The Skywalker saga is brought to a close with this, the final film in the main storyline canon, tasked with bringing the curtain down in a way befitting of the moment. Except The Rise of Skywalker does not even come close. The magic that made audiences fall in love with a galaxy far, far away has been erased. In its place comes the galactic equivalent of an audit; reconciled, bland, an empty record of the originals. The result is perhaps the least inspiring entry the series has ever endured.
On paper there is so much promise. Somehow, the sinister Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) has survived all these years, plotting his revenge. Rey (Daisy Ridley) has to stand against both Palpatine and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), who knows a shocking secret about Rey’s heritage. Yet quickly you realise that bringing back Palpatine is one of the safest, least creative things Disney and J.J. Abrams could possibly have done. And that’s just the beginning.
The story and its execution stinks of needless course correction following The Last Jedi. Gone are the fascinating new avenues and ideas introduced in the last film, Abrams bulldozing over everything with what he introduced in The Force Awakens. The Knights of Ren, Rey’s parents and planet-killing weaponry are just some of the things brought back, resulting in a convoluted story that throws the entire Age of Resistance trilogy off kilter. Worse still is that newer characters are cruelly pushed out, none more so than Rose (Kelly Marie Tran). Largely forgotten also is General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), granted an inexplicable and hastily justified character arc, and even Finn (John Boyega), cursed with increasingly little to do as Rey’s power grows. Poe (Oscar Isaac), meanwhile, is lazily thrown more love interests instead of building on how he grew in The Last Jedi, Abrams confirming how disinterested he is in detailed characterisation.
Some fan service is not unwelcome, but The Rise of Skywalker feels like it was based on an over-enthusiastic Reddit post. The endless stream of nods, references and direct quotes borders on laziness. It feels woefully uninspiring – even the sequences that try and spin something new barely register. This is as cold, calculated and profane as studio-produced efforts get; a paint-by-numbers kind of movie. The zip and wonder of Star Wars has been butchered.
There are some moments to savour, all featuring Rey and Kylo Ren. Their lightsaber duel on the wave-battered ruins of the second Death Star is riveting, and the strange connection that has brought them together is concluded in a way that, while it still lacks great surprises, at least feels right. Ridley and Driver have settled into their roles wonderfully, carrying the script through their most dramatic encounters with enough gravitas to feel like they at least are getting the farewell they deserve. Welcome, also, is the return of Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams), another instance where there is more than surface-level gratification.
This is not how it should have ended. Star Wars made its mark with imagination, fuelled by the bravery to introduce new ideas and leave stars in the audience’s eyes. Instead, Disney have decided that a lazy slog through tested content was the way to go, and it is unforgivable. The Rise of Skywalker simply lacks the spark that has kept this franchise going for so long, replaced by a poisonous hesitation to stray too far from what the fanbase would likely demand. It leaves many questions unanswered, a feeling of dissatisfaction deep in your stomach, and a strange sense of paralysing disappointment.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is in cinemas now.