The following contains MAJOR SPOILERS for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. If you haven't yet seen it, it would be best if you just moved along and came back once you have.
There's really no other way to say it: this Star Wars trilogy has been really weird. The Force Awakens started us off by reminding us what we loved about the Original Trilogy, largely by borrowing basically the entire plot. The Last Jedi dove deeply into the characters, both new and old, in ways that no Star Wars movie before ever had. And now The Rise of Skywalker tries to bring an entire franchise to a triumphant conclusion.
It's... it's a lot. The Rise of Skywalker especially feels like 10 pounds of movie in a five pound bag, it's just overflowing with plot. And the thing is that a lot of that is because the movie seems to be going out of its way to address concerns that a lot of people had about The Last Jedi. Entire plotlines created in Episode VIII are ignored in Episode IX, requiring the new movie to start entire ideas from scratch.
From the beginning ,we were told that with each episode, the writers and directors were given a free hand in creating whatever Star Wars movie they wanted. At the same time, we've been told there was a plan in place. Based on what we've now seen, it's somewhat difficult to believe that. It seems quite clear from these moments that the two directors of the three Sequel Trilogy episodes, J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson, were frequently not on the same page.
This is, of course, the big one. When we meet Rey for the first time in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, she's a girl with a mysterious past. She's waiting for her parents to come back to her, but she's been waiting for a long time. When the Skywalker lightsaber calls Rey, we get this feeling that her history is important. The Force Awakens launched a thousand fan theories.
And then in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, we got what we thought was our answer, Contrary to basically every theory out there that pegged Rey as a descendant of some powerful Jedi family, she was nobody. Rian Johnson's film tells us Rey is simply the daughter of junk traders who needed beer money. She's not the special person she thought she was, though she's no less powerful. It was an unsatisfying answer for many, but it was an answer nonetheless.
And then, we jump to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and get the double swerve. No, just kidding before; actually, Rey totally is a member of a powerful Force-using family. She's actually the granddaughter of Emperor Palpatine. It certainly feels like J.J. Abrams had a plan for Rey, and Rian Johnson never got the memo.
The Skywalker Lightsaber's Fixed
The heroes have been through a lot in the new trilogy of Star Wars films, but it's not just the characters that have seen a long journey. The Skywalker lightsaber, which re-entered the Skywalker Saga in Star Wars: The Force Awakens has also seen a lot of action. Maz Kanata had apparently been keeping it safe for some period of time, before handing it over to Finn, and then it subsequently transferring to Rey.
But Kylo Ren wants the lightsaber too. As the descendant of Anakin Skywalker, he believes it's his birthright, and tries to take it from Rey. At the end of the Star Wars: The Last Jedi, following a brief alliance of convenience, the pair fight over the lightsaber and end up having a Force tug-o-war that gets so out of control that the lightsaber actually breaks in two.
And then, in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Rey has... simply put it back together again. So then what was the point of it breaking apart? It feels like this time it was Rian Johnson who might have had an idea for how this part of the story would go, which was then undone by Abrams who simply had no interest in going down that path.
Kylo Ren Fixes The Mask He Destroyed
Similar to the Skywalker lightsaber, another item that gets completely trashed in The Last Jedi and then fixed like it's no big deal in The Rise of Skywalker is Kylo Ren's mask. He trashes it after Snoke makes fun of him for being a Darth Vader wannabe, and Ren throws a fit and smashes it. At least in the case of the lightsaber Rey wasn't trying to destroy it before she put it back together.
And then, in The Rise of Skywalker, he decides he really likes his mask after all and he puts it back together. Sure, he's killed the guy who was making fun of him, so maybe it's not too surprising that he goes back to it. But considering where Kylo Ren ends up by the end of Skywalker, this regression back to the Force Awakens version of himself feels very deliberate.
Kylo Ren could have built himself an all new mask, even one that looked identical, but that's not what he does. This is the specific undoing of the thing that happened in the previous movie. J.J> Abrams really likes this mask.
Rose Stays Behind
In Star Wars: The Last Jedi, we met a brand new character. Rose Tico was a mechanic with the Resistance who lost her sister in a bombing run on the First Order fleet. In Rian Johnson's film, she joins Finn on a mission to find a hacker capable of breaking into the First Order's systems so that the Resistance fleet can escape without being tracked.
Along the way, she shows Finn what the rest of the galaxy looks like. He sees for the first time what the Resistance is actually fighting for, leading him to finally embrace his role as "rebel scum." There's also the beginning of a potential romance between the two as Rose kisses Finn at the end of the movie.
And then, in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Rose is... nowhere. She stays behind with the rest of the Resistance while Rey, Finn and Poe go on the major mission. Rose is just another member of the Resistance here. Are Rose and Finn an item now? Or are things difficult between them because he doesn't feel that way? It's not addressed at all. It feels like J.J. Abrams just didn't know what to do with this new character.
We may never really know what J.J. Abrams was thinking when he wrote Star Wars: The Force Awakens and he left Luke Skywalker alone living as a hermit on a distant planet. There are numerous possibilities, but ultimately it was Rian Johnson who got to be the one to create the reason behind this particular J.J. Abrams mystery box.
In Star Wars: The Last Jedi, we learn that Luke has exhiled himself to wait for his own death, and to let the Jedi die with him. He thinks the galaxy is better off without Luke Skywalker, but Rey helps him to see that isn't true. Luke then returns, in a form, to face down Kylo Ren and in doing so gives hope back to the galaxy. In the finale of the film, we see small children telling the story of Luke Skywalker to each other and, one assumes, inspiring them.
And when Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker begins, all of that appears to have faded away. The galaxy is again (still?) without hope, and we have to wait through the entire movie before, once again, we're shown that there are those in the galaxy willing to help. These last minutes of The Last Jedi are, it seems, simply forgotten about in the new film.
There are things to love about all the movies in the new Star Wars trilogy, I don't think any of the films are truly bad, but one has to wonder how much better they could have been if everybody involved in them had been moving in the same direction. It really feels like that wasn't the case.
Let us know what you thought of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker in the comments below, and be sure to read CinemaBlend's review of the movie.