It May Not Have Baby Yoda, But The Latest Star Wars Sure Is Fun

Now that a relatively safe amount of time has passed, and the chaos of the holidays is (mostly) over, I can talk about The Rise of Skywalker. This certainly is not one of the stronger Star Wars films, and it doesn’t help that it was released so close to the release of The Mandalorian. The Disney+ show has been such a success and so popular that I, for one, worried that The Rise of Skywalker would easily be overshadowed. For me, that’s exactly what happened.  I was far more excited to see episode 8 of The Mandalorian than I was to see Episode IX of Star Wars. That being said, this was still a fun and entertaining movie.

Spoilers Ahead!

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The best way to see Star Wars is to see it with friends 🙂

Unfortunately, the first half of this film was very weak compared to the second half, which was very strong. The turning point occurred after Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) battled on the wreck of the Death Star.  Leading up to that point, I got the sense that the creative team didn’t quite know what to do with the story.  It was as if they knew exactly how the story should end, but weren’t quite sure about how best to get there.  The editing was choppy, and moments that I would have loved to have seen more of passed by far too quickly. Both new and pre-established characters were skimmed over so that Rey and Kylo could become the main focuses of the film. It was all just a little too underwhelming.

But, when Kylo Ren is “killed” on the Death Star, allowing Ben Solo to rise up, that is when things really started to get good. The plot became more cohesive, the editing less abrupt, and there were more parallels to the original films as well as nods to Joseph Campbell’s work (which inspired the original Star Wars trilogy).  Once that pivotal moment took place, the movie became noticeably better and much more enjoyable.  I feel as if the scenes in the first half of the film might have been better off as a tv series or as a separate film so that we could have more time to enjoy the different planets and get to know the newer characters.

Between discussing it with friends, and mulling it over in my own brain, I feel as if the title of the film is perhaps not referencing the obvious use of the name “Skywalker” in this movie.  Due to Rey’s decision to adopt the name of Skywalker rather than embrace her family name of Palpatine, the title The Rise of Skywalker seems to be referring to Rey.  However, I feel as if this title could perhaps be referring to Kylo Ren/Ben Solo instead.  He is a blood relation to the Skywalkers, and his rise out of darkness becomes a pivotal component to the plot as Rey would not be able to succeed without his help.  Or, perhaps the title refers to both of them since they share such a deep bond.  And I think that’s what I really like about the title: you can’t really be sure who it’s referring to, but that leads to some really interesting discussion.

With regards to the bond between Rey and Ben, the kiss at the end of the film seems to be another hot discussion topic.  I’ve discussed with friends and heard their opinions, and my opinion is that this was not a romantic kiss. That moment in the film reminded me of the ending of Pacific Rim when Raleigh and Mako embrace.  This, for me, was a “drift compatible” moment for Rey and Ben.  They have been in each other’s heads, they have seen one another’s thoughts, they share a deep and powerful bond.  They are about as close as two people can get.  And given that they have shared such a strong mental link, I do not see that kiss as the most intimate moment between them. Another way of looking at it is that Ben has given Rey all of his life force and that this is something closer to a “kiss of life”.  It is not a romantic act, but a transference of power and life force.  I’m sure there are many different opinions about this moment but, like the title of the film, I really enjoy these kinds of elements that can lead to greater discussion.

So, as I have said, it really wasn’t a strong film compared to some of the other movies in the franchise, and The Rise of Skywalker has undoubtedly been overshadowed by the popularity of Baby Yoda, but this was still a really fun film.  I enjoyed watching it, I was entertained, and I had plenty to discuss afterwards with my friends.  And I really can’t ask for more than that.

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