The Rise of Skywalker
Richard Grant (he’s been in Downton Abbey and Doctor Who) joins in as General Pryde. Billy Dee Williams is back as Lando Calrissian! Yes, that is Dominic Monaghan (Charlie in LOST and Merry in Lord of the Rings [I forgot he was in this and looked and told the screen “Hi Merry!”]) as Beaumont. Denis Lawson makes an appearance as Wedge Antilles once again and even John Williams, the composer, cameos in the festival. And yes, Ian McDiarmid is back as Emperor Palpatine.
We open finding out there are mysterious broadcasts of the Emperor making their way into the galaxy. Leia sends Poe and Finn to gather intelligence. Kylo Ren also searches for the Emperor, determined to destroy any threat to his power. We find him slaughtering a group in order to obtain a Sith wayfinder (I thought it was a Holocron because I know those exist). It leads him to a Sith Temple and Palpatine. Kylo voices his vow to kill the former Emperor [while the young man is determined to follow in Darth Vader’s path, he still has several reasons to be rid of Darth Sidious; I’m sure some part of him recalls stories his parents and uncle told him that boil down to “this man should not be allowed to live.”]. But Palpatine explains that he is the mastermind behind everything. He created Snoke; he’s been every voice inside Kylo’s head. (So just like Anakin, Palpatine brought about the turning of a Skywalker.) He reiterates: “The Dark Side of the Forces is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural.” Like, creepy cloning. The Sith Lord promises to give everything to Kylo; they’ll make a new Empire (which is the last thing we want to hear). He raises a massive fleet of ships that have been worked on in secret and the Imperial March plays again. But first, Kylo must “kill the girl,” and end the Jedi. Only then will he become what Vader could not and rule as the new Emperor (and no one believes that. He promised that to Vader…again, Sidious has a habit of breaking his promises once someone new comes along). And the big question of the hour, who is Rey?
Poe and Finn discover that there is a spy within the First Order, who passes information through a middle man. Have to say, it’s nice to see Finn, Poe, and Chewie working as a team on the Millennium Falcon. Poe’s even got crazy moves to pull, like lightspeed skipping. Meanwhile, Leia is training Rey. Rey’s attempting to contact previous Jedi, whispering “be with me.” They don’t answer. And the connection between Rey and Kylo still exists and may be influencing Rey. She has visions during her training run and doesn’t possess the quiet calm of a true master. But she vows to Leia, “I will earn your brother’s saber, one day.” For now, she banters with Poe about the Falcon being on fire (this bit is fun). Poe argues that they need Rey out fighting, not training. But he does confirm that Palpatine is alive and is coming for the rest of the galaxy. They need to find Exogol, the hidden world of the Sith.
Rey recalls that Luke had been attempting that before he went into hiding. He left notes, including about a Sith wayfinder. Finn and Poe insist on going with Rey. There is a touching farewell between Leia and Rey; hugging and Leia whispering to Rey “never be afraid of who you are.” [Leia was achieved in this film with unused footage from Force Awakens and her role had to be downsized due to the passing of Carrie Fisher.] Our heroes land on another desert planet and run into an old friend; Lando. He rescues them when the First Order gets on their trail. They’re tracking an old Jedi hunter and Rey vaguely recognizes the ship. A serious of mishaps lead them to a Sith dagger, inscribed with the location of the wayfinder. 3PO can read the dagger, but it’s against his programming to speak the language of the Sith. Chewie is sadly captured and Rey faces off against Kylo, who is still speaking to Rey, asking her to turn to the Dark Side. Palpatine wants to kill her. They fight over the transport carrying Chewie and Kylo pushes Rey. She inadvertently uses lighting and blows up the carrier. Poe, Finn, and Rey do manage to escape and Rey begins to fear where her path is leading. She admits to Finn she had a vision of herself and Kylo both on the throne of the Sith.
Lucky for us, there was another transport and Chewbacca is alive! Unfortunately, he’s now a prisoner aboard Pryde’s ship and they have possession of the Falcon. Our trio of heroes take 3PO to bypass his memory so they can get the directions (and Poe’s backstory gets changed). The downside is, it would cause a complete memory wipe, so 3PO takes one last look at his friends. They get their information and yep, 3PO is back to introducing himself. And Rey senses Chewie is alive! So they mount a rescue mission. Rey goes after the dagger and finds it in Kylo’s quarters. There is a face off between them (through the Force since Kylo is on the planet). Finn and Poe manage to free Chewie, then they’re captured. They are in turn freed by the First Order spy, General Hux. He’s not in it for the Resistance; he just doesn’t want Kylo to win. Hux doesn’t last long after that; Pryde figures it out and shoots him. But the Falcon manages to escape, Rey jumping aboard at the last second, still resisting Kylo. He has managed to pass along useful information; Palpatine wants Rey dead because she is a threat to his power. She has his power; she is his granddaughter. Between Rey and Kylo, they make a dyad in the Force. Kylo figures together they could kill Palpatine and rule the galaxy. Rey is disinclined to acquiesce to his request.
The path to Exogol starts in the Endor system, with the crash site of the second Death Star. Rey’s very determined to destroy Palpatine and plows ahead alone. Finn discovers there are other stormtrooper defectors and they all rush after Rey. [I do wonder what it would have been like if Luke had discovered the wreckage, considering all that had happened.] She manages to find the second wayfinder, but receives a vision of herself as a Sith, with a double-edged lightsaber. That leads her to Kylo. He points out how the Dark Side is calling to her; neither of them can return to Leia now. He crushes the wayfinder, so the only way to Exogol is with him. They duel; it’s an angry duel, with little of the finesse the prequels or original trilogy carried. This is about stunts and new moves. Rey is tired, which Leia must sense, so she reaches out to her son, causing a moment of distraction for him. Rey capitalizes on it and stabs Kylo. And instantly regrets it. This is not the way of the Jedi; she’s giving in to her anger and hate, like a Sith. She heals him (which uses a bit of her own life…just like magic, these deeds have a price). Afterward, she can sense that Leia has passed. Rey admits that she wanted to take his hand, but as Ben. Instead, she takes his ship.
Finn, Poe, and Chewie return to their base and are informed that Leia has passed. Gosh, you want to cry alongside Chewie with his howl of grief. Back on the destroyed Death Star, Han appears to Kylo. “Hey kid.” Father and son have another conversation, Han telling him to come home. While Leia may be gone, what she fought for is not gone. Ben repeats “I know what I have to do, but I don’t know if I have the strength to do it.” A mirror of their last encounter, Han reaches out for his son and Ben holds out his lightsaber. “Dad,” he pleads. Then tosses the lightsaber away. When he turns back around, Han is gone.
Poe struggles to accept the position that Leia left for him. He doesn’t know how to do what she did. He’s not ready. Lando comforts him; none of them were ready. All they had were each other and that’s how they won. Rey’s taken Kylo’s ship to Luke’s island to burn. She throws Luke’s lightsaber, but Luke’s Force ghost catches it. He was wrong to hide away and it is wrong for Rey to hide now. They’re just running for their fears. Rey is afraid of herself. But Leia always sensed who Rey truly was; she saw past the name of Palpatine and saw Rey’s spirit and heart. [Leia had her own struggle accepting herself as Vader’s daughter, detailed in Tatooine Ghost.] There are some things stronger than blood and confronting fear is the destiny of a Jedi. Luke guides Rey to Leia’s lightsaber, hidden away when she sensed Ben’s fall. Rey pulls out the wayfinder, but she still needs a ship. Luke raises his X-Wing from the water (to the same music as Empire).
Rey sends her course to the Resistance so they can follow to Exogol. (Oh, and R2 restores 3PO’s memories. Yay, cause that was sad when he didn’t remember.) Poe and Finn are now generals; they’ll lead the Resistance fleet. Their plan is to knock out the navigation tower. Chewie and Lando will take the Falcon and raise hope (and reinforcements). Poe rallies the fighters:
They will take the war to the First Order (cue triumphant theme!)
Rey arrives on Exogol, the Resistance behind her. They begin their ground assault on the command ship (a bit odd), aided by the other former stormtroopers (turns out, they were children stolen from their homes; one First Order officer referred to it as “harvesting the young.”) The fleet will fire on the cruisers while they’re stuck in atmosphere for a few minutes. And these new ships all have the power to blow up a planet, making it even more important to wipe them out. Rey discovers the Sith throne, and life-supported Palpatine. He didn’t want to kill Rey, he wanted her to join him. “Strike me down,” and his spirit will pass into Rey, along with all the spirits of the Sith. She will be the new Empress. Rey refuses; she won’t hate. Palpatine warns that he is her only family and turning will be the only way to save her friends.
Ben arrives (in an old TIE fighter) and faces off against the Knights of Ren. At first, armed only with a blaster (yeah, that’s Han Solo’s kid). But when it looks like Rey will strike down the Emperor, she instead passes Luke’s lightsaber (they managed to fix it at some point) to Ben. Now it’s an even match between him and the Knights. Rey then pulls out Leia’s saber and takes on the Red Guards. Ben makes his way to Rey’s side and they face the Emperor. “Stand together, die together,” he declares and sucks the life out of them, rejuvenating himself since they are more powerful as a dyad.
Just when Poe begins to lose hope that they are outnumbered, Lando arrives with an entire host of ships (apparently, the Ghost from Rebels is in that crowd, as is Tantive IV from the opening of New Hope). Even Wedge Antilles is back. But Palpatine is winning against the young couple. He throws Kylo into a pit, “so falls the last Skywalker” (and getting revenge for Anakin’s final act against him), then shoots electricity into the Resistance, causing their ships to fall. Rey murmurs “be with me.” She hears the voices of Jedi past [reprised by their original actors]; Mace Windu, Qui-Gon Jinn, Ashoka, Kanan Jarrus, Anakin Skywalker, Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi (both as Ewan McGreggor and Sir Alec Guiness), urging her to rise. “These are your final steps, Rey,” Obi-Wan starts. Anakin tells her to bring balance, like he did. Mace and Yoda both assure her she’s never been alone. “Every Jedi who has ever lived, lives in you,” Qui-Gon tells her. Kanan encourages “in the heart of a Jedi, lies their strength.” And Luke gives her the last words of wisdom: “the Force will be with you, always,” like Obi-Wan told him before blowing the Death Star. [This is the most epic part of the entire movie.] Rey rises up against Palpatine and calls the first saber to her hand. She stands against his onslaught of lightning, bringing the second saber to her hand as well. Palpatine declares “I am all the Sith!” Rey retorts, “and I am all the Jedi.” Palpatine disintegrates in his own lightning. The Resistance can fly again and they hit the fleet hard. Finn and his buddies knock out the command ship. Poe goes after them to rescue Finn, but Lando is faster in the Falcon.
Palpatine’s destruction also brings about the destruction of the Sith temple. Rey collapses and Finn can sense it (it’s been confirmed that Finn is Force-sensitive and that’s what he wanted to tell Rey before they were swallowed in the desert.) But Ben climbs up and crawls over to Rey. He takes her in his arms; she’s limp and her eyes are unseeing. He calms himself and Rey eventually rises again. She’s surprised and touches his face, calling him Ben. They share a kiss and Ben even smiles (he looks better when he smiles). But then Ben falls back. His body disappears, as does Leia’s back at the base [point of reference, not all Jedi do that. Qui-Gon didn’t, Dooku didn’t, Vader didn’t. Probably got something to do with their power in the Force.] Rey flies away and we once again see celebrations on Endor (complete with Wicket), Coruscant, and Jakku.
Back at the base, everyone is hugging. Chewie finally gets a medal. And it is so good to see Rey land Luke’s X-Wing. The trio share an emotional hug (and it’s wonderful.) Rey has one last errand; the Falcon flies over Tatooine again. She finds the old Lars homestead (back where it all started…so heartwarming), wraps up Leia’s and Luke’s sabers and buries them in the sand. She has a new saber made from her old staff, with a yellow blade. An old woman passes by and asks Rey “who are you?” “Rey,” she simply replies. “Rey who?” Luke and Leia’s Force ghosts look on as Rey chooses to name herself “Rey Skywalker.” She’s found her family. The theme plays and we once again look at twin sunsets. (And a magnificent finale theme on the soundtrack; you want to cheer when you hear the original theme play again. I’ll admit The March of the Resistance has grown on me.) And I certainly hope that Rey is not staying on Tatooine long; she needs to get back to her new family with Finn, Poe, and Chewie.
I liked that Finn and Poe got more main action in this film; they felt like side characters in the last one. Yes, Rey is the main character, but it would be bland if she’s the only one who does anything. They all had their own mission in this film and important ones. Poe and Finn work well together and while they’d prefer to have Rey nearby, they can survive without her. In regards to shipping…I know there are wars going on amongst fans; I’m fairly open minded. I did not mind the kiss between Ben and Rey because it was Ben, not Kylo. Totally appropriate considering he just saved her life. And if it was Ben, I could see a relationship between Rey and Ben. It would have been a fun story to see those two grow up together. I’m also okay with Rey paired with Finn or Poe (or both, or Finn and Poe together because they totally give off those vibes. And Finn revealing he senses the Force is a much better reveal than him being in love with Rey because that’s a bit too cliched). The movies are written well enough that there are a lot of options.
My thoughts on Palpatine being the ultimate big bad…it does bring all nine episodes into one arc; he was the big bad of I through VI and with VII, VIII, and IX being a direct continuation of those, it makes some sense. On the other hand, it feels like a bit of a cop out. Though I guess it makes more sense than figuring out a whole new villain, since Snoke was killed in Last Jedi. But it does make one scratch their head because how did he survive the second Death Star? He got thrown down a reactor (or something) and then the thing blew up. Is this one a clone? Was that one a clone? And the whole cloning thing; the universe already proved that stable clones could be produced, so why are Palpatine’s all messed up? Is it the Dark Side of the Force?
On the revelation that Rey is Palpatine’s granddaughter; first, ew. On so many levels. Technically, it makes it a compelling story when Rey won’t turn and instead defeats Palpatine. However, I’d much rather go with the fan theory that she was Obi-Wan’s granddaughter; it would explain her strength in the Force. And give her a connection to the Skywalker clan considering Obi-Wan’s presences in Anakin and Luke’s lives. There was also the theory that she was Leia and Han’s second child, which has some basis in the Extended Legends universe. That would make the kiss at the end of the movie very awkward, but they’ve already gone there once. But, Kylo would know his own sister. Then there was the theory that she was Luke’s daughter (and in the Extended Legends universe, Luke married Mara Jade and had a son, so again, weaving in those elements fan were already familiar with). There is a strong connection between Luke and Rey and she is incredibly strong in the Force; but Kylo’s knowledge is again a sticking point. Some fans would argue that it would make a more compelling story for her parents to be completely unrelated to any of the main characters; there are more Force-sensitive beings out there than just the Skywalker clan. But Anakin did have an incredibly high midi-cholrian count and was destined to bring balance to the Force.
I would have to say this is my favorite of the sequel trilogy. It has the most compelling story and I love all the bits and pieces they brought in from the original trilogy (though someone give Chewie a hug). Gotta smile when Luke raises his X-Wing like Yoda did.
Up Next: I start the Superhero section. I’ll begin with DC, since there is a lot to unpack with Marvel. X-Men will get thrown in the middle. To start, let’s dive into Batman, with the animated series Batman Beyond.