Review – Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver face off one another in another duel of the fates in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

Release Date: December 20, 2019

Director: J.J. Abrams

Cast: Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver

Rating: 3/4

[The following review is spoiler-free.]

“No one is ever really gone” is truly a phrase that must have been the through line for this latest (and promised final) entry in the aptly titled Skywalker Saga. If you haven’t seen the film already, you’ll have an idea as to why once end credits roll. Despite its lukewarm reception from both critics and audiences alike, the film has gone on to be another billion-dollar hit ensuring more to come in the popular space epic franchise. Since 2017’s critically acclaimed and incredibly divisive The Last Jedi, much remained to be accounted for and resolved in this final film of Disney’s Sequel Trilogy. With Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, it’s best to say there’s much that is had and more to be wanted.

Joonas Suotamo (Chewbacca), Oscar Issac (Poe Dameron), Daisy Ridley (Rey) and Finn (John Boyega) travel across the stars in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

Roughly a year after the events of The Last Jedi, the film starts off with an enraged Kylo Ren seeking to confront a revived (and unexplained) Emperor Palpatine who threatens to once again rule the galaxy with a cruel and unforgiving fist. Meanwhile, Rey continues her Jedi training under the guidance of General Leia Organa, and the rest of the gang (Poe, Finn, and Rose included) work to stay one step ahead of the First Order’s plan to wipe out the Resistance. As Palpatine’s Final Order is unveiled, Rey and the rest of the gang must band together in an effort to thwart utter defeat along an interplanetary quest that challenges everyone involved with revelations brought to life in true Star Wars fashion.

Adam Driver as Supreme Leader Kylo Ren (Ben Solo) in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

New characters involved are mostly welcome due in part to design and utility: there’s the new and cute droid with a finicky sensibility, a no-nonsense spice runner donning a cool and sleek costume, a defected stormtrooper searching for home and identity, and a witty/entertainingly endearing droidsmith whose height is no more than a foot tall. Regarding characters we know and have followed thus far, it is a nice change in pace to finally see the main crew working together as a cohesive unit with performances from all actors involved balancing both drama and levity well. While the time allotted for key players to punctuate their imprint and impact in the story is satisfying and appropriate for some, it can’t be said for several others that proves to be disappointing if not downright unfortunate.

Babu Frik! Crafty droidsmith and scene-stealing Anzellan is a welcome addition to the epic space saga in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

Everything technical about the film is as superb as you’d expect with familiarity to other Star Wars features from decades past: John Williams’s orchestral score consisting of well-regarded themes remains as thrilling and emotional as ever; production design and camera work succeeds in capturing a fully lived-in universe with sweeping action and grand spectacle sparing little expense; and easter eggs scattered throughout nod and wink in fun and amusing ways to keep both casual and diehard fans alert and engaged in near lengthy runtime. On the downside, pacing between acts can feel disjointed at times, and keeping up with the details in narrative and implications revealed requires some of the more serious suspensions of disbelief and logic in any of the Star Wars film to date.

That being said, while The Rise of Skywalker is nowhere near some of my favorite films in the saga (that group of films primarily belongs to those composing the Original Trilogy), it’s nowhere near my least favorite. As with most things, metaphors and anecdotes may prove better to convey my overall opinion of the film with food to be a prime example. Personally, I like my Star Wars like I like my steak: medium-rare. With a total of 11 live-action feature films (or steaks) in the can already, there are many offerings and flavors to choose and savor from the pack.

Who is Rey, and what will become of her? Daisy Ridley journeys the answers in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

Despite having all the ingredients there, The Rise of Skywalker is just a bit overcooked and tepid for my taste. It’s passable and enough to finish without feeling completely dissatisfied, but it just doesn’t compare to the best I’ve had this side of the galaxy. Do I think you have to eat your steak like mine to be fully satisfied? Of course not. For me, and for what it’s worth, I like my Star Wars to satiate a certain a level of satisfaction that can only be enjoyed with meticulous care and attention to form and detail all around. The Rise of Skywalker is enough to get me by until the next course is to come. To the cooks in the kitchen, I say to you: take your time. I’ll be ready—waiting with fork and knife in hand.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action, and is now available on digital and physical platforms.

A Tale of Two Twins – A Star Wars Theory

Daisy Ridley as “Drey” in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

The following is a break down regarding the surrounding intrigue and ensuing theories as to who Dark Rey is. For the purposes of shorthand, I shall be referring to Dark Rey as Drey. Who is this Drey and where did she come from, and where has she been this whole time? Find out below with the following theories considered in my opinion from least likely to most likely to happen.

1. It’s All a Red Herring

It’s not uncommon for footage in trailers (or special looks) to include some interesting shots not in the theatrical cut come release time, but perhaps the biggest mistake Lucasfilm and Co. could make is including something as big as this and pulling it away from us entirely. To do this would be insane. For those who believe this may be the case, arguments suggest that this may perhaps be a marketing ploy to rouse the attention of both casual and hardcore fans to build intrigue and further discussion and speculation. Considering the sharp divisiveness of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the question follows: how does one bring Star Wars back to the forefront of the conversation? How about dropping something as wild and unexpected as a red-lightsaber wielding Rey in Sith dark cloaks. If one light saber is not enough—then two! Hot damn! Seriously though, as possible as this may be–albeit slim, let’s hope this is not the case.

2. Drey is Rey

Talk about being catfished this whole time. I really don’t know how to explain this other than two things: 1) Rey is possessed, and 2) utter reckless abandonment of all previously held compassion and conviction. Ballsy? Yes. But revealing it so soon in the game? Just might be as bad as prematurely ejaculating in your pants.

3. Drey is a Force Vision

Force visions are a staple of the Star Wars universe heading warnings and laying mysteries yet to be resolved for our main characters. While the image of Rey as a Dark Sith Lord is as surprising as it is insane, the fact that this could be a force vision in disguise is highly plausible. Despite that, it all seems too obvious. While the former theory remains as wasteful and incredibly insulting as a false promise, this one seems all too plain and leaves little to be surprised upon seeing in a darkened movie theater. Big whoop.

4. Drey is a Clone

Bonkers? Yes. Out of the realm of possibility? No. Surprising? Yes and no. Depending on your knowledge of currently approved canon and previously expanded universe lore, clones are not unfamiliar to the Star Wars universe. Clones have been used to build armies a la the Grand Army of the Republic displayed in Attack of the Clones, and they have been previously made known to yield dark apprentices as in The Force Unleashed video game series. Would it behoof us to think that Drey is a clone? No, but like the dark force vision aforementioned, it would feel trite and simply set up another baddie with little to no personal stakes for Rey considering lack of investment or personal history. Unless, there’s much more to the story. If Drey is not Rey, not a mere copy cloned off of Rey, not the component of a dark vision, and not a fake creation for marketing and merchandising purposes, then who the hell is she?

5. Rey and Drey are Twins (Clone or Not)

Drey is Rey’s long-lost twin sister separated at a young age and kept hidden from sight until now. Let’s consider a few things first: it’s not a stretch to say that twins are no stranger to the Star Wars universe. Consider Luke and Leia, the two most famous twins at the center of the Star Wars saga. At the core, Star Wars has always been about characters embarking on a journey leading them through adventure and trial and revealing bits about self and their place among the stars. It’s also about family, and for Rey, that question has lingered with us all. The Last Jedi will make you think that she doesn’t belong to anyone worthy to note; and if she does, it is yet to be revealed.

As has been established in current canon, we now understand that the nefarious Sheev Palpatine conceived Anakin with the dark powers of the force in the virgin, Shmi. With Palpatine having alluded to his understanding of transcending death, it’s not hard to believe that Palpatine may be up for another repeat. And with what results? A pair of female twins: one groomed as an apprentice to an evil master while the other forced into exile and hidden from the Emperor by saving grace. This would not only call back upon themes of family, but it would be just as surprising. It would markedly add dramatic depth and complexity to her current struggle, and it would justify and satisfy those calling into question her most extraordinarily quick and powerful understanding and use of the force. If she is indeed a consequence of cloning, it could also play into further questions of family and what it means to be human. I think either of these is likely, and come December, I think it will be revealed as so.

What are your thoughts, and where do you side on the origin of Drey? Comment below and let me know! Make sure to follow or subscribe for more reviews and bits into movie hits.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is expected to arrive at a theater near you December 20, 2019.