SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you haven’t seen Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
I loved watching this movie.
Maybe in an hour, maybe in a day, maybe in a month one of the cynics and critics will rationally convince me to dislike it. All I know is I enjoyed it.
Before I spend time dwelling on plot holes and poor dialogue, shafted characters and unfinished business, I want to praise this movie. It delivered a powerful ending to a saga, if not a perfect one. And decisions like these made it a fun ride:
1. That music, though
John Williams returned for one last Star Wars film score, and I’ll be happily listening to tracks for many years to come. There are so many great themes – Leia’s theme, Yoda’s theme, Vader’s theme, the Force theme, Rey’s theme – from this long saga that Williams blends together perfectly. The music does heavy lifting in tying the events and characters of the saga into a unified whole.
2. They showed us Rey’s darkness
The chief conflict in this film, as in Return of the Jedi, revolves around the hero’s temptation to the dark side. But while we see some rage in Luke in RotJ, it’s pretty tame. He swings his lightsaber hard and gets mad. In this film, we not only see Rey’s rage but we see it in powerful and sustained ways. We see her use force lightning (presumably a Sith power) to destroy a ship. And we see her seething with rage and attacking an unarmed Kylo Ren, eventually driving a saber through him.
3. They accounted for Rey’s power
By placing Rey within the Palpatine bloodline, they explained the unusual natural ability she showed in the first two films. This also (sort of) explains why she can heal things with the force, a heretofore unheard of ability. I also enjoyed seeing Rey train (and fail), though.
4. They gave C-3PO a starring role
Poor C-3PO has had to serve in the background in recent movies. In this one he plays a major part in driving forward the action of the plot. Besides that, with his character in the thick of the adventure, we get that lovely interplay of clueless polite protocol with danger that makes us all laugh.
5. They used great muppet art
There was a great variety of planetary life in this film, as in the last one, and Abrams has continued the tradition of using puppets rather than CGI to bring new creatures to life. Babu Frik was a hit, the baby spacelings of the desert planet were adorable, and even the Ewoks got a brief cameo.
6. They gave us Jedi Leia
This film reveals for the first time how Leia trained to be a Jedi, build a lightsaber, uses the Force, and has the chops to train Rey in the ways of the force. There’s a great scene in which CGI Leia kicks CGI Luke’s butt in a sparring fight.
7. They brought back our favorite Jedi
Lots of Star Wars fans were wondering if Anakin Skywalker or other Jedi force ghosts would feature in this film. We got that and more when Rey hears the voices of Jedi passed on, from Yoda and Obi-Wan to Anakin and Qui-Gon and even Mace Windu. Pretty epic moment.
8. They gave us a space Dunkirk
I rolled my eyes a bit at the number of ships that came to the rescue of the Resistance fleet in the final battle. But it was still really cool to see how individuals (including rebel war veterans like Wedge Antilles) throughout the galaxy would put their own ships and lives on the line to fight.
9. They gave Chewie a medal!
Star Wars fans have been waiting for this since 1976 (so about 43 years). In the original victory celebration, Chewbacca for whatever reason receives no medal for his feats for the rebellion, even while Luke and Han wear bright decorations themselves. As the rebels celebrate in this film, Maz Kanata hands Chewie what he deserves: a gold medal.
10. They redeemed Ben Solo
Kylo Ren/Ben Solo was too cool a fighter not to be redeemed in the end. We gained a new hero right when we needed him (through a touching scene with the great Harrison Ford as Han Solo). It was also important that Rey and Kylo shared a kiss at the end. There’s been too much tension between those characters for it to be otherwise. Most significantly, they show him literally resurrecting someone from the dead without using the dark side (something we once thought only possible to the dark side).