by Staff Writer Sreetama Chowdhury
Plagued by plot holes and lazy characterization, the ninth and final installment in the Skywalker saga is a deeply unsatisfying conclusion to one of the most iconic sci-fi series of all time. Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker squanders any potential it had from the movies that preceded it and fails to live up to the rest of the series.
The final trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Although its diversity was greatly anticipated, The Rise of Skywalker falls short of expectations. Despite three of its major characters being people of color, its promised inclusivity turns out to be bare minimum lip service. Mechanic Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), who was introduced as Star Wars’s first Asian female protagonist in The Last Jedi, is onscreen for a mere one minute and 16 seconds. The LGBTQ+ representation that director J.J. Abrams hinted at in December 2019 takes the form of one shot of a lesbian couple — both fairly irrelevant background characters — kissing.
The movie’s cast does their best with the script they’re given, but even talented acting can only do so much. The main cast makes a valiant effort to add emotion to the stilted dialogue, and the actors’ natural chemistry stands out stronger than anything scripted. Especially noteworthy is the dynamic between protagonists Finn (John Boyega) and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), fan favorites who add some much-needed warmth to the film. Their easy banter during battle scenes and visible affection in quieter moments are easily some of the movie’s most compelling aspects. However, certain dynamics within the film, such as that between Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), are simply too contrived for any amount of skillful acting to amend. The dialogue is awkward and cliché, and the characterization of each protagonist is inconsistent both throughout the movie and in terms of the series as a whole.
Fan favorites Poe Dameron and Finn make repeat appearances
The heroes of The Rise of Skywalker feel like entirely different characters from those of The Last Jedi or The Force Awakens, and believable character development is pushed aside in favor of tired tropes. Dameron, for example, is introduced in The Force Awakens as a kind, respectful pilot who is later shoved into the role of a hotheaded womanizer. Rey, previously portrayed as fiercely independent and sure of herself, suddenly becomes uncharacteristically insecure, a damsel in distress shoehorned into an unnecessary romantic subplot.
That’s not to say The Rise of Skywalker is irredeemable. It is a Star Wars movie, after all, and as viewers have come to expect, the visuals and soundtrack are impeccable. Legendary composer John Williams draws from previous movies’ soundtracks, most notably using parts of “Leia’s Theme” and “The Imperial March” to add emotional depth to scenes that would otherwise fall flat.
Looking past the music, though, the movie lacks emotional impact. Much like its soundtrack, The Rise of Skywalker relies heavily on nostalgia and callbacks to previous Star Wars movies. Many of its hardest-hitting moments are only actually touching if the viewer is intimately familiar with Star Wars lore; newer fans who aren’t quite as knowledgeable about the series are left more bored than anything else.
Dazzling shots of planets, dramatically declaimed villainous monologues, and a sleek sci-fi aesthetic are hallmarks of the saga, but The Rise of Skywalker overuses them in a futile attempt to hide the fact that there’s little to no substance to its plot. Its production value seems to be inverse in quality to its writing — quite honestly, the film’s plot just doesn’t make sense. It lacks any connection to the trilogy’s overarching storyline, and some of the plot twists are so absurd they’re almost laughable.
However, the most frustrating aspect of The Rise of Skywalker is its wasted potential. The movie consists mostly of generic action scenes and cheesy quips, but several scenes stand out as genuinely touching. Like clockwork, though, each emotional moment is immediately followed by a bland joke, defusing the tension and undoing any impact on the viewer. Star Wars has always been about more than just quippy one-liners and flashy space dogfights, something The Rise of Skywalker seems to forget.
Images by Lucasfilm Ltd. and Disney