Back in 2015, it was announced that Jurassic World (2015) director Colin Trevorrow would direct Star Wars Episode IX. But later in 2017, it was then released that Trevorrow left the project due to creative differences with the studio and was quickly replaced by J.J. Abrams in order to keep the 2019 release date concrete. Boy what a mistake that was; not delaying the release date I mean, and a bit of the director change as well.
A universe-wide announcement was made, Darth Sidious (played by Ian McDiarmid) has returned and he is vengeful. Poe (played by Oscar Isaac), Finn (played by John Boyega), and Rey (played by Daisy Ridley) must find him and stop him before he releases what he calls, “The Final Order”: A fleet of doomsday star destroyers that will incinerate planets that do not bow down to the Emperor. With Kylo Ren (played by Adam Driver) hot on their heels to stop the search and turn Rey over to the Dark Side, it becomes a race against the clock before the universe is plunged into everlasting darkness and chaos.
What a mess! This story really had no idea what it wanted to be, I see it juggling far too many subplots with no payoff or consequences. For instance, what the hell was Finn going to tell Rey before it was shrugged off after almost dying?! And why does C-3PO have an emotional moment before having his memory erased if R2-D2 is just gonna give his memories back not even an hour later? The general outline of the story is there, but that is all it feels like: an outline. With many big concepts or dire choices for characters to make; and many are made without any sort of repercussion or payoff. There are a few stellar emotional story moments, such as the death of Kylo Ren and the rebirth of Ben Solo. This was probably the only case of good character development in the entire film, as Ben comes back to the light completely and now must protect Rey, the one person that was able to bring him back home.
Now onto the villain. Welcome back Emperor Palpatine! As badass as you were in the OG and Prequel trilogies, you were not very welcome and kinda underwhelming to the sequel trilogy. This was likely because the writing was not on the wall for you, even if your villainous teasing was awesome in the trailers. Truthfully, I didn’t think we needed you back for these films, since Kylo Ren was already surpassing you in both badassery and complexity. A cameo or mention, yeah sure I’ll bite at that, but the main baddy? No, just no. Kylo Ren was still a great villain through the first several parts of the film, still dealing with his conflicting feelings and ideology of the dark and light sides of the force. Heck for this film, he basically said his true motivation for being the way that he is is out of shame, stating to Rey that he can’t go back to his mother, Leia (played by Carrie Fisher) because of who he is now.
Despite the atrocity that is the story board, there are quite a few epic moments that almost make the entire film the price of admission. Having the emotional lightsaber duel between Kylo Ren and Rey on the remnants of the 2nd Death Star from Return of the Jedi (1983) was one of the few great moments from this film, culminating in the untimely death of Leia as she uses the Force to try and reach her son one last time and what looks to be the end of Kylo’s reign of terror. My favorite moment has to be Rey reaching through the force to hear the voices of past Jedi. Hearing Obi Wan, Yoda, Mace Windu, and even freaking Anakin Skywalker reinforces to Rey that the light side of the force is with her. All this culminates in a spine chilling moment when Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker epically recites the quote, “The Force will be with you. Always”.
With these epic moments in Episode IX also come some quite lackluster and eye rolling moments as well. Possibly the most underwhelming and predictable twist in the history of cinema now is Rey being the granddaughter of Emperor Palpatine. They tried to have this make sense, but in the end, there just wasn’t enough emotional investment put into the jarring twist to have it be a great moment of storytelling. Another moment was the epilogue, when Rey travels to Tatooine to put both Leia’s and Luke’s lightsabers in a proper resting spot, she is asked by a stranger who she is. She sees the force ghosts of both Leia and Luke and replies to the stranger, “Rey Skywalker”. This is probably the first time ever, I rolled my eyes at the screen in disappointment. I know Rey’s character journey has been finding her identity and sense of family, but really? Skywalker?! Episode IX is supposed to be the end of the Skywalker Saga, and now we have another Skywalker?! And the less said about that Reylo kiss, the better!
After The Rise of Skywalker (2019) was released and reviews came in, there was buzz on the internet surrounding an alleged Star Wars script written by the former Episode IX writer and director, Colin Trevorrow with his writing partner Derek Connelly. When I heard of this, I immediately went searching for it, and found a copy, which was named Star Wars Episode IX: Duel of the Fates. I read that script from cover to cover, and got me wondering...WHY WAS THIS VERSION OF STAR WARS AXED???? I get that this was a 1st draft of a script so we might’ve seen something different if Disney stayed the course with Trevorrow’s vision, but if this 1st draft was used, fans would’ve had probably one of the darkest and most satisfying Star Wars films to date; despite the fact we never would have gotten it due to Carrie Fisher's untimely passing. First off, it gives some great fan service moments such as Rey having a double bladed lightsaber, the Knights of Ren are far more intimidating, and Luke Skywalker as a motherfucking force ghost who can grab the blade of a lightsaber like a boss! Now, do I agree with everything that happened in Duel of the Fates? No, but they lead to far better character development (not just in the film, but over the trilogy as a whole), satisfying moments, and great depths of emotion that only Star Wars can go to.
Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (2019), is a structural and tonal mess, which is disappointing given that the Saga was ending with this film. I know it had 40 years of story threads to wrap up in a neat little bow, but none of that matters if the final chapter is making no sense standing on its own. There are at least a few spectacular moments that are definitely worth the watch, but they are outweighed by the amount of underwhelming ones throughout. The only character done any justice was Kylo Ren/Ben Solo and his character journey in this film and the entire trilogy. Everyone else is either sidelined or forgotten altogether, much like the midichlorians. Now, I understand that people worked hard to make this film a reality and I by no means blame them for how the film turned out. I blame Disney for rushing the film and for choosing fan service over story. Thanks Disney, I may love Star Wars, but you really screwed the pooch on 2019’s The Rise of Skywalker.