Going into The Rise of Skywalker, I did my best to ignore the fact that it was a Star Wars movie. Episodes VII and VIII did so much damage to the franchise that there was no chance of episode IX being good as a Star Wars movie. I was hoping to be able to view episode IX on it’s own, like I was going into some random movie where I didn’t know the history or backstory to see how it did. For those of you who care about such things, there are spoilers in what follows.
I guess I should start by saying that it was basically impossible to view this movie in isolation. From the beginning of the opening scroll, it just assumes the audience knows who Palpatine is. The same is true for Leia, Chewbacca, Lando, C-3PO, and R2-D2. Oh, and Finn, Rey, and Poe. And Kylo Ren. And Luke Skywalker. And Han Solo. There is basically no character development. This movie was clearly not designed to be viewed on its own.
So, I was at a disadvantage from the beginning. But I tried to keep my use of prior knowledge to a minimum. It didn’t help much. The storytelling was incompetent. That’s actually being generous. Three quarters of the movie is taken up with a treasure hunt. The movie establishes that the only way to find and stop Palpatine is to get ahold of a Sith Wayfinder. The heroes fail to do so. But it doesn’t matter. They find their way to Palpatine anyway. The first three quarters of the movie were completely unnecessary. And it lied to us. Finding the Wayfinder wasn’t the only way to get to Palpatine. They just had to steal Kylo Ren’s ship (let’s not even get into the fact that the ship they stole was Ren’s second ship. The first one, that he had used to go see Palpatine, had been destroyed).
Again, for the first three quarters (or more) of the movie. We are told that Palpatine wants Rey dead. She is a threat to him and he wants the threat eliminated. That would be fine, but when Rey finally confronts Palpatine at the end, he explains that he never wanted her dead. His plan all along was to get her to come for a visit and kill him. If she killed him, his spirit would flow into her and a new empire would rise with her (filled with Palpatine’s spirit) at the head. If contradicting itself isn’t bad enough, Rey does kill Palpatine and his spirit does not flow into her or anywhere else. She just wins.
The characterization was all over the place, too. Finn is in love with Rey, but can’t find the right moment to tell her. Meanwhile, just about every other female character in the movie is in love with Finn and he doesn’t notice. And none of this love octagon in any way impacts the story or the character arcs (not that there are any character arcs). It’s just there, taking up time and space. There are a few new characters introduced, but they barely register. One either hates Poe or loves Poe. It’s hard to tell. And another one, I don’t remember her name, has kind of a creepy scene with Lando at the end of the movie.
But I think the worst part about this movie, again as a movie, ignoring the fact that it’s supposed to be Star Wars, is all the death scenes. Chewbacca dies. Everyone’s upset. Just kidding, he’s fine. He was on another ship. C-3PO dies. No one is as upset as they should be, it’s all kind of played as a joke. But it doesn’t matter. He’s not really dead. He’s fine. Then Rey kills Kylo Ren. Only she heals him like thirty seconds later. Then Palpatine kills Ben Solo, only to have him reemerge a minute later. Then Rey dies only to have the newly resurrected Ben Solo bring her back. Then, Ben actually dies. Somehow using this power that Rey has been using throughout the movie without dying drains his life force. It’s confusing. But the point is, you can’t make a movie where people fake die four or five times in the movie. It’s ridiculous.
I could go on. Nothing in the story makes any sense, but I think you get the picture. I’m a big proponent of the willing suspension of disbelief. But for that to work, the story has to follow it’s own internal logic. The Rise of Skywalker utterly failed to do so.