Well, here we are. We made it. This is the final review of the 'Skywalker Saga'. And may I say, I never thought I'd see the day when a 'Star Wars' film would disappoint me more than 'Phantom Menace'. Up until this point, I basically made 'Star Wars' that one thing that I couldn't possibly dislike, as even the bad slowly became fun, and it was all just part of it. But the reasons this is bad, in comparison to 'Phantom Menace', are very different.
The blame for such a film goes to two people, in my humble opinion. Kathleen Kennedy comes first and foremost, as unlike Marvel's Kevin Feige, she had no real plans going into this whole thing (to my knowledge). Next, 'Last Jedi' writer/director, Rian Johnson, wrote JJ Abrams into a bit of a corner with his new ideas, probably completely derailing anything Abrams actually would have originally done. What should have been a brilliant wrap-up ended up being a bit of a wreck, full of plot holes (some obvious, some not so much), lack of care put into any characters while introducing new ones for some reason, and a pace that's just hard to keep up with. It may be somewhat forgivable for a 'Star Wars' movie if it wasn't supposed to be the 'Star Wars' movie to end all 'Star Wars' movies. Put simply, it should have been better.
The basic wrap-up story is simple enough. As the First Order continues to spread their dark shadow across the galaxy, Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) conveniently returns from the dead, who Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) sees as a threat to his rise to power. Using a Sith wayfinder (basically a Sith GPS), Ren tracks down Palpatine on the uncharted planet of Exegol. Here we learn that Palpatine has been a puppet master this whole time, creating and controling Snoke to lure Ren to the Dark Side. He the unveils the "Last Order"; a fleet of planet-killing Star Destroyers. He'll be able to take over the Galaxy, if only Ren kills Rey (Daisy Ridley), and ends the Jedi once and for all.
Rey, in the meantime, continues her extremely rapid training (seriously, it's about a year's time between all three Sequel films) under Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher). But when Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac) deliver intelligence from a spy about Palpatine's whereabouts, the trio, along with C-3PO (Anthony Daniels - making him the only original actor to appear in all 9 films) and BB-8 (Dave Chapman/Brian Herring) set out to find their own Sith wayfinder; the only thing that can lead them to the uncharted planet of Exegol. Here, Rey will not only face Kylo Ren one more time, but will also discover a dark secret to her origin, which could determine the fate of one big, final sith/jedi battle.
Believe me though, the whole film is a lot worse than I make it sound. Rey's deep dark secret was a huge let-down to fans all over the place, it all feels very rushed and messy, it's doing a lot of what fans dreaded and repeating a lot of of 'Return of the Jedi' beats, and there's a lot you wanna see for a final film that just never happens. For me, it was R2-D2 - a droid that has been with us the whole time but does nothing here while 3PO and BB-8 take the spotlight along with a whole new droid named D-O. I've always considered R2 to be symbolic of 'Star Wars', and perhaps my favorite character aside from Yoda, and this whole trilogy just does him wrong. The trilogy has him come to life and show Luke's location, then say hi to Luke, then say bye to 3-PO. That's all he ever does in this series and it sincerely bothers me, especially at the expense of introducing the most unnecessary droid ever - and people LIKE that droid! RIP, R-2. You've still got my love.
That does, however, bring me to my next point. WHY the hell does this movie have any need to introduce new characters who have almost no bearing on the plot? Not only to we get D-O (there to be a new cutesy character), but we get Jannah (Naomi Ackie), some random, faceless character from Poe's past who's basically there to bring us "space horses" for the final battle. We also get a little droid hacking expert named Babu Frik (Shirley Henderson), who I actually do enjoy. He does help push the plot forward a little bit, but admittedly, he's another new cutesy character - just way more enjoyable than D-O, that R2-scene stealing hack.
Then we have some of the new and out of nowhere concepts they introduce here, such as hyperspace jumping; an idea clearly ripped off 'Guardians of the Galaxy' (actually, so was Leia's whole Super-Leia scene in the previous film). Basically they jump from planet to planet while TIE fighters chase them. How they are chasing them through something like that, who knows? This film is all show, no explanation, and any explanation given for anything sounds either stupid or far-fetched. At times it's just too much, and even I, a pretty big 'Star Wars' fan, was rolling my eyes all over the place. There's even a kiss that takes place here between two characters, bringing back something I despise in film and TV, the nonsensical romance. Just because fans wanna see it doesn't mean it needs to happen. Hell, I bet you can guess just by reading this who the two characters are.
Or how about the running gag where Finn tells Rey that he has something important to tell her, and it's brought up again, and again, but never resolved! It's almost like they had to cut something for time, cut the conclusion of whatever Finn had to say, but accidentally left the rest of it in. Does he secretly love her? Did he know something about her past she doesn't, being an ex-stormtrooper? God, I've never been able to pick apart a 'Star Wars' movie so much. I could keep going, but it's about time I mentioned some positives, because for as much as I'm complaining, the film isn't 100% terrible.
Some of the positive takeaway from this, at least speaking for myself, have to do with how the film looks. Visually, there's some pretty stunning stuff here, and the sound design is fantastic. I enjoyed most of what happens between Kylo and Rey... most... and their whole dynamic of middle-ground Sith/Jedi was always pretty cool to me; it wasn't so black and white. There are a few touching moments, most of the time getting ruined by one of the film's negative aspects, but they're there. And, if I'm honest with myself, I actually do like the final scene of the film, which explains the film's namesake, and feels a lot like closure. If nothing else, this was released the same time 'The Mandalorian' came to Disney +; a series which may bring us full circle in being 'Star Wars' "New Hope".