In the ambitious finale of the nine episode Star Wars saga, director J.J. Abrams rushed through a sloppy plot to give the world a spectacle, and little more.
On May the fourth Disney+ subscribers got access to the entire Star Wars saga, when Disney uploaded the latest and final episode. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker wasn’t all bad, there were some redeemable qualities. But the most pressing matters are these four awful choices.
Abandoning ‘The Last Jedi’
Critics agree, Star Wars: The Last Jedi was a phenomenal installment of the series. Rotten Tomatoes gave it 90%. Only surpassed by Star Wars: A New Hope (IV), Star Wars: The Force awakens (VII) and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (V), in that order. However, Star Wars: The Last Jedi received notorious backlash from unhappy fans. At 43% it got the lowest audience score of any Star Wars film ever.
This led to Abrams’ return to the series and him ignoring any direction Star Wars: The Last Jedi set in motion. Because when you’re making a blockbuster Star Wars movie, who cares what the critics think? All that matters is keeping the fans pleased. Abrams succeeded with a film that many referred to as, “Spectacle over substance.” Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker received an 86% audience score, but just 52% from Rotten Tomato’s top critics, the lowest Tomatometer score of any Star Wars movie.
The Return of Palpatine
Palpatine coming back as the main villain isn’t inherently a bad idea, it was just introduced along with a lot of malarkey. The movie needed a proper villain. Kylo Ren killed Snoke at the end of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and any audience member with a brain expected him to transition back into the vulnerable Ben Solo before the film’s conclusion. However, there was nothing remotely believable about Palpatine living in secret all this time, building a fleet of hundreds of star destroyers. Meanwhile Palpatine has also been secretly puppeting Snoke and The First Order the whole time. There was never so much of a hint at this in Star Wars: The Force awakens or Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
The deeper issue though is that Abrams flipped the script. In Star Wars: The Last Jedi the audience is told, along with Rey, that her parents were insignificant junk traders. Kylo Ren tells her in a very meta statement, “You come from nothing… you have no place in this story.” For once, a Star Wars movie stated that lineage isn’t necessary to be a Jedi or even to make a good addition to the franchise. Jump ahead to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, they reveal that this setup was merely a mislead and Rey is in fact the Granddaughter of Palpatine.
Overly Powerful Jedi
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker asked a lot of its audience, one of which is to accept that Rey is the strongest Jedi ever, bar none. When we first see her she is levitating, something no Jedi has done in any previous film. She is powerful enough to force pull a ship back toward the ground while its engines are trying to blast it into space. She also blew that ship up with a short zap of accidental lighting.
Consider Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, when Yoda pulling a crashed x-wing out of the swamp was a huge deal. Or compare Rey blowing up that ship to Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, when Luke survived minutes of sustained lightning from Palpatine. The audience is meant to accept that Rey is extremely powerful because she’s Palpatine’s heir, but also because she trained (mostly off-screen) with Leia. To make audiences believe that Leia could train Rey, they told us Luke trained Leia some 30 years prior. She had essentially had the skills of a Jedi Master in secret all this time.
Force Healing as a Major Plot Point
Thematically the problems with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker was a lack of continuity with the rest of the saga. In the prequels, fear of losing Padme consumed Anakin Skywalker. He was seduced to the dark side by promises that he and Palpatine could uncover the secrets of healing, like Palpatine’s master Darth Plagueis. This doesn’t just imply that only Sith, not Jedi, are capable of this power. It also means as far as audiences know, it was only accomplished by one other individual.
The entire final scene between Rey, Ben and Palpatine is focused on using the force to either take or give life. It’s an ability they shouldn’t even have. This goes on for minutes with no dialogue and no tension. After over 40 years the saga finally closed on Jedi and Skywalker and the ending lacked continuity and drama.