Note: This post contains spoilers for Star Wars: Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker. If you have not yet seen the film, please do not read this post until after you have.
The final movie in the Skywalker Saga has been released. As one would expect of such a highly demanded and anticipated wrap-up, reviews have been mixed. There are questions answered and questions left unanswered; choices made that I like and others I find problematic. This is what we’ve come to expect from Star Wars films, and part of the joy of the fandom is debating the pros and cons of various choices–as long as it’s done without questioning the fan cred of others.
Personally, I quite liked The Rise of of Skywalker. Is it as good as I hoped it might be? No. Is it better than I expected? Yes. Absolutely–far better. Remember, Abrams had to wrap up the sequel trilogy and the Skywalker saga, short one of the actors he was counting on, and do it all in a little over 2 hours. That’s a tall demand for anyone, and it’s really quite amazing that Abrams did as well as he did with it. This was never going to be a movie with a lot of exposition which is what fans seem to want of every film these days. Could there have been some modifications made to slow down the pacing and cut down on some of the jumping around? Yeah, probably, but it likely wouldn’t have solved all that much, and jumping around to the extent they did made a fair bit of sense given how good the First Order was at tracking down Resistance members.
So, like I did with The Last Jedi, I thought I’d share some of the way in which The Rise of Skywalker ties into some quintessentially Star Wars themes.
Family, Biology, Destiny, and Choice
The reveal that Rey is Palpatine’s granddaughter is slightly annoying given Rian Johnson’s attempt to move things beyond the Force families. And yet, it actually makes a lot of sense. Rey finally finds out about her family–and yet, her family’s story is hardly celebratory. She’s the granddaughter of the most reviled figure in the galaxy, and while her parents refused to accept that legacy, they were murdered on the orders of her grandfather. Rey must then find out how to avoid her biology dictating her destiny, and figure out the true meaning of family. Rey taking the name of Skywalker at the end is a perfect acknowledgment that family is not just dictated by blood, but that chosen families are equally important.
And for those worried about this undermining Rian Johnson’s choice, let’s remember that there’s countless examples of the Force presenting in people quite spontaneously, and that some of those individuals can be quite strong in the Force themselves. So it’s not a huge loss to turn that into Kylo not telling the whole truth.
Wrestling With Darkness
In The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, Rey was shown to have an extremely good heart–but even with her good heart, she still did have an obvious streak of darkness, wrestling with anger especially. The Rise of Skywalker really brings that to a head with the revelation of her legacy. She had to dig in, resist despair, choose hope and choose love.
Love, Compassion, Cooperation, Selflessness
During the final confrontation on Exegol, Palpatine states that Luke Skywalker was saved by his grandfather, and that Rey has no one similar to save her. Yet as the confrontation plays out, that is proven wrong. Palpatine relies on the power of anger, hate, and fear to keep his enemies divided and isolated–and relies on sheer power to keep his minions obeying him. Rey, on the other hand, chooses to trust in her love for her mentors and her friends to win the day. She flies to Exegol hoping that the Resistance will follow, and take care of the fleet while she neutralizes Palpatine. Earlier, during her duel with Kylo Ren on Endor, she makes the choice to heal someone she has everyone reason to believe is beyond saving–and yet in doing so, her compassion is the final wake-up call Ren needs to return to the identity of Ben Solo–and Ben Solo’s assistance in the final confrontation with Palpatine, while nearly fatal in giving Palpatine the key to fully resurrect, also provided the key to allowing Rey to ultimately survive at the cost of his own life. The entire Resistance knows how to work together, and turn the odds against them into the best chance they have to fight. Even the spirits of the Jedi past, uniting with Rey against Palpatine, show the care the Jedi have for the galaxy beyond their death. Finally, it is an excellent move that Palpatine is ultimately defeated by his own power rebounding on him–Rey and the Jedi use the Force only for defense, and Palpatine and the Sith’s offensive attack proves their undoing.
What About The Prophecy of The Chosen One?
The prophecy in the prequel trilogy was always a problem for many Star Wars fans. In one of the first major works of the Expanded Universe, Palpatine was resurrected in a series of clones in the comic series Dark Empire, Dark Empire II, and The Empire’s End. Author Timothy Zahn later suggested in his Hand of Thrawn duology in the late ’90s some doubt as to whether that REALLY counted as Palpatine, which was actually quite a brilliant solution. But the Legacy of the Jedi and the Star Wars: Legacy comics threw that completely out the window with Sith Order continuing for over a century after the events of the original trilogy. The new explanation was that there was a chosen one for each generation–yet that renders the movies more of a historical footnote in the galaxy than anything else.
What the Rise of Skywalker offers is a middle ground. The prequel trilogy and the original trilogy viewed Anakin Skywalker as the clear answer to the Chosen One prophecy. What The Rise of Skywalker arguably offers as a middle ground is that the Skywalkers (both biological and chosen) were ALL the Chosen.
As to the lack of detailed explanation of Palpatine’s return–being somewhat handwavey actually makes a good deal of sense, rather than wasting time with exposition.
All in all, the film was as fitting an end to the Skywalker saga, as we could reasonably expect, and it maintains many of the traditional Star Wars themes. With the final defeat of the Sith, the future of the galaxy far, far away is anyone’s guess.