With “The Rise of Skywalker”, a nine film saga – spanning over 40 years – comes to an end. We saw the 4DX version of the movie and here is what we thought.
Going into Star Wars IX, it had already been revealed (at events and in trailers) that emperor Palpatine was set to return to the scene. Thus, the opening lines hold little surprise when we read that “the dead speak!” and the resistance has picked up messages that indicate that the evil emperor has indeed – somehow, despite his apparent death in the original trilogy – returned.
His return is quickly explained away when Kylo Ren locates him and he mentions that the dark side of the force can do things that are often deemed “unnatural” – which I suppose basically keeps every single plotline for every single future movie open. It’s a bit silly, but without an iconic villain like Darth Vader in the new trilogy the return of Palpatine is a welcome one. Ren appears to join forces with him, but also has his own agenda to murder him instead.
The emperor wants Ren to destroy Rey, who at this time is training with Leia (who appears thanks to unused leftover footage from the last two movies) to become a stronger jedi. The resistance also receives a message from a spy within the First Order that indicates that Palpatine is planning to send a planet-killing fleet of starships to wipe out the resistance, and he’s doing it quickly (as in: within a day).
This creates a hunt for the mysterious Sith planet of Exegol, so that Palpatine can be faced and defeated – and the key to finding the planet lies with the ability to uncover a pyramid-shaped “wayfinder” artifact (which Kylo Ren finds early on). This leads the resistance to new and familiar places, including the remnants of the original Death Star. We also reconnect with another familiar face – after Han Solo, Luke and Leia were brought back for The Force Awakens we now have Lando Calrissian returning after over 35 years. New characters include Keri Russell’s Zorii, but she’s hard to recognize as we only see her face through the visor of the helmet she wears.
The return of Palpatine isn’t the only strange plot element in the movie, which features plenty of nods to characters in the previous movies. There’s a moment of love that feels unexpected to the point of being out of place and weird, a major plot twist that raises more questions than it answers and a conclusion that feels too close to home – home being The Return of the Jedi.
And yet, when viewed in a 4DX theater, it’s easy to suspend your disbelief and enjoy the movie’s many spectacular scenes. There are a large number of scenes that take place in the rain, and the cinema technology really shines when its different effects come together in a wet lightsaber battle and a massive fight in outer space that’s filled with lasers, explosions and movement.
Despite many of the returning characters (the best laughs are for Anthony Daniels as C3PO), this new trilogy is firmly about the new characters – and I’m pretty sure old time fans aren’t all going to be happy with how the classic characters were treated. Having said that, The Rise of Skywalker is a great cinema experience and the exotic locations and brilliant set pieces in the film work great with the 4DX technology. If you get the chance to see it that way, be sure to try and do it – it was my favorite 4DX experience since Aquaman.