woman” who didn’t care for anyone.
Rebellion. At this point, I’ve given up on the Star Wars “rebellions” being anything but disappointment. These rebellion tactics are laughably ridiculous. These kids in the forest don’t even know what they’re doing. TLJ was the epitome of Rebellion failure. So the Rebellion is always kind of annoying and unrealistic. I feel like in this movie, however, it had an external purpose of mirroring the conflict between the dark and light sides more than being an actual legitimate rebellion. That’s better than nothing.
But also–why did they kill Hux? JJ??
He could have been so valuable if they’d taken him hostage! Does Finn know how many lives could have been saved? That’s one thing that annoys me about Finn–he seemingly has a one track mind.
Nowww for the good. The good is the basis of everything because I do believe this movie was a truly good movie, I promise.
Character DEVELOPMENT. Not just development–DEVELOPMENT. And not just for specially selected people–everyone. (I’m thankful especially that Poe received much needed character development. He’s more serious and his friendship with Finn was inspiring.) I used to hate Poe, would you believe that? This movie did a 180 for my perspective of him. Thank you, JJ!
Kylo Ren. Kylo Ren’s redemption arc was undoubtedly the best part of the whole movie. And even more: without him, the movie wouldn’t have happened. He was the true main character. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Furthermore, it’s impressive that the writers managed to pull such a striking redemption arc out of the mess that was TLJ and TFA–they did not skimp on his arc.
Here is where we put to rest all the “Reylo is abusive” and “Rey is only a tool to redeem Ben” complaints. Because she wasn’t.
Granted, Rey was a (maybe the) instigator of his repentance/redemption. But she wasn’t the only one. Here’s the thing: he was never really gone. And he had people who believed in him, like Leia and Han.
Do you remember the first scene in TFA where they are tracking down the droid? According to First Order protocol, Ren gives the command to execute the villagers. And then before he turns to his ship, he sees Finn actively disobeying the command. He sees him. And he says nothing. Because maybe, somewhere inside, he doesn’t truly believe what he is doing is right.
You also see him referring to the dark side as his “surrender”, as per the voices in his head which tell him that because of his lineage and power he must be evil. His problem was believing those voices and giving up hope. Technically, he was more of a victim than the lynchpin of evil. He wasn’t healthy enough for a healthy relationship at that point–but it was starting. This is all to say, if you look closely, he wasn’t fully evil, and he chose his redemption for himself, Rey didn’t choose it for him.
You see this in his initial designs–wanting Rey to rule with him. That shows his indepence of character–he’s not following Rey like an abused puppy just waiting to do whatever she wants him to. Therefore, his redemption has less to do with her influence. Of course she is an influential (almost Messianic?) character at play, but he *does* choose his redemption for himself.
Almost nothing could have displayed Ben’s full redemption better than the end scene when he comes to rescue Rey. That was probably my favorite part of the entire movie. You see Rey, everyone’s strong character, afraid and alone, enticed by the Dark Side, and Ben. In a satisfying conclusion, he ends up saving her and fighting with her for good instead of fulfilling the selfish plans he has in the beginning. (Even though that is the one perfect opportunity where he technically could).
*insert gif I wish I had here*
The ending (I wish it were more expanded on) perfectly demonstrates how the real Reylo is meant to work–with both of them healing each other and freeing themselves and the world from evil instead of subjugating themselves to it. It provides a conclusion to their relationship without either of them giving into the dark side.
Also: character competency. In minor albeit noticeable ways, almost every character improved in competency. Kylo was finally able to showcase the strength he had in him to affirm that no, he’s not a wimpy character; Poe showcased at least a little more seriousness and gravity; Rey showcased a little more flaws and weakness and her incredible power was adequately explained by her ancestry. (more on that in a minute).
Complexity for Rey. One thing (it was a little thing, but I still liked it) was seeing Rey train. And even fail.
We had a lot of complaints about Rey being a Mary Sue character in TFA. Not all those charges have been adequately explained (the Force dyad helps, and so does her ancestry) but seeing Rey train, and struggle with succumbing to the Dark Side made her character far more complex.
First of all, I liked how the writers kept the theme of Rey searching to find her identity and family throughout the series, and finding out that Palpatine was her family challenged the entire journey.
I don’t care if it was a fan idea; it was a good idea.
It was a far better idea than an easy answer, like “Her real father is Luke! Or Obi Wan! Yay!” No emotional conflict. Seeing how the discovery affected her was interesting.
(Also, exactly where did she find her “belonging” in the end? In a way, it feels like she didn’t really fit with the Resistance as she was always on a different mission than them, and her family (including Leia, Luke and Han, in a way) all died, and the people she traveled with had significant others and closer friendships to each other than they did for her. Partly because of her power, she seemed like a hard person to befriend.
If the “belonging” meant Ben/Kylo Ren, maybe that works. Of course, he died, so how does that help her? So I guess that was an untied thread.)
However, one of the best scenes where you saw her character complexity was the scene where Kylo Ren snapped the wayfinder she found. She flew into a full rage. Sounds like a Sith thing to do.
Her struggle with that side of herself added a lot more realism to her character. Because someone as powerful as her wouldn’t be untempted by evil. And in a way, Leia’s call to Ben not only redeemed him, but her as well. Jedi weren’t supposed to kill people in anger. (By the way, didn’t her pushing Finn away seem Dark SideTM?)
Healing him meant she realized her mistake and rejected the Dark Side–but of course, the struggle comes up again when she confronts Palpatine and then Ben has to save her.
Palpatine. I know some people are complaining about this. Personally, I think Palpatine’s role added more intrigue to an otherwise static film. He explained Ben’s past and fall to the Dark Side very well. I also loved the theme that evil/the Dark Side means enslavement, because throughout his life, Ben had been tormented by the Dark Side and all those voices Palpatine sent to enslave him and when he explains to Rey why she has to join him, he talks about “surrendering” to the Dark Side.
This is an incredible image of how sin is slavery; how it affects people; and how it makes them do things they don’t want to do. Most of all, a potent lie is: “Because of who you are, you MUST sin.”
Kylo never really wanted to be evil. Still, he wasn’t strong enough to fight those voices on his own and save himself from them. Are any of us? Can any of us free ourselves? Or do we all, like him, need redemption?
Furthermore, in Return of the Jedi, the real theme seemed to not be killing Palpatine, but redeeming Darth Vader. My eight year old self didn’t really believe palpatine could have truly died by falling down an electric vat, but okay?
(Though, one complaint–if Snoke was Palpatine’s creation, how did Snoke know about the dyad and Palpatine didn’t? The servant is not above his master).
Leia’s Ending was absolutely beautiful. Leia’s ending was perfectly handled. Out of everything in the movie, Leia’s future was the most complicated (because of Carrie Fisher) but a deep motive of Leia’s was her son’s redemption, and in the end she finally accomplished it, though it cost her life.
It’s sad we didn’t get to see more of Leia or Rose, but the impact of her sacrifice–the final call to her son (and by extension Rey)–resounded because there were no Leia-Rose-Rebellion subplots.
Bendemption (full circle reconciliation). Undoubtedly the BEST PART. How long have I wanted to talk about this? Could this have happened in any better way?
From the beginning, Ben was a far more complex character than anyone else in the movie. (That’s sort of sad). I saw a quote by George Lucas that he liked how the sequels’ theme was the villain trying to find his humanity, and thank you George Lucas?
This was not skimped on. The movie addressed every milestone in his life–everywhere he went wrong–like the murder of his father, the voices he succumbed to, Snoke’s influence on his life, his relationship with Rey–in the movie, those things were explained and corrected. And because of his immense suffering, but ultimate triumph, he becomes a far greater character than any other in the series. Perhaps even in all nine movies?
Someone praised his redemption arc as “Shakespearian.” (Ironically, this person gave the movie a 3 star rating). You see how non fans had to admit the greatness of the arc?
The tremendous pain and evil he descended into, along with his redemption from the sacrifice of others, enabling him to sacrifice and save others–that is the greatest thing any human can aspire to. In him, we might glimpse ourselves.
Like him, no mortal is infallible. No human is undeceived by lies, untempted by desires, unstained by sin, or untouched by love. He fell at his own fault, but rose through the love and sacrifice of others. It was–perfect.
Even more impressive was the fact that he wasn’t originally intended to be redeemed, it just happened that way? Again, even if there were plot holes and messes in this movie, they had to deal with bigger messes from previous movies, so pulling things together in a somewhat cohesive manner was an accomplishment.
There’s many more things I love about his whole arc. The only thing I feel was unfair was that the producers almost artificially seemed to push Rey into a singular role when it was meant for the two of them. I felt like when the Jedi were speaking to her–his voice should have been there. When she saw Luke and Leia at the end, he should have been there. When she was on Tatooine, he deserved to be remembered.
Reylo (+ a message to sad fans). This next part gets into what was not addressed with Ben’s arc–resurrection for him.
This is complicated. Did Ben deserve to be resurrected?
While that’s a question for you to answer, (I think he could have), his sacrifice served the greatest purpose in the whole movie. While he was dying, I remembered these words “that he loved her and gave himself up for her.” That is the definition of love–valuing another over even your own life.
remember how Rey was literally his parents’ replacement child? And he still died for her?
Sacrificing himself killed rumors about him being abusive, him using her for selfish purposes, him seeing her as a means to an end or a source of happiness for himself. His sacrifice allowed us to see the good inside him.
Secondly–what if he came back at the end? I would support this. In the first cut apparently, he did come back at the end–but then they deleted that scene.
Reylos, I know we’re devastated that Ben didn’t actually return at the end. (As he should have). However, I understand the writers’ reasons for not keeping him alive–if he was alive, he would have married Rey and the Skywalker cycle would have started all over again—which is probably what the writers didn’t want.
TROS was supposed to be the grand close to the Skywalker legacy est. 1977, and furthermore, the themes of the Force being accessible to all people and not just “Skywalkers” was emphasized, so it’s expected that Rey and Ben would have raised Force sensitive children who carried on their legacy, and that undermines the whole idea of the Force ending with the Special People.
I might have stated this earlier, but if the purpose of the sequels was to bring a close to the Skywalker legacy, Kylo being alive would have destroyed that purpose. Palpatine referred to him as a Skywalker; he was a Skywalker. I understand the whole “Rey Skywalker” thing. Their legacy lives in her now, through the love of the entire Skywalker family, even though she isn’t a blood Skywalker. That makes things (especially Ben’s sacrifice) meaningful.
Don’t get discouraged. According to the Force Dyad, they’re “one in the force.” That’s sort of like a Force-marriage. That has to mean something. Something about their relationship was beautiful even if doomed, and its tragedy made its meaning more powerful. Their relationship was one of the most (if not the most) redeeming elements of the trilogy.
I was happy to get this kind of Reylo. The way Reylo happened wasn’t “happily ever after” fanservice. It had true purpose. It deepened, strengthened, and refined both characters. I believe that there was no other way it could have ended.
(Also, if Ben did come back in real life after his sacrifice, complaints would surface from anti-Reylos about the sacrifice not being valid, legitimate, blah blah blah.)
However, I wish there was a way to verify that they still have a relationship, especially because it was so relevant to the series. Likely they still Forcetime. That way Rey can still carry on her relationship with Ben without complicating the validity of Ben’s sacrifice. Because that was real. And true. And even if sad, good.
I’m not sure if Reylo could have ended in any better way. Furthermore, the relationship they might have had in real life would probably be complicated and not conducive to a happy family life, as Kylo would have probably had to answer for his crimes as a First Order leader and then expected to rebuild the Republic and take on a position of power (if he was forgiven for his crimes). That would’ve started the cycle of abandonment all over again–remember, Kylo originally succumbed to the Dark Side because his parents, occupied in positions of power, didn’t care for him the way he needed.
If nothing political happened, starting a “Grey Order” with Rey would complicate things even more, because who would trust a former Sith to train their Force sensitive children? Even alongside Rey?
Unless he and Rey lived anonymously in a desert for the rest of their lives (which means a lot of wasted potential on both of their parts, especially Rey’s), they didn’t have a lot of options for a life together.
On the other hand, if they shared a Force-related afterlife (as part of the Force dyad) they could have the life they always wanted, in peace. They could be voices of good, helping lost children like Ben turn away from voices of evil. And it would be like a reward for both of them, if their life together wasn’t temporary but eternal. Because even if Reylo had worked out in real life, real life, even in Star Wars, is temporary.
Also, here’s why Kylo’s ghost should have been in the end scene. In Return of the Jedi, you see a battle-scarred Luke coming home from an epic ordeal with Palpatine and his father. New realizations have been made. Luke is a different person. And like Rey, he doesn’t quite fit in the partying circle of Rebels with their friendships and significant others. He’s an outsider, too.
But then he sees the Force ghost of his father, Anakin (the most relevant figure to him, perhaps) and Obi Wan and Yoda, and he knows those people who meant so much to him aren’t really gone, they’re there too. With joy, he celebrates along with the rest of the Rebels.
remember them? Hmmm?
Rey’s end scene is more disjointed. She seems lonely and confused, watching everyone embrace their friends and loved ones in a world she isn’t part of. Everyone seems happy, but there isn’t a special person (s) for her in that scene. In the end, she smiles at Luke and Leia and faces her feelings of not belonging with courage. Which is unfair. More people than Luke and Leia (BeN??) have been involved in her journey.
So unfortunately, closure isn’t brought to her relationship with Ben, and at the end she seems like enough of an outsider to make fans think she’s planning to live in a desert.
But think. If they had included his ghost (which deserved recognition in at least one scene!) Ben could have provided some companionship, kindness, and guidance for her life in a way he couldn’t if he were physically there. Then they’d probably be together in the afterlife. It’s open enough for theories to be had, right? I suppose we may have to wait for the novelization for more closure.
Why it culminated in a good movie especially considering previous sequel failures
After all of this (ten pages?! congratulations to you for reading this, xD) why do I still think TROS was a good movie?
First of all, I liked what the story became in spite of mistakes and misguided moves in the past movies. Despite them, this movie literally and metaphorically rose from the ashes to form a cohesive, powerful story.
Second of all, much needed complexity and realism added to all of the characters. Poe became bearable to me for the first time. Rey showed a different side of herself. Ben’s redemption arc didn’t just redeem him, but made the movie worth watching. I liked little details added–such as the “pessimistic” white guy in the Rebellion who displayed real doubt in the cause. When he died, you felt pain, because he was someone you knew. (A big mistake of TLJ was killing off Rebels in slews–of whom you knew nothing. The MCs remain untouched, while legions of unnamed Rebels wait for slaughter). This time, they gave us a realistic, though small-role character, whom we could feel sadness for when he died.
From the smallest to the biggest, each character received valuable development. To me, character development is the most important aspect of any story.
Third of all, the movie offered rich opportunities for exposition on the different characters and truth to be explored. This was its most valuable aspect. I could go on about what Kylo Ren’s character arc tells us about humanity, how humanity parallels his character, how Rey’s character was realistically enticed by the Dark Side and she could not resist it alone–and most of all, how no one is ever really alone. Or, what about how Palpatine could not be truly killed if Rey killed him in hatred? How hatred can’t erase hatred?
Basically, its themes made up for me whatever the plot lacked. Not to mention the excellent ways the external plot and locations paralleled the internal conflict brewing within the main characters, creating a powerful atmosphere. Thanks to the themes, you can see what is good, wholesome, healing and uplifting in it.
One other interesting thing I note is how the story became something JJ, apparently, didn’t intend for it to become. JJ did not want Reylo.
Yet that, and Ben’s redemption arc, made the whole trilogy. Ben’s search for humanity eclipsed Rey’s search for identity. The story went somewhere the writer didn’t intend for it to go, which makes one wonder whether a good story is purely a product of the writer or something inspired–something not entirely within their control.
Keeping those thoughts for another time, because I’ve kept you too long, I wish the Star Wars sequels a mournful goodbye and return to school from the wonderful Christmas break I’ve had. If the chief end of fiction is escapism (Tolkein’s words) this trilogy certainly achieved that with me. I’m looking forward to reading more theories and novelizations and for more inspiration. The series lives in my heart now.
goodbye, star wars 😦
So instead of thanking JJ (who didn’t like how it ended) and George (who was nowhere to be found early on) I am going to thank God for ending this story the best way it could have possibly ended and fulfilling many things in the best way they could have been fulfilled. Praise Jesus!
By the way, please post fiery and contrary comments, if you have them. Or disagreements. Or agreements. I’d love to nerd out about this more. Thanks for listening to all this.