It would seem that Star Wars fans are exceptionally hard to please. If you are a fan, then you know that each subsequent entry in the sequel trilogy has been met with increasing controversy, reaching its peak with the most recent film. The Rise of Skywalker is the finale of the Skywalker Saga, which is made up of all nine of the main line Star Wars films. This is perhaps why it’s been met with such intense negative opinion. I’m weary to speak for the entire fan base, but doubtful that my friends and I were alone in hoping this final film would set right what had been misdirected or just oddly written in the eighth film. And despite wanting the same result, we were left with vastly different opinions.
What’s always frustrated me about the newer Star Wars films (the sequel trilogy and stand-alone films) is that in writing a story in this intellectual property, a story that would be enjoyed by the majority of fans, would not be that hard. Of course I don’t mean that you could give me the responsibility and I would make it look easy, but it’s been accomplished before many times. Countless extended universe books and animated shows have demonstrated that there are writers knowledgeable and passionate about the lore who could very well entertain the fan base, casual and die-hard alike. But what’s perhaps even more frustrating is that this understanding of what fans enjoy has been demonstrated in the films as well.
My single favorite scene from any live action Star Wars film is in one of the most unremarkable entries, Rogue One. At the end of the film, Darth Vader appears on a rebel ship to take back plans for the death star. We see rebel soldiers scrambling aboard the crippled ship to get the plans into the right hands when suddenly the hull goes dark. We see Vader ignite his lightsaber and effortlessly tear into a dozen rebels, all desperately trying to fight back. This scene depicts Vader’s raw power and lack of remorse without pulling any punches.
And this is what makes watching the often boring and even bizarre events in the sequel trilogy so painful. It’s obvious they could do so much so well with these films, yet they don’t. Perhaps it’s due to ambitious directors, and perhaps there’s merit to that, but is it pleasing to fans? Not to this one.
That being said, episode IX was by far my favorite film in the sequel trilogy. Mainly because I was actually engaged and entertained the entire time. It also gave me the sense of magnitude and power I had been missing from action scenes in the previous films. But that’s not to say there isn’t plenty wrong with the film. I found myself engaged the entire time because it switches from one major idea to another very quickly. I think it could have benefited from perhaps another 30 minutes or hour of runtime, so that major events could be more developed and simply have time to take effect before it moved on to something new.
Another issue that significantly hindered the films ability to affect me as a viewer was a tendency to cut emotional or otherwise meaningful moments with humor or a simple resolution. Being the final film in the entire series, the plot included, means saying goodbye to many beloved characters. There were many moments where the film did that in admirable and powerful ways, only to be followed by a measly quick-jab joke or an ex-machina rendering the whole sequence meaningless and even trivialized. A sense of satisfaction becomes lost entirely, which I found quite disappointing.
I’m reasonably comfortable with where the story has come to an end (complex incongruencies in the lore aside), but not entirely happy with how it got there. I’ll likely never shake the feeling that there was an immense amount of wasted potential within the sequel trilogy, but I’m thankful that it’s breathed new life into the Star Wars universe, and will lead to many new experiences as a stable mainstream property.
There’s much more I could say about what the film did questionably, but you shouldn’t take my word for it. I recommend you see the film if you haven’t already and form your own opinion. There’s a good chance it’ll be different than mine.