Review: “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” less a film than “content”
All good things must come to an end, even “Star Wars” movies, which Lucasfilm and Disney resurrected four years ago with the release of “The Force Awakens.” This latest trilogy built upon George Lucas’ monumental series introduced new characters into the story of Luke Skywalker, a Jedi instrumental in a galactic war which — despite stunning victories by rebel forces — hadn’t quite ended. Even as the technology of the oppressive Galactic Empire and its offshoot First Order became more powerful, it was how the Force would be deployed that would determine the fate of the universe.
Sadly, Episode IX of the trilogies, “The Rise of Skywalker” is predicated upon the return — from the dead! — of Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), who was actually the weakest link in the original “Star Wars” trilogy, notable mainly because he was holding Darth Vader’s leash (until the Dark Lord had had enough and tossed him down an air shaft in an act of sacrifice for Luke Skywalker).
Palpatine, of course, was responsible for the creation of Vader, having turned his acolyte Anakin Skywalker to the Dark Side, but it was Vader whose family history had been chronicled by Lucas through the original six films. Palpatine’s appearance here, and his plans to obliterate all planets that do not succumb to his nascent Final Order, seems an arbitrary recourse to wrapping up the nine-film saga, especially after the last two movies showed the ragtag Resistance adrift and under the heel of the fascistic First Order (here now under the command of Supreme Leader Kylo Ren). The discovery of a secret fleet of a thousand Star Destroyers ready to decimate planets left and right poses a physical threat, but the Emperor’s warning to Rey (Daisy Ridley) that she stands to become one with the Sith (which doesn’t make much sense) is later ignored, so how big a deal is it, really?
While Rey is continuing her training to become a Jedi, Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), Finn (John Boyega) and Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), accompanied by C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), are busy tracking down a First Order spy who may have information that could spell disaster for the Resistance, now just a smattering of pilots hiding out on a forest planet. Meanwhile, Kylo Ren, still torn between the Light and Dark Sides of the Force, is on the hunt for Rey, and in the film’s opening scene slaughters an array of fighters who stand in his way, just because.