I recently watched The Rise of Skywalker for the first time since early in its theatrical run. I liked it then and I like it now, but it reminded me of the critics who accused it of cramming in fan-service moments at the expense of plot clarity.
They had a point. The movie’s storyline is messy. But that may not matter much.
A lot of the story centers on our heroes’ hunt for the Wayfinder, a device that will help them find Exegol, the planet of the evil Sith. To find the Wayfinder, they have to acquire a dagger and translate the runes on its surface. In other words, they have to find one thing in order to find another thing in order to find yet another thing.
That’s what you might expect from a movie with four people in the “story by” credits.
For me, a plot device like the Wayfinder matters only if it makes the characters transcend their limits, add new colors to their relationships, or uncover hidden aspects of themselves and each other. The hunt for the movie’s McGuffins did that, but only occasionally. For the most part, it just stretched out the movie’s running time.
The movie weakened itself in another way, too. It jumped into action without re-establishing the main characters. It didn’t have to introduce them from scratch, but a scene or two up front to clarify how they and their relationships have deepened or changed since we last saw them would have given the audience a stronger emotional connection to them.
So why do I like the movie? It delivers moments, fan-servicey or not, that work.
• The heroes’ discovery of Lando Calrissian and, later, his arrival at Exegol leading the galactic cavalry. Billy Dee Williams’ charisma is one of America’s great natural resources.
• Babu Frik tinkering with C-3P0’s brain. I would rather Rose Tico had done it, since the movie underused her and she’s as much a gearhead as Frik, but his moments were still fun.
• General Hux’s declaration that he gave secrets to the resistance and his sudden murder by General Pryde.
• Rey’s appearance on Tatooine to take up the Skywalker name.
• And on and on.
“Do you know what makes a good movie? A couple of moments that people remember, that they can take with them.” The actress Rosalind Russell is supposed to have said that.
By that standard, The Rise of Skywalker is a good movie.