It’s fair to say that Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) received a mixed reception from audiences and critics. On one hand, many fans were excited to see the conclusion of the latest trilogy in the Star Wars franchise and a culmination of the decades-long Skywalker saga. The return of Ian McDiarmid’s Palpatine and Billy Dee Williams’ legendary Lando Calrissian were welcomed by many, who appreciated these and other nods to the original trilogy. However, some were disappointed with the handling of key characters and a jumbled intertwining of plot elements, ultimately feeling that the film failed to live up to expectations.
Many critics noted that The Rise of Skywalker tried to please everyone, but in doing so, failed to take risks and deliver a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. It’s easy to understand the weight of expectation bearing down upon a production that needed to wrap up so many character arcs in as succinct and entertaining a fashion as possible, but some felt that the film was overly reliant on fan service and nostalgic moments, and that it retconned important aspects of the previous films. Most obvious were the dismissals of elements from The Last Jedi that were unpopular with some segments of the Star Wars fandom, including an embarrassing exclusion of the character Rose from participating in the action, an apologetic return to worship of Jedi rites and the erasure of one of the elements that made Rey most interesting – her apparent independence from the known Sith and Jedi bloodlines.
Further criticism surrounded the film’s pacing; indicating that so many plot points were introduced as to make the conclusion to the main characters’ arcs feel rushed. Trying to fit such a significant diversity of story elements into one movie arguably resulted in a cluttered and confusing narrative. Further adding to the visual confusion, many considered the reliance on CGI and special effects excessive.
On a positive note, the performances exhibited by key cast members was roundly praised. Particular enthusiasm was granted to young leads Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac and the dynamic Adam Driver. The film’s action sequences were also well received, with some calling them among the best in the franchise.
Like every film in the nine-feature run of the main Skywalker saga, in terms of box office performance, The Rise of Skywalker was a commercial success. The film comfortably grossed more than $1 billion worldwide. However, it was not as well received as The Force Awakens (2015) or even the divisive The Last Jedi (2017); ultimately receiving the lowest Rotten Tomatoes critical score of any Star Wars film to date.
Given these factors, it’s clear that The Rise of Skywalker was a polarizing film that received a mixed response from audiences and critics. While it was a commercial success and had its fair share of fans, many felt that it failed to deliver a satisfying conclusion to the latest Star Wars trilogy and fell short of expectations. Since we sadly won’t see the unproduced Colin Trevorrow epic play out, or witness where Rian Johnson could have taken the story for its concluding chapter, we’ll have to accept this as the finale of the central saga. Fortunately, we’ll always have The Mandalorian and Andor to lean upon as this vivid universe expands beyond the adventures of a few gifted families.