This review contains spoilers.
“Star Wars” has transformed from a three-part film series that began in 1977 with an eponymous first movie to a mammoth franchise spanning several generations. While there is much debate over which film or set of films is best, the one sure thing is that “Star Wars” is a defining icon of the 20th and 21st centuries.
As an avid fan of more than a decade and a dedicated viewer of most things Star Wars, I have to say that over the course of the last five or so years, my excitement and general interest in the films has steadily declined. Unfortunately, the awe I felt watching the first three “Star Wars” films has yet to be rivaled.
Although the special effects have, naturally, drastically improved from those used in the '70s, it feels like the new stories and characters are lazily patched together in hopes of satisfying the hungry masses.
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was a force to be sure, as Rey Skywalker’s journey (one that mirrored Luke Skywalker’s) was fresh and engaging. However, as this latest installment progressed, I was unsure of the choices made (specifically in “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”). Rey’s weird relationship with Kylo Ren and Palpatine’s return were the product of a studio and director who were running out of ideas and wanted to gain favor with the fans through shock value alone.
With the release of “The Rise of Skywalker” in late 2019, the Skywalker saga definitively ended. This is hardly the end of "Star Wars," though. According to Polygon, Disney CEO Bob Iger said, “We will take a pause, some time and reset because the Skywalker saga comes to an end with this ninth movie. There will be other 'Star Wars' movies, but there will be a bit of a hiatus.”
“The Rise of Skywalker” left critics divided. Owen Gleiberman of Variety gave a generous review: “‘The Rise of Skywalker’ is, to me, the most elegant, emotionally rounded and gratifying ‘Star Wars’ adventure since the glory days of ‘Star Wars’ and ‘The Empire Strikes Back.’”
What Gleiberman doesn’t address is that the battle scenes were cut sloppily, and with bluffed deaths sprinkled throughout, “The Rise of Skywalker” evoked characteristics of a rough cut not yet combed through for knots.
In contrast, Darren Franich of Entertainment Weekly effectively ripped the film apart at its seams: “‘We need a new franchise designation for this stumbling, bloodless conglomeration of What Once Was. 'Rise of the Skywalker' isn’t an ending, a sequel, a reboot or a remix. It’s a zombie. Grade: C.”
I wish I disagreed with Franich’s assessment of “The Rise of Skywalker,” but the sad truth is that the loyal fans rooted for Rey and Finn for four years, only to be met with a weak, mediocre finale that Franich described wholly accurately as a “zombie.” While I don’t share Franich’s complete disdain for the film, I do feel Gleiberman’s description of elegance was perhaps too gracious.
The consensus on the three standalone films released outside of the Skywalker saga was varied, but none received as much buzz from fans or critics as the nine Skywalker movies. In a sense, "Star Wars" has ended (at least the classic "Star Wars" we know).
The empire, so to speak, of "Star Wars" is paralleled by only a handful of competitors, and with endless possibilities for the future, the end of the franchise is far from near. After the hiatus signaled by Iger, hopefully new characters, battles and triumphs can reinvigorate the franchise and return it to its former glory.
I choose to have hope for the next installment of the "Star Wars" films and stay eagerly awaiting an update. While “The Rise of Skywalker” was certainly a disappointing end to the 42-year-long saga, I think it’s safe to say we can expect a new realm of characters who will capture our hearts just as Luke, Leia, Han and Chewy did.
Emma Trevino is a freelance reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @itsemmatr