Trilogies are a tough nut to crack. You’re telling a single story over three installments, but each installment also has to stand on its own as its own movie. Sometimes trilogies are completely planned from the beginning, such as The Lord of the Rings, but most of them are kind of made up as they go along. Back to the FutureThe Dark Knight Trilogy, and especially the two Star Wars trilogies, are all famous examples. That wasn’t a problem with those trilogies, though, because they all had one consistent voice and vision. If you have a trilogy that consists of different filmmakers with completely different ideas and filmmaking sensibilities, then you’re bound to get something not as cohesive. 
Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker follows Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) on the hunt to find the source of a mysterious transmission sent throughout space. It turns out to be the sent by none other than Emperor Palpatine aka Darth Sidious (Ian McDiarmid), who is somehow still alive and ready to take over the galaxy… again. He commands Kylo Ren to bring him Rey (Daisy Ridley), who Palpatine believes will fulfill all of their destinies… again. Kylo heads out to retrieve Rey, all while she, Finn (John Boyega), Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), and General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) plan to defeat the evil First Order for good. 
When JJ Abrams made Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, in his traditional fashion, he introduced a lot of story threads that weren’t completely resolved. Instead of taking their time and letting Abrams handle the whole trilogy, the head of Lucasfilm, Kathleen Kennedy, decided to use different directors from each movie. Rian Johnson came in to do Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi, which received a very mixed reaction from fans. A lot of fans hated how Johnson kind of threw all of Abrams questions out the window with his “answers”. He took the trilogy in a completely different direction and next in line to write and direct the final film in the sequel trilogy was Colin Treverrow, co-writer and director of the atrocious Jurassic World. Well, he was eventually fired by Lucasfilm and in a last act of desperation, they brought Abrams back on board to finish the trilogy and hopefully please the fans. 
If the theme for The Force Awakens is about discovery, and the theme for The Last Jedi is failure, then desperateness is the perfect word to describe The Rise of Skywalker thematically. The Force Awakens was loaded with annoying fan service and Abrams doubles down on all of that here to hopefully please the fans. You all love Darth Sidious, right? Well, he’s back! You love Star Destroyers, right? Well, now there are hundreds of them! You love Darth Maul, right? Well, now Rey has a vision of a dark side version of herself wielding a double-bladed lightsaber! The thing is, none of these elements are incorporated well at all. After Rian Johnson pretty much threw all of Abrams’ stuff out the window, Abrams clearly didn’t know how to continue and end the story, so he just threw everything at the wall, even if stuck or not. Every element of the plot and development of the characters is completely contrived and poorly explaned. Why and how is Darth Sidious back? Who cares?! How did he assemble a complete military fleet out of thin air? Who cares?! How is Luke’s lightsaber still around, even though it was clearly destroyed in The Last Jedi? Who cares?! Just be entertained by all of the flashing lights and explosions! 
To be completely fair, The Rise of Skywalker is aesthetically beautiful, which has been one consistent thread across the Sequel Trilogy, in that they all look and sound nice. The cinematography, camera work, visual effects, and the sound design and mixing were all stellar. It definitely felt like Star Wars in that respect and Abrams went all out in giving us the bizarre, which is integral to the Star Wars feel for me. I unironically love the milking scene from The Last Jedi (I love it even more that it pisses off fans for no reason), and I loved all of the weird stuff here. You get a little, furry computer mechanic and horses with giant, flowing manes, with people on top shooting arrows. It’s not something you’d ever expect to see in Star Wars, but I found a lot of that to be fun, mostly because everything else was just so boring and derivative Speaking of derivative, John Williams was clearly on autopilot here, which is especially disappointing because this is supposed to be his last film. It’s just the Force Theme done over and over, with some reprises of other Star Wars music here and there, but there’s nothing new and it’s certainly not exciting. The Force Theme is a classic piece of film music that’s supposed to inspire the audience, but when it’s used over and over, it loses its impact. 
Aside from the horrendously edited chaotic finale with hundreds of ships flying around with explosions and lasers galore, a lot of the action was well staged and occasionally creative, but still, I just had no reason to actually care. Aside from Rey and Kylo Ren, nobody really has anything to do besides say lines and run around in some action scenes. Poe Dameron, Finn, and everybody else are just along for the ride, without any sort of discernible character arc or heavy conflict. The actors all do their best, but there’s just nothing for them to work with. The most they get are romantic subplots with the side characters that just don’t work, because it’s all so underdeveloped. New characters are introduced like we’re supposed to know them already and they literally add nothing to the story beyond filler. Say what you will about the casino sequence in The Last Jedi, but it at least has somewhat of a point thematically. All of the subplots here just mean nothing in the grand scheme of things and just pointlessly complicate the narrative. If these people were introduced two movies, or even one movie ago, it would have been fine, but of course, they didn’t plan this out. Abrams now had to finish something he started, yet didn’t plan out, so it went to somebody else, destroying any sort of consistency or cohesion. Look, the prequels are no doubt terrible films, but at least they had a consistent creative vision behind it, as blurry as it was. 
Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker proves exactly what people were thinking the past couple years: Disney/Lucasfilm completely bungled Star Wars. They gained back all of the goodwill from the fans who hated the prequels, and squandered in only 4 years. Now, most people couldn’t care less about Star Wars and I don’t blame them. Star Wars started as just one guy’s idea back in the 70’s that told a story and told it well. Now, it’s just a mess of corporatism, cynicism, misdirection, and desperation, with seemingly no end in sight. There’s no desire to tell a coherent, engaging story anymore. Just to get more of those dollar signs, good movie or not. Like Kylo Ren said in the last movie, “Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to.” Disney sure won’t let the past die, but maybe fans are finally ready to let go. I know I would. 

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