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5 best and 5 worst things in The Rise of Skywalker

You thought The Last Jedi was controversial? Just wait until you see The Rise of Skywalker. Star Wars: Episode IX, the latest sci-fi blockbuster from director J. J. Abrams, has the unenviable task of wrapping up the latest Star Wars trilogy, uniting a fanbase that's become increasingly divided, and concluding the Skywalker saga, which began all the way back in 1977.

That's a lot for one film to manage. Does Abrams pull it off? Yes and no. The Rise of Skywalker is an action-packed thrill ride that touches practically every corner of the Star Wars universe and solves some of the sequel trilogy's biggest mysteries. It's also kind of an overstuffed mess that moves too quickly for its own good and can't be bothered to answer all of the questions it raises.

Ultimately, Episode IX is equal parts good and bad, leading to a movie that's both confusing and polarizing. There's a lot to like in the film, but it also has many, many flaws. Want to know more? Then keep reading to find out the five best and five worst things about The Rise of Skywalker.

Best: We get to see Carrie Fisher one last time

The Rise of Skywalker should've been Leia's movie. Han Solo got the spotlight in The Force Awakens, and Luke Skywalker's story dominated The Last Jedi. With The Rise of Skywalker, it was Leia's turn. Unfortunately, Carrie Fisher's tragic death in December 2016 made a big Leia showcase impossible, forcing J. J. Abrams to cobble together an arc for the princess-turned-general from old outtakes.

It's not perfect. Leia's dialogue is noticeably vague, and it's obvious that Abrams is using a stand-in when Leia's face is hidden. She doesn't have any standout moments, the climax of her arc is a little vague, and much of her plotline is carried by other people talking about her, not what she actually does.

However, it works pretty well, and it's much bigger than a cameo. Leia is in multiple scenes, and she has a complete arc in the movie. Obviously, it would've been better if Carrie Fisher were still around to give Leia the send-off she deserves. Given what Abrams had to work with, though, Leia's final on-screen appearance is significantly better than we expected.

Worst: There's too much happening in The Rise of Skywalker

The last entry in the Skywalker saga begins at a breakneck pace, and it doesn't slow down to breathe until the film's final minutes. In order to set up its endgame, The Rise of Skywalker introduces new characters, new planets, new gizmos, and new ideas so fast that it's impossible to keep track of them all. Every new plot thread introduces a dozen questions that Episode IX simply doesn't have time to answer.

Disney and Lucasfilm infamously didn't plan this new Star Wars trilogy out from the beginning. In The Rise of Skywalker, it catches up to them. The first half of the movie, while full of action, is mostly set-up for the second half. It would've been a lot better if some of those ideas that suddenly show up in Episode IX had been seeded throughout the previous two movies.

As it is, however, one film has to do all of the heavy lifting, and there's not quite enough room. Returning characters like R2-D2 and Rose Tico barely make an impact. New characters, like Dominic Monaghan's Beaumont Kin and Naomi Ackie's Jannah, hardly register at all. There's a version of this movie that's much tighter — did our heroes really need to head off to find a thing that'll help them find a thing that they need to find another thing? — but, unfortunately, it's not the one we got.

Best: C-3PO finally gets his moment

You know who steals practically every single scene he's in in The Rise of Skywalker? C-3PO. Yes, seriously. Luke's fussy protocol droid is hands down the highlight of the entire film, and Anthony Daniels turns in his best performance ever as the gold-plated nuisance.

For one, C-3PO is funnier in Episode IX than he's ever been — finally, you'll be able to put Threepio's terrible puns from Attack of the Clones to rest for good — but it's more than that. For the first time ever, C-3PO is vital to the movie's story. Even in A New Hope, C-3PO is mostly around to translate for R2-D2, who's the real hero. This time, C-3PO's translation skills are instrumental in moving the plot forward, and he has to make a real sacrifice to defeat the First Order.

It's very compelling stuff, and it's completely unexpected. If you told us we'd be tearing up over C-3PO, the Skywalker saga's go-to comedic relief character, we wouldn't have believed you. And yet, here we are. Congrats, Threepio. It took ten movies, but you're finally a star.

Worst: Let the past (Star Wars movie) die

Did you like The Last Jedi? If so, sorry. The Rise of Skywalker does a very good job dismantling almost everything that made Rian Johnson's controversial movie interesting. Supreme Leader Snoke's early demise? As it turns out, he wasn't really that important. The near-extinction of the Resistance? It's only temporary. When we rejoin them, they've found a lot of new recruits. Rey's parents? They were definitely somebody.

Of course, not everything gets retconned. In The Rise of Skywalker, Luke is a good teacher and true hero, not a crabby old man, but that's only because he went through his Last Jedi journey. Plus, some of The Last Jedi's plot devices return in Episode IX and play minor roles. For example, Porgs make a cameo.

The Last Jedi remains a divisive film. It's easy to understand why Disney might want to sweep it under the rug, but it's an unfortunate choice. The Rise of Skywalker buries its predecessor in a way that feels petty and like Disney is capitulating to Star Wars' most toxic fans. The Last Jedi took risks, even if they weren't always successful, and pushed Star Wars forward. The Rise of Skywalker is a retreat towards the familiar, and it suffers for it.

Best: The Rise of Skywalker brings the main cast together

Finn, Rey, Poe, and Kylo Ren are the best things about the new Star Wars trilogy. Even when the script lets them down, actors Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, and Adam Driver are so charismatic and compelling in these movies that it's fun just to watch them run around, quip, bicker, and get into trouble.

The Rise of Skywalker gives us a lot of that. While The Force Awakens had to put the band together, and The Last Jedi sent the main cast to different corners of the galaxy, our heroes spend the bulk of The Rise of Skywalker together. It's just as fun as you'd expect. While Finn doesn't have much of an arc, he's a big part of the action, and we learn some intriguing tidbits about Poe's past, too.

Ultimately, though, the entire movie hinges on the relationship between Rey and Kylo. Thankfully, Ridley and Driver are more than up to the task. The chemistry that the duo shared in The Last Jedi is cranked up to 11 here, and the two actors carry the movie. Even when the circumstances around them don't make sense, Rey and Kylo's emotions feel genuine. Given how bonkers the plot is, that's a massive feat, and it's all Ridley and Driver's doing.

Worst: The Disney marketing empire is in full swing

Remember how promotional materials for Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame were full of shots that were cut from the final movie, taken out of context to drive speculation, or flat-out created solely for the trailers? The Rise of Skywalker has the same problem.

Ever since Star Wars Celebration 2019, Disney has been strategically deploying minor spoilers about Episode IX with the goal of getting fans talking. It worked. For months, fans wondered exactly how Emperor Palpatine would come back to life or what that stunning image of dark Rey really meant.

The Rise of Skywalker's trailers may not have outright lied about the movie, but they did deliberately mislead. That's unnecessary, and it hurts the final film. The Episode IX trailers set expectations up for a different movie than the one we got. When certain plot elements play out differently, it's hard not to be disappointed. That's not Abrams' or The Rise of Skywalker's fault. It's a problem with Disney's marketing. This is Star Wars, after all. We were going to see the movie anyway. We didn't need deceptive teases.

Best: A galaxy's worth of stories

The Skywalker saga is over, but Star Wars isn't. In addition to The Mandalorian, there are at least two more live-action Disney+ series on their way, as well as a whole slate of new feature films, which are expected to start arriving in 2022. But while we don't know if any of the new Star Wars shows or movies will deal with characters and concepts introduced in The Rise of Skywalker, many of them could fuel their own series. We'd love to learn more about Jannah and her band of refugees. The same goes for Poe Dameron's days working with Zorii Bliss or what the Knights of Ren have been up to for all of this time.

All of those stories — plus more — could easily anchor their own films, Disney+ shows, novels, or comic books, and it's likely they'd all expand the Star Wars universe in interesting ways. The galaxy is bigger than the Skywalker family, and Episode IX shows just how much.

Worst: The Rise of Skywalker has enough loose threads to clothe a Wookiee

Going into The Rise of Skywalker, fans had some major questions. Now that it's out, they still do. We never really learn how Palpatine came back to life. Rey's true nature comes out of nowhere and could use some more explanation, and yet there are no answers. In fact, key plot points in The Rise of Skywalker are glossed over completely. The movie constantly tells us that things happened, but it doesn't tell us how or why.

Now, The Force Awakens did the same thing. Actually, it gave us one of the biggest unanswered movie questions of the past decade, as Maz Kanata never did explain why Luke's lightsaber was sitting in her basement. However, it was the first of three movies. The Rise of Skywalker is the end. If the answers aren't provided here, most viewers will never know the answers.

Granted, some of the Disney-produced spin-off materials offer a few clues. For example, Chuck Wendig's Aftermath trilogy sets the stage for the rise of the Final Order, although it doesn't explain everything. And yeah, we'll probably get some other comics, books, and TV shows that fill in some gaps. Even then, viewers shouldn't have to do extra research to understand the plot. This stuff should be in the movie. It's not, and The Rise of Skywalker is worse for it.

Best: A fitting conclusion for the Skywalker saga

Despite all of the complaints, The Rise of Skywalker is a satisfying conclusion to the story that George Lucas started telling over 40 years ago. By the end of the movie, all of the major character arcs are complete. We get a chance to say goodbye to Luke, Leia, and Han. Rey and Kylo Ren have found their place in the universe, and the Jedi versus Sith conflict is finally over.

J. J. Abrams went big with The Rise of Skywalker, and if he didn't quite stick the landing, he certainly tried. The Rise of Skywalker matches its ambition. It's a movie that's full of spectacle. The dogfights, the lightsaber duels, and the blaster battles are bigger than anything we've ever seen in a Star Wars movie before. And the Easter eggs, cameos, and nods to past Star Wars films pop up everywhere. 

It's hard to think of a better tribute to Star Wars, especially given the final scene, which takes us back to where everything began. The Rise of Skywalker is bold, ambitious, convoluted, messy, hopeful, overwrought, and complicated. In other words, it's Star Wars in a nutshell.

Worst: It's over

This is it. Luke, Leia, Han, C-3PO, R2-D2, and Darth Vader are done. While the old, non-canon "Legends" novels provided a way for the original Star Wars cast to continue forever, under the Disney regime, they've reached a final, conclusive end. These characters won't ever return to the big screen, and while they'll undoubtedly pop up in comics, books, and cartoons, those will all be filling in the blanks. We know how this story ends.

The same seems to be true for our new heroes, too. None of the main actors involved with the sequel trilogy seem particularly keen on coming back for more — at least, not right now — and given The Rise of Skywalker's definitive ending, it's hard to imagine that their future adventures will be quite as exciting as the one that just concluded. True, Star Wars isn't going anywhere. Disney will crank out new material set in a galaxy far, far away for decades to come. Still, it's just not going to be the same without our old (and our newer) friends at the helm. Thanks for the memories, folks, and may the Force be with you.