Star Wars fans are now sitting in theaters and taking in the end of the Skywalker Saga with the release of The Rise of Skywalker. As a huge Star Wars fan my entire life, walking out of this film the first time has left me conflicted. The film is a mess of bad editing, pacing, and a betrayal of character, sometimes within concurrent scenes. But it is also entertaining and thrilling, with some of the Saga's most interesting choices and set pieces. The best way to do this may be to break it up into the good, the bad, and the ugly. Do not worry: there will be no spoilers. We can discuss this another time.
The Rise of Skywalker- The Good
There are some truly wonderful performances in the film. Both Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley are great, and make no mistake: this is a Kylo Ren/ Rey movie. Their story goes places many were expecting, but in different ways of getting there. For their story, it works in perfect tandem with The Last Jedi. That may turn some of you off, but it was appreciated here. They stuck to their guns and make no apologies. Also shining are Oscar Issac and John Boyega. After two films of making Poe and Finn almost afterthoughts, both are excellent here, providing the films emotional core. Their bond is strong, and pairing them up was the right call.
Keri Russell is great in her brief time as Zorii Bliss, the best of the new characters debuting. There are also some great new ships and creatures. Babu Frik may have been the best new creature in Star Wars in some time if not for Baby Yoda. Great lightsaber action, a space battle for the ages, and the great Richard E. Grant make the middle of the film move at a breakneck pace.
The Rise of Skywalker- The Bad
Here is where we will tip toe around spoilers. There are some choices made in the film that people will debate for months. Yes, this is grand storytelling, but there needs to be some consistency. At multiple times they reveal some information, only to contradict it in the very next scene. It is tough to point some of this out without spoilers, but the ending itself betrays a certain character in a very rude way.
And oh the fan service. Tons and tons of it everywhere. I hate that term, because sometimes it serves the story, and there are certainly examples of it here. Unfortunately not all of it does. The last hour of the film is basically a "did you spot that" game.
The Rise of Skywalker- The Ugly
The Leia stuff is bad. It is completely noticeable and wonky to see the leftover footage used to create Carrie Fisher's scenes. It is a huge shame that she passed away before this was filmed, and they may have been better off letting her live off camera.
The first half hour of this Star Wars movie is a complete mess from every standpoint. Editing, pacing, dialogue. It is all bad. It is easy to see where J.J. Abrams wanted to just get a move on with things but was not sure how to start us on the path. The usually sure-handed Abrams has some real pacing issues here, and he and screenwriter Chris Terrio just try to cram way too much into this. In a world where Avengers: Endgame can be over three hours, why can't Star Wars?
That all being said, their biggest flaw was the way they betrayed their characters in the end. More on that after this weekend when spoilers are appropriate. For those who have seen it however, know that the last 20 minutes is where most will decide if this is a worthy entry into the Saga.
After all that, The Rise of Skywalker is entertaining. Some of the visuals here are some of the best in the 40+ year history of Star Wars. Part of the fun of the series is the feeling of discovery and wonder at all of the creatures and planets. This film gets us back to that, without falling into the same mistakes of Canto Bight in The Last Jedi. Plenty will leave satisfied this weekend, but not everyone will. One wishes they had not marketed this as the finale of the Skywalker Saga, instead letting the final scene speak for itself.
While far from the worst Star Wars film, it is not the best either. The best thing that can be said for it is that it will end up like the prequels: once away from it and with multiple viewings, it will bear reexamination.