Abandon all hope of a Spoiler-Free Review, all who enter here. This is your only warning; I loved this movie too much to hold back on Details! But if you’ve seen it and/or you’re good with spoilers…then allons-y!
Initially, I wanted to see The Rise of Skywalker for purely nostalgic reasons. Even though I still haven’t watched The Last Jedi (though I will remedy this, I promise), I knew that if I didn’t get to see “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” and hear that majestic opening fanfare in the theater one last time, I’d hate myself.
I have never been so happy about a movie-related decision. The Rise of Skywalker exceeded all my expectations, surprised me in incredible ways…and unlocked a creative door for me that I thought would be closed for a very long time.
“The surviving Resistance faces the First Order once more as Rey, Finn and Poe Dameron’s journey continues. With the power and knowledge of generations behind them, the final battle commences.”–Google Synopsis
This movie has gotten mixed reviews, and to a certain extent, I understand why. It does sound like The Rise of Skywalker moved in a startlingly different direction than The Last Jedi, and though I blame Disney’s bizarre switch of directors and writers, I’ll say no more about it. Let others squabble, debate, and attack opposite sides of the fandom if that’s what floats their boats. I will be in my corner happily sipping my tea a la Baby Yoda.
Because here’s the thing: as far as I’m concerned, all I ever require from a Star Wars movie is a good, old-fashioned fairytale. By that standard, The Rise of Skywalker went above and beyond its call of duty.
For starters, I knew I was in for a treat when the film opened with…(*drum roll please*)…my Ultimate Star Wars Dream Team! Rey, Finn, and Poe, who never got to form a true trio in the previous movies, spend most of this one together. Not only do they work well as a team and exchange delightfully sassy banter, but they truly care about each other. Rey is the wise and (mostly) level-headed warrior, Finn is all heart and soul, and Poe is their indefatigable, cocky leader. Throw in Chewbacca, C-3PO, and the adorable BB-8 (all of them aboard the Millennium Falcon, mind you), and I’m sure this team could take on pretty much anything.
But the biggest obstacle to their success remains–of course–the fallen son of Han Solo and Princess Leia: Kylo Ren.
I know enough about The Last Jedi to know that Rey and Kylo Ren have…shall we say, a very complex relationship. She believed, just as Luke believed about Darth Vader, that Kylo could turn back to the Light–that Ben Solo was still alive down there in the depths of his soul. In turn, Kylo (or was it really Ben?) legitimately fell in love with her…but refused to leave the Dark Side.
The Rise of Skywalker puts the fantastic tension between Kylo and Rey on center stage: they both want to know where Palpatine is–for vastly different reasons–but they also have this strange bond that allows them to communicate telepathically. They genuinely care about each other, but they also have polar-opposite agendas–and neither are willing to compromise for the other.
UNTIL…there is a Eucatastrophe.
In the middle of an epic face-off between Kylo and Rey, Princess Leia, aging and unwell, reaches out to her son through the Force. The effort proves too much for her, and she dies. But they both hear her–and they both sense her passing. Rey, who’s just stabbed him with her lightsaber, is utterly distraught; Kylo, badly hurt, just sits there in silent, horrified, honest-to-goodness grief.
But then Rey–Rey, who considered Leia her adopted mother–Rey, who had never given up hope that Ben Solo might be redeemed–SHE HEALS HIM. Rey uses the Force to HEAL KYLO REN.
He doesn’t deserve it, not in the slightest. And yet, out of love for Leia, who gave her own life for her son, Rey shows him grace.
Eucatastrophe is a sudden and miraculous grace…[I]t denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final defeat and in so is evangelium [Gospel], giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.
This Eucatastrophe proves to be Ben Solo’s salvation. Leia’s sacrifice, Rey’s grace, and the memory of Han Solo’s love give him the strength he needs to throw his red lightsaber into the sea, renounce the Dark Side forever, and help Rey defeat Palpatine once and for all.
Sacrifice, mercy, love, repentance. Strangely biblical, isn’t it?
At the heart of the film, however, regardless of how stinkin’ AWESOME Ben is now that he’s fighting for the Light, Rey stands tall and strong. She’s been the heroine of this story since the beginning, and she proves herself more than capable of taking on an undead Emperor. But she doesn’t do it alone. Ben comes to fight at her side (oh my giddy aunt), but even he gets thrown off a cliff. Yet just when it looks like all is lost and Rey has failed…another Eucatastrophe strikes.
A great cloud of witnessing Jedi call out to her, imploring her to rise. And she does.
“I am all of the Sith!” Palpatine screeches from his throne.
“And I,” Rey shouts back, wielding not only Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber, but Leia’s, “am all of the Jedi!”
And here, my friends, is what I will always love about Star Wars. It isn’t the best and the brightest or even the bravest who triumph in the end: it’s the ones who know (or remember) who they truly are and then stand on it.
Luke proved it first in The Return of the Jedi when he told Palpatine, “I am a Jedi, like my father before me.” (Some of my favorite words in all of cinematic history, by the way.) Now Ben Solo proves it by remembering who he is–a Jedi, like his mother before him–and Rey Skywalker proves it by believing that she belongs to the Light.
I admit, I left the theater rather flushed and giddy–but my mind was also buzzing for the first time in a long time. I’ve had a horrendous case of storyteller’s block for months, yet the very next morning I sat down with my laptop and wrote my heart out about Rey Skywalker and Ben Solo.
Nine days later, I’ve got a sizable (and growing!) “alternate ending” under my belt. I’m finally learning how to play again–and if I have a redeemed villain and a scavenger-Jedi to thank, then so be it. I don’t mind, not in the slightest.
It’s funny, but the Lord always seems to know when I need a Star Wars movie. He knew I needed it back in 2012 when I, a rather depressed little bean, watched the original trilogy for the first time…and I truly believe He knew I needed it last week.
So now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and help my babies out of the mess I’ve put them in 😉