Rise of Skywalker was not so much a conclusion to a trilogy as it was a sequel to The Force Awakens. It is most unfortunate that Disney, for how planned and well executed their Marvel movies were, failed to do something similar with an even more beloved franchise. JJ Abrams and Rian Johnson are both talented directors but the lack of coordination and communication between the two was much too evident.
This could not be more clear than with bringing back Palpatine. Neither of the two previous movies hinted at his return, and it poorly explained multiple plots left out in earlier movies such as how Rey was as powerful as she was with so little training and Snoke’s mysterious background. The emotional payoff of reveals such as Rey being a Palpatine, Chewies “death” only to live, Kylo Ren dying and other plot twists were painfully conventional. When Luke stated that Leia had stopped her training because she saw when her training was completed Ben would die, then said that Rey needed to complete Leias training, it was obvious Kylo would die.
Other things that were consistently irritating were the overplayed nostalgia and overly increased stakes of the fighting. “Less is more” is apparently not a phrase JJ Abrams understands. To go from a Star Killer base (Death Star number three), to 10,000 star destroyers each equipped with a gun to destroy planets felt almost cartoonish and made no sense as to how all those men were assembled and ships were built, and all under intense secrecy in a supposedly nearly impossible to reach planet.
There were some redeeming parts of the movie. Virtually all of them were due to Kylo Ren’s involvement. The only two scenes that made me feel anything were when he had his conversation with “Han”, and when he sacrificed himself to Rey. Kylo’s story arc is the only one that made sense or that made me feel for a character.
Which is a shame, because I started off with high hopes for the trio of Rey, Poe and Finn. There was so much potential for new storylines with the best one in my opinion Finn being a defected stormtrooper. Unfortunately his character turns into a comedy point, and in the last movie is suddenly revealed to have force powers (which sure would have been nice to have seen in the previous two films, and made more sense). Similarly Rey’s character was underdeveloped. I would argue it would have done more good for her to have known her lineage in TFA and then go through an evolution to combat her knowledge of her dark past to give her depth. In TROS we were just finding things out about her, and the shallow reveal was not a good trade off for good development. It was hard to root for a character that underwent almost no significant challenge and defeated the most powerful being in the galaxy by blocking lighting we just saw one minute ago destroying tens of thousands of ships.
And most importantly, Anakin’s sacrifice and destiny as the Chosen One was largely undermined. Thousands of years of Prophecy amounted to temporarily incapacitating the Emperor and bringing peace for 30 years before Rey would be the one to truly accomplish it.