It’s been four years since Star Wars’ sequel trilogy began with J.J. Abrams‘ The Force Awakens and 42 years since the franchise began with George Lucas’ A New Hope in 1977. Now, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is closing out the titular Skywalker saga. Directed by Abrams and written by Abrams and Chris Terrio, The Rise of Skywalker has debuted to mixed reactions from critics and fans alike. With the weight of taking over from another director following 2017’s The Last Jedi, and closing out multiple generations of film, our contributors have a lot to say on the film. Some love, some aren’t moved, and some can’t wait for the next step in the franchise. Find out what they have to say below.
What did you expect going into the movie? Hopes? Fears?
Charles: I expected to have a fun movie-going experience.
Kate: I just wanted to feel hope. Because I didn’t like the Last Jedi and how ostracizing the fallout of that film felt, I went in and just wanted to experience Star Wars for myself. As for characters, I just wanted Finn and Poe to get their due.
Jason: I was expecting to hate it so that it was more likely to exceed my expectations than not
Nikko: I knew that if it went in with any actual expectations, I would let them shape the way I thought about the film. But I was still very excited to see it.
Lizzy: I expected a solid conclusion to the plotlines created in this new trilogy. My fear was that the creative team took fan criticism to heart and instead of creating a cohesive story, made something with the intent to make fans happy. J
Swara: I went in hoping for a compelling hero’s journey for Rey, Finn, Poe, and for a well-done redemption arc for Kylo Ren/Ben Solo. Overall, I am very satisfied on those counts.
Adrian: I wanted to feel the same way after I felt after Endgame. Complete. Emotionally invested. Entertained.
Eva: I went in incredibly anxious but had no real expectations. I was hoping that I’d come out of it in love and feeling hopeful but I was nervous that it would feel superficial.
Cidnya: I wanted nothing more but an original and thoughtful ending to a series I have loved all my life. I wanted Rey, Finn, and Poe to find themselves and give us hope.
Aaron: I was extremely excited about going into the movie. The trailers had highlighted some really sharp contrasts from the brightness of the Pasana festival to the foreboding darkness Exegol. My main worry was about they were planning on including the Emperor without it feeling rushed or unplanned.
Maia: I tried very hard not to think about the movie or the saga going in because I didn’t want to get my hopes up or get too attached to any theory and end up being ultimately disappointed.
CJ: I wanted a solid conclusion to the sequel trilogy, and for our heroes to emerge victoriously and grow in the process.
Kristen Bates: I expected an exciting conclusion to this new Star Wars trilogy. My hopes were that The Rise of Skywalker would answer lingering questions while creating new stories we could explore after the ending. I was also excited about the new Force abilities that J.J. Abrams hinted about in previous interviews.
Who was your favorite character?
Charles: After eight movies disliking him I think I’d have to say this movie actually made me like C-3PO.
Kate: Poe. Hands down. I finally feel like he got to shine with his friends after not being able to share screentime with them the last film. He’s confident, he’s courageous and in The Rise of Skywalker, he asks for help. He leans on his best friend Finn. He’s a general. He is just spectacular, emotional and brash.
Jason: Probably the eopie at the end. Or space horses. Or Babu Frik. Maybe Palpy? Perhaps just everybody ever
Nikko: Poe was definitely my favorite character of the entire series, not just the film.
Lizzy: Poe. Poe’s character was the only thing I really loved about this movie. He finally got the attention he deserved. Of the new characters introduced, Poe has consistently been my favorite because of his relationship with Leia, Finn, and his classic flyboy attitude.
Swara: As it was for The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, it was Rey. Each film has given her unique challenges, and here was no different as she discovered more about her past and what she needed to do to defeat Palpatine. Daisy Ridley gave her best performance of the trilogy.
Adrian: Finn. He is the purest character in the movie who at this point knows who is and loves the Resistance and his place in the series. He loves harder than anyone in the series and deserves in happiness in the world.
Eva: This is the toughest question ever because it is hands down a tie between C-3PO and Kylo Ren. C-3PO because I’ve always loved that anxiety robot and he really shined in this one but Kylo Ren’s redemption hit me so hard out of nowhere. I’d hated him the whole trilogy but his talk with Han, turn to the light side, and total dedication to defeating the Emperor transformed him into my favorite dude out of all three sequels movies.
Cidnya: Poe Dameron has been my favorite character throughout the whole series. He finally shined in this film as the strong and willful person I wanted to see more of compared to The Last Jedi. His strength and sense of camaraderie were both infectious and inspiring.
Aaron: It has to be Rey. From The Force Awakens to The Last Jedi, and now finally to The Rise of Skywalker she has encountered insurmountable obstacles and overcome each of them. She grew up with no family to care nor guide for her. Yet Rey fights through adversity consistently. Seeing her grow in this film was really gratifying. Additionally, the film did an excellent job in highlighting Rey’s newly acquired force abilities from the saber toss, to the force jumps, and even force healing, it was everything I wanted to see from Rey in this film!
Maia: Chewbacca. 250 years old and seeing almost all of his friends die but he’s still out here supporting the kids and fighting for what’s right. The grief and joy Joonas instilled into those roars did Peter Mayhew proud.
CJ: I definitely love what happened with Poe in this film. He’s taking up the mantle of acting General for the Resistance, asking Finn to help him, and leading the troops into battle was a great moment. Rey is a close second because she deals with so much in this movie and it doesn’t corrupt or darkens her soul.
Kristen Bates: I’ve always felt a personal connection with Rey. Her desire for something more and willingness to adapt to her surroundings drew me to her during The Force Awakens. Now, with this reveal of what she had to fight against, Rey became my favorite character for The Rise of Skywalker. To me, Star Wars is about the hero’s journey. Finn, Poe and Rey all experienced their own hero’s journey but I absolutely enjoyed Rey’s path.
What was your favorite part?
Charles: C-3PO’s sacrifice of his memory. He gave all that he was for his friends.
Kate: I’ve seen The Rise of Skywalker twice now, and it’s when Poe thinks that the First Order might be right. They might be alone, and if they are, he failed the Resistance. Then, with tears in his eyes, he hears Lando, and the hope of the film is restored. A close second though, are the beautifully choreographed lightsaber fight scenes between Kylo Ren and Rey, specifically when they’re on the moon in the Endor system in the middle of the water.
Jason: When Poe and Finn are like “General” “General” to each other because they just realized they need to self promote themselves and they’re kinda a little excited about it despite the gravity of the situation
Nikko: By far my favorite part was the scene where Poe goes to talk with Leia after she died. The scene was full of emotion that definitely got to me in ways I never expected.
Lizzy: I loved seeing Poe, Finn, and Rey together. The three of them working together to escape the stormtroopers after arriving on Pasaana in hopes of finding the Sith Wayfinder was my favorite.
Swara: My favorite sequence was the entirety of the Death Star II wreckage scenes. Here we got a fantastic and raw emotional battle between Rey and Kylo that culminated in some of the film’s most pivotal moments. I also loved Finn’s discovery of his Force sensitivity.
Adrian: Really, really hard to pick one. I averaged a 99 heart rate through the movie so I was invested throughout. However, when Finn is searching for his two friends while everyone is embracing and finally finds his friends show how much he is the heart of the Resistance.
Eva: Like Swara, I think my favorite part was Kylo and Rey duking it out on the Death Star because it was when I started to root for Kylo. Even though he was still evil at that point (though not for long), there was a genuine feeling of caring that I hadn’t felt from him before and his continued shock at what Rey was doing and the path she was going down was super relatable.
Cidnya: I very much enjoyed seeing Poe, Finn, Rey, Chewie, BB-8, and C390 adventuring together. The action sequences they were featured in was light-hearted and fun. They really proved that they are a family when Chewie was captured and they all went to go rescue him. It was fast and fun, giving me all my favorite aspects of Star Wars.
Aaron: Chewie getting his medal. Such a small detail to add, but given it was being passed on by Leia, aided by Carrie Fisher’s untimely passing, it was such a heartwarming moment. I grew up on the original trilogy, so to see Chewie finally be recognized for his achievements all these years, it gave me the feels!
Maia: When Lando shows up and Poe, Finn, and Rey are all starstruck and we got that hint of Luke and Lando backstory that needs to be elaborated on ASAP! Give us old men searching through space for lost children and Sith Wayfinders stat! Also when Snap Wexley died. The evil has been defeated! But actually it’s Rey physically rising up against Palpatine with the power of the Jedi behind her.
CJ: When Rey hears all the voices of The Last Jedi and stands up to Palpatine. It reinforced Luke’s statement that a thousand generations lived in her and it was beautiful to hear all those familiar voices.
Kristen Bates: I loved seeing Rey’s lightsaber at the end and Rey declaring herself a Skywalker. It solidified the idea that it doesn’t matter where you come from as long as you are willing to do something bigger than yourself. I also enjoyed the moment that Ben had with Han Solo where he got to do the right thing and go back to his dad.
What could it have done better?
Charles: Pacing. This story has to move so fast for the first half of the movie I found it difficult to connect with places/situations.
Kate: Most of the issues I have with this film comes from what I wanted that only could have been addressed in adding more to the second film. I want more Maz, but more time doesn’t fit in here, and I want more Leia, but with Carrie Fisher’s passing, this was all they could do. But ultimately, I truly wish that there was no kiss. Romance has felt extremely out of place in the sequel trilogy. With Rose kissing Finn last film and now a kiss to end this one, it just doesn’t fit. There is intimacy and bonding beyond romance, no matter what shippers say. This isn’t even commenting on the issues brought up by women in the fandom about having yet another abusive relationship at the center of one of the trilogies. That said, no kiss, no problem.
Jason: I wish that characters like Maz and Rose and Conix got just slightly more screen time and a larger mission than just “protect the base” not to say that wasn’t super important, but they’re such great actors and they were def underutilized. Also, Palp’s lair was poorly lit. Also, NO KISS PLEASE GOD NO. No matter how hard the film worked to internally justify their kiss at the end, it was still completely unnecessary and it conflates connection, one of the film’s most important themes, with romance. They’re not the same thing and it’s increasingly frustrating to me when movies shoehorn romances just because characters have a deep connection. You can ship whomever you like, that’s not what I’m saying, but ultimately, their relationship would have been better served remaining aromantic. Not to mention how big the abuse vibes are that their relationship gives off. Also, not enough overt prequel connection
Nikko: The pacing of the film was really fast. I wanted to like the new characters that were introduced in this film but I didn’t see them get enough screen time to form any real opinions. I don’t like the explanation they gave of Rey’s lineage, but I still thought the overall concept was great. Even though I’m not a fan of Rose, her character definitely got the spotlight taken off of her. If anything, this film made me care even less about her. The final scene felt a little too much like Avengers Endgame. I fully expected for Rey to say “And I am Iron Man” instead of “And I am the Jedi.” Also, and I know I’m going to get a lot of flack for this, but the kiss between Rey and Ben was COMPLETELY unnecessary.
Lizzy: I hated the romances. They all felt forced. Rey kissing Kylo, a man who has gaslit her through the entire series, was very disappointing. Additionally, I didn’t feel any chemistry between Oscar Isaac’s Poe and Kerri Russel’s Zorri Bliss. As cool as Zorri looked, her addition felt so unnecessary and like the filmmakers decided last minute they really needed to give Poe a love interest, decided Finn being right there. I also hated the “gay representation” in the movie. Two background characters kissing for less than five seconds is not representation.
Swara: This film has me very conflicted. When I don’t think critically about it, I absolutely loved it. When I think more deeply about some of the things it did, and how it did so, I recognize its flaws. For example, I’ve longtime theorized Rey Palpatine and cheered in the theater when it was revealed. However, it’s ultimately just my fan theory that doesn’t make sense when strung together, and seems to renege the message of The Last Jedi that you don’t have to be of a “royal bloodline” (in this case literally) to be a Jedi. It wasn’t necessary. However, Finn’s reveal of being Force-Sensitive seems to bolster this message from The Last Jedi, so perhaps JJ Abrams tried to play it both ways. I also echo Charles. The pacing was way too fast, and it cluttered so many plot points together. Trying to do so much at once, it was hard to maintain focus, and the film suffered for it.
Adrian: No kiss and the movie is perfect for me. I can explain all of the issues in the movie with other expanded material except for the kiss. However, if I lived through Anakin-Padme through the prequel trilogy and Luke kissing his sister I can take Reylo to be honest.
Eva: Boy, do not get me started. PREQUELS? WHERE ARE THEY? Y’all really gonna wrap up the Skywalker saga and not give me a real nod to Anakin Skywalker or mention Padme’s name or let Obi-Wan show up to be like “hello there Rey, let’s talk about the Force.” Come on J.J. I’m so disappointed. I will have a whole article on this written, do not worry, but the prequel disrespect was absolutely heartbreaking. The thing that bothers me the most is Rey showing up on Tattooine, taking the name Skywalker, two feet from Shmi Skywalker’s grave, and the only Skywalkers that show up are Luke and Leia? For real? Where’s Anakin and Shmi and Ben Solo who just sacrificed his life to save you? Bro. You can’t just take two out of five Skywalkers. Disrespectful.
Cidnya: I agree with everything Lizzy mentioned. The inclusion of Rey kissing Ben Solo, the newly turned good Kylo, feels like pandering to Reylo shippers. Ben, up until that point, had a very solid redemption arch that felt satisfying. However, that kiss cheapens both Ben and Rey rendering them as a forced, 2-second romance that did not need to happen.
Aaron: Much like me fellow contributors I think the pacing was off. However, it’s ultimately a small gripe that stems from a bigger issue that lands on the doorstep of LucasFilm. The decision to pump out films in such a quick turn around, which in turn caused two different directors to take on the franchise led to Abrams then having to tie up plot lines from The Force Awakens. Had Abrams taken on the whole trilogy I think this movie would have paced fair better. Due to this, there were a lot of things introduced without better set up i.e. the Knights of Ren, Zorii Bliss, even Palpatine himself. Moving forward Lucas needs to focus on their trilogy films with a grander sense in mind resulting in a more focused story.
Maia: There have been a lot of recent threads about sff writers tossing in a poorly thought out romance into their books with no knowledge of the romance genre and how to make them actually good romances instead of afterthoughts and it’s a real shame the writers of the Sequel Trilogy never read those because that’s exactly how every romance over these three movies felt. Romance is NOT easy to write and not something you can just shoehorn into a story and expect it to flow well. Justice for the forehead kiss!
CJ: Good god why did Rey kiss Ben? WHY?! SO GROSS! It should’ve been Finn. Also, Finn should have told Rey he loved her (that’s what he intended to say, you can’t change my mind.) Nikko and Charlie are also right, the film needed 20-30 more minutes and to slow the hell down in the first act.
Kristen Bates: I really wanted more of Rose’s story. The Last Jedi introduced us to this fantastic character with so much potential for a beautiful story arc and we only got a few lines from her in The Rise of Skywalker. I was hoping for more. Perhaps we will get a Rose Tico story on Disney Plus.
How do you feel it ended the saga?
Charles: It was a suitably epic end to the saga. It was big, it was heartfelt, and it was fun.
Kate: The Rise of Skywalker was beautiful ending. The film drives home the meaning of the sequel trilogy: you’re more than where you come from. The sequel trilogy is about taking the power inside of you and choosing what to do with it. It’s about defecting from the First Order, fighting against the bloodline you’re tied to, and ultimately it’s about forging your own path, not the one someone lays out for you. That is powerful and that closed it out perfectly.
Nikko: I think it’s the closest thing we’ll get to a good ending. I can’t imagine how they could’ve wrapped this up in any other way.
Lizzy: I think the last scene with Rey burying Luke and Leia’s lightsaber to then show her own is about as good as I can ask for. I have issues with the movie, that ending is not necessarily one of them.
Swara: I thought the last scene was poignant and conveyed the continuation of the adventure that Rey and her friends will have going forward. They are inspired by those who came before but are still making it their own (hence the distinctive yellow lightsaber).
Adrian: I walked out happy and complete. I need a poster of all the Skywalkers looking at the twin suns on Tatooine.
Eva: The rational part of my brain says it was fine and good. The irrational part of my brain is furious that a Skywalker didn’t kill Palpatine. But also the narrative of found-family is a good one. Who knows. I’m very conflicted about this movie.
Cidnya: Realistically, I wasn’t sure how I wanted this saga to end. The closing scene of Rey paying homage to Luke and Leia Skywalker is as good as I could have imagined. Filling me with hope and reminding me that, as Rey, I will always look up to them.
Aaron: I’m not sure it’ll ever end. I would love to see more from these characters. I’ve also lived long enough to know that in Star Wars nothing is ever over. As a bookend to the sequel trilogy, however, it was every bit as climatic as I hoped it would. Rey’s Jedi abilities were on full show and it was kick-ass!!
Maia: It was chaotic and full of holes and hope and love and exactly right to close out the Skywalker Saga. I loved how neatly it wrapped up the Skywalker story while showing unequivocally that family is more than just the name you’re born with.
CJ: It made me tear up. Mainly because Rey chose the family who was there for her, and carries on the legacy of Luke and Leia.
Kristen Bates: The Rise of Skywalker was a great end to the saga. It drew on the themes of family and hope in the Star Wars universe. As long as you have hope, there’s a chance for the light to win.
What does Skywalker mean to you?
Kate: Legacy, and how we move past what life gives us. Leia was more than a princess, Luke was more than a farmer, and Rey…Rey is more than all of us.
Jason: Choosing your own destiny.
Nikko: Hope, sacrifice, fear, love, courage, and the willingness to do what’s right in the end.
Adrian: Legacy than is more than blood.
Eva: Hope and love.
Cidnya: Hope and the strength to love.
Aaron: To borrow from Spider-Verse, anyone can wear the mask. From a moisture farmer on Tatooine to a scavenger on Jakku.
CJ: Hope, Love, and unity.
Kristen Bates: Anyone can be a Skywalker. It is a symbol of hope. Not just hope that good will win but hope that one can be redeemed.
One-Sentence Movie Review:
Charles: A heartfelt, if rushed, feeling end to the Star Wars saga. 7/10.
Kate: The Rise of Skywalker is a near-perfect close to the sequel trilogy that drives home the message of the franchise: hope. 9/10
Jason: Would have been perfect if they just didn’t kiss. 9/10
Nikko: Even though they kissed, The Rise of Skywalker was an overall enjoyable film and a great ending to one of the biggest stories of all time. 8/10
Lizzy: The Rise of Skywalker attempts to make everyone happy and in doing so forgets to tell a good, cohesive story. 5/10
Swara: The Rise of Skywalker is an exciting and emotional ride that bogs itself down by trying to do too much at once. 7.5/10
Adrian: The Rise of Skywalker is perfect if you are fine with Star Wars having bad relationships. 9.8/10
Eva: A very conflicting movie that does fine on its own but undermines the rest of the saga. 6.5/10
Cidnya: The Rise of Skywalker is a messy film filled with many moments of beautiful shots and wonderful action but falters with its fast pace and weak script. 6/10
Aaron: A fast-paced, rollercoaster ride that will leave your heart pumping up until the very last minute. 8.5/10
Maia: Chaotic and messy and glorious, The Rise of Skywalker says goodbye to the family we’ve spent over 40 years within the most apt way, by showing no one is really gone and that family is who you choose. 8.5/10
CJ: The Rise of Skywalker is an exciting, emotional, and often messy conclusion to one of the biggest stories in pop culture. 8/10
Kristen Bates: The Rise of Skywalker is an intense conclusion to an exciting saga and gives the name of Skywalker a great send-off. 7.5/10
Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker
Our contributors were split, with some calling high praise, others landing in the meh area. This combined score takes into account everyone’s individual rating and averages it.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.