Review: Star Wars The Rise of Skywalker

I finally went and saw this one. I didn’t want to fight opening-weekend-rush but I also wanted to avoid spoilers (I mostly did). So my Balance was waiting a week and going at 9:30 on Friday morning.

Firstly, there’s a rumor Disney fired (or is about to fire) the head of Lucas Arts (the Star Wars division). GOOOD. I don’t know if this person just doesn’t understand multi-movie franchises (you’d think they could just go talk to some Marvel people about it…) or if they just don’t understand plot. Or character development. Or you know…. storytelling.

That is my non-spoiler review of The Rise of Skywalker. You have been safely warned that the rest of this review is probably going to have spoilers. Because I am going to approach this a little differently than a normal review. And I might “spoil” something from this latest movie in the process.

The plot between Kylo Ren and Rey make me wonder (like this is the phrase I have said twenty times since I left the theater) what notes Abrams gave to Johnson after VII. I think Abrams had a plan – whether it was his plan or he was just executing it, VII and IX are clearly the same characters in the same universe.

You see, this is a long-running plot. The original trilogy was a classic good-vs-evil story. Then there is the Anakin trilogy and The Clone Wars TV series of the 90’s and 00’s which brings up this idea of bringing “balance” to the force – but this is very poorly explained. The Jedi seem to be okay with this… but they are kind of over powering the Sith (or at least they think they are?) in the late Republic. So… they are okay having the power of the dark side rise up to match their own? Or do they think “balance” means no more dark side? I have been confused about this for twenty years now.

There is a bit in the Clone Wars (tv series and it’s been awhile since I saw it) the characters go to this special planet where there are three super-beings. One is the epitome of the light side, one is the epitome of the dark side and their daddy is like…. sort of both? Balanced maybe? It’s been years since I watched those episodes so I don’t entirely remember the lore they try to portray but I do remember sitting there going “this does not help “balance” make more sense. Or why the Jedi are ok with “balance” in their universe.”

So now we have what is (theoretically) the end of the 9-movie arc. Other reviews are saying this, and I completely agree, Abrams spends the first hour of this movie trying to get over the last movie. Granted, I think it needed to be done because Johnson left the series in a terrible place in his determination to “put his indelible mark” on this universe. Johnson didn’t understand the Force, didn’t want to mess with the Rey/Kylo plot and tried his damnedest to make them disappear, and he tried to introduce his own special little characters (Rosie and Porgs) with terrible effect.

And here’s the big spoiler – There still isn’t balance.

If you watch VII and IX, you would wonder a few things that happened in VIII (basically the Luke plot like which Johnson clearly hated), but you don’t need to watch it to get the over-plot of this trilogy. Much like Phantom Menance, not much happens you need to really understand. I actually think Abrams gives it too much credit in the screen time he gives it in IX.

I can’t actually tell you what the over-arcing plot was supposed to be between these three movies. If I had to guess it’s the tension between Kylo and Rey, the light vs the dark which exists in everyone. They were so damn close to having this (kind dorky and cute) ending of “everyone has the potential to go to the dark side. It’s easy to give into your emotions and lash out. It’s harder to fight yourself and do the right thing when it’s hard to do. When it costs you something, that is the balance we all have to find in ourselves.” Something.

Ok, I know. I’m very bothered by this giant gaping plot hole. There is this great potential to address “when the pendulum swings” – the Jedi in the Republic swung too far toward the light and lost themselves. The Sith swing too far to the dark side and have no discipline. The Balance of the force is when you acknowledge your emotions and address them with logic and compassion. But no. This is essentially just a good-vs-evil with this prophecy of “balance” that makes no damn sense.

Balance my Butt.