MOVIE REVIEW: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Many lessons to choose from, but how our choices—not our backgrounds—define who we are; and how it’s worth fighting for what’s good and right make great ones.

By Focus on the Family Singapore | 30 December 2019

Emperor Palpatine—recently dead but, through the miracles of galactic science and evil, still capable of a nefarious plot or two—has hatched a shiny new plan. And both First Order Supreme Leader Kylo Ren and wanna-be Jedi Rey figure prominently in it. The first will be Palpatine’s younger, more mobile avatar in the galaxy, the Emperor hopes. The second will be—if all goes well—dead.

But as we’ve seen, Kylo Ren tends to have somewhat violent relationships with his father figures. And honestly, Kylo’s not quite sure he wants Rey dead. She could be a powerful ally, he believes, if Rey could somehow be turned to the Dark Side. Together, they’d be unstoppable.

But Rey has no intention of joining the Dark Side. She’s got other things on her mind: finishing her Jedi training, protecting her friends and, oh, saving the galaxy too.

Death Stars may be a little passé in this new galactic era. But the Jedi … well, despite always seemingly on the edge of extinction, the old order still has life in it yet.


For most of the movie, Rey stands as a worthy inheritor of the Jedi order’s lofty, altruistic goals. She’s the film’s primary hero, doing heroic things and risking her life in all manner of ways. She’s willing to sacrifice herself for her friends and for the galaxy, of course, but that’s old news: The ultimate sacrifice for her involves something a little more complex, and she shows a willingness to make it if she must.

But perhaps the thing most resonant about Rey’s story is that she’s more than just a warrior here: She’s a healer, and her kindness and willingness to help even threats pays dividends.

Of course, all of Rey’s associates—Poe, Finn, Leia, Chewbacca and many others—show off their own forms of heroism and sacrifice. Indeed, even droids sacrifice for their cause, and in strangely poignant ways.


Two primary characters share a kiss. Poe Dameron renews acquaintances with someone who appears to be an old flame; at one point, he looks at her and flicks his head toward a more secluded spot—a silent invitation, the movie suggests, to engage in a more intimate encounter.


If you count all the planets and Death Stars destroyed, the Star Wars movies have always had an obscenely high body count. Rise of Skywalker has that too, but the violence feels more intimate and visceral than we’ve seen before. We see a couple of people (and creatures) sport some bloody wounds. In the aftermath of one battle in which Kylo Ren slays many opponents, we see bodies and a dismembered arm lying next to a corpse.

Kylo shows little hesitation in killing aliens and people alike—in the opening moments hacking through dozens of non-humans in a harsh battle sequence. He performs a Darth Vader-esque chokehold on one of his underlings—more violently than we’ve seen Vader do, though not necessarily as lethal. Countless storm troopers, rebels and extras fall to light saber slashes, blaster fire, magic lightning, crashes and explosions.


Three uses of the word “h---,” two of “d--n” and one of “a--.” We hear bit of name-calling here and there as well.


We hear that Poe was once a “spice runner.” Though the movie doesn’t explain exactly what “spice” is, the extended Star Wars canon makes it clear that it’s an illegal substance that forms the foundation of a recreational drug.

Palpatine’s cadaverous new life seems augmented by a phalanx of chemical components, and the guy’s body is attached to some sort of technological tether that, presumably, gives him whatever he needs to keep his constitution in order.


It’s the end. Only not really.

The Star Wars universe will continue well past Rise of Skywalker, although this episode—Episode IX—closes the book on the core Skywalker saga that launched the whole universe.

The final trilogy—The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi and now The Rise of Skywalker—seems as though it’s become progressively more problematic. The violence, while largely bloodless, is more visceral and even grisly than before.

While the original Star Wars movie featured only a single swear word—and some steered clear of profanity altogether—The Rise of Skywalker peppers the dialogue with about a half-dozen profanities.

For fans of this franchise, The Rise of Skywalker works: not necessarily logically, but emotionally. And it works well.

Rey, Kylo, Finn and Poe have never been more engaging. Some of the action sequences might make you want to jump out of your seat and cheer. The film ties up the saga powerfully and sometimes beautifully, if not cogently. And for those inclined to learn and teach some lessons through the magic of film, this one has plenty to choose from: how love triumphs over hatred; how courage trumps fear; how our choices, not our backgrounds, define who we are; how it’s worth fighting for what’s good and right.

While Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker leans into emotion, it also gets us thinking about the heroism, sacrifice and friendship we see. And these themes—heroism, sacrifice, friendship and love—are why (along with some cool light saber battles) I embraced the series from the very beginning, when I was 7 years old. And why, even today, hearing the opening orchestral fanfare makes me grin like I’m 7 again.

"These reviews are meant to help parents determine whether a movie is appropriate for their children, and are not an endorsement by Focus on the Family Singapore."

This review was adapted from Plugged In: the entertainment guide your family needs to make family appropriate decisions through movie reviews, book reviews, TV reviews, and more.



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