Spoilers are included.
The latest installment of the Star Wars franchise — J.J. Abrams’ “Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker” released on Dec. 20 — not only marks the end of the Disney-era sequel “Star Wars” trilogy, but the end of the four-decade-old Skywalker Saga that began in 1977 with George Lucas’ “Episode IV - A New Hope.”
It’s an overly-long action-packed two hours and twenty-two minutes. With Abrams in the director’s chair for the second time since his sequel trilogy starter, “Episode VII - The Force Awakens” in 2015, and Rian Johnson’s “Episode VIII - The Last Jedi” in 2017,” he seemingly put everything he — and Reddit — wanted in it whether it made sense or didn’t. The only thing missing besides Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), who’s robbed of screentime, is a Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best) cameo.
In the film, the First Order is still a menace to the galaxy while Rey (Daisy Ridley) completes her Jedi Training. However, in the midst of all of this — alive and hidden away for forty-plus-years on a planet amassing a fleet of planet-destroyer — Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) has returned. Concurrently, Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac) work with Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams). Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) dies. So does her son Ben Solo/Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) who sacrifices himself for Rey, who, while learning that she is Palpatine’s granddaughter, renounces her heritage and assumes the Skywalker family name.
Aside from feeling like four-different-movies-in-one, a dominant critique of the film is that with the “The Rise of Skywalker,” Abrams and co-writer Chris Terrio undid a lot of what occurred and was set up in “The Last Jedi” and, instead, made a direct sequel to Abrams’ “The Force Awakens.” They have also fueled outspoken defenders of the George Lucas-era original and prequel trilogies with a few surprising, canon-altering narrative decisions — many of which are emphasized following the major reshuffling of Star Wars canon after Disney took ownership of the franchise in 2012.
As the end of the Skywalker Saga, the film — which would’ve been better had it been split into two — certainly gives an end to the decades-long story, but also makes it clear that “something” will follow it. Whether or not the various “new” plot holes and retcons will be referenced in future films, “Rise of Skywalker” is an impactful — for better or for worse — installment in the Star Wars franchise.