Despite grossing over $1 billion at the box office, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is still seen as a critical disappointment, and it has nothing to do with what Star Wars: The Last Jedi did. The final chapter in the epic Skywalker saga was released in December 2019, and was met with shockingly mixed-to-negative reviews, with distinct emphasis placed on the film’s abundance of pandering fan service.

After Colin Trevorrow exited Star Wars 9 in September 2017, fans were in a frenzy to find out how the sequel trilogy (and the story that began with the release George Lucas’ Star Wars in 1977) would end. It was announced soon after that J.J. Abrams would be returning to direct the final installment, booking the trilogy with both Star Wars: The Force Awakens as well as Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. The result was a finale that, while financially successful, divided audiences and disappointed many with its overbearing callbacks to the original trilogy as well as the underwhelming inclusion of the long-dead Emperor Palpatine as the primary antagonist.

Fans online offered many reasons as to why the movie turned out the way it did, ranging from studio interference to a lack of an overarching plan on the part of Disney. However, one frequently posed explanation is that Abrams simply had to contend with the reaction to The Last Jedi, the previous installment and a divisive film in its own right. This explanation is ultimately hollow and disingenuous, as the problems that hindered The Rise of Skywalker were all its own and had nothing to do with Rian Johnson’s 2017 blockbuster.

Rise of Skywalker’s Production Was Rushed

In the aftermath of Colin Trevorrow’s separation from the project, fans believed that Disney would put the project on hold until the search for a new director could be completed. However, Kathleen Kennedy and Lucasfilm decided to stick to their guns and leave The Rise of Skywalker with its original release date of December 20, 2019. This gave Abrams only two years to complete the film after he was rehired as director, including rewriting the screenplay from scratch after Trevorrow and Derek Connolly’s script was scrapped. Co-writer Chris Terrio discussed writing The Rise of Skywalker’s story at length after its release, detailing an arduous and convoluted process that involved a whiteboard of unresolved plot points and potential fan-service across all eight of the movie’s predecessors.

However, the rushed production schedule didn’t affect just the screenwriting process. Aside from the difficulties of cobbling together a usable subplot from outtake footage of the late Carrie Fisher, the movie only had seven months to shoot for principal photography, not counting the reshoots that took place from September to October 2019. There were even reports of scenes being edited on set while shooting was taking place, simply because of how little time was left for the post-production process to be completed. If The Rise of Skywalker was delayed to December 2020, which would’ve fallen inline with the three-year gap between George Lucas’ movies, perhaps the final Skywalker film could’ve sealed those holes a bit more nicely.

Disney Tried To Course-Correct With Rise Of Skywalker

Another nail in the coffin of The Rise of Skywalker was the film’s unnecessary desire to course-correct the franchise after The Last Jedi. Johnson’s 2017 sequel was a critical and financial success for Star Wars, but on a micro-level, it proved to be polarizing to fans of the series. A portion of the fanbase criticized the movie for having a story that they perceived to be antithetical to the legacy of Star Wars, including Johnson’s writing of Luke Skywalker as well as the subversive nature of the screenplay, which took a lot of the cliffhangers from The Force Awakens and took them in radically different directions.

While many fans were upset with the way Johnson handled the Star Wars franchise, one thing that impressed critics was the film’s originality and daring storytelling. A big reason why The Rise of Skywalker had such a lukewarm reception was because of the lack of risks taken by the movie, in an effort to appease fans of the franchise who were put off by The Last Jedi’s storytelling. However, the end result of this is a messy blockbuster with a derivative plot built by “moments,” irrelevant bits of fan service that serve no purpose other than to prey on collective nostalgia. By attempting to veer back in the opposite direction from The Last Jedi, The Rise of Skywalker severely limited the scope of their storytelling and ended up rehashing the central conflict at the center of the original trilogy.

How Rise Of Skywalker Could’ve Been Better

Disappointing final product aside, there are several different factors that could have been changed that would have made for a better movie. First of all, had Disney pushed back the release date of The Rise of Skywalker in the aftermath of Colin Trevorrow’s removal from the project, they could have given Abrams and co. more time to flesh out the screenplay and elaborate on certain plot-points that needed explanation. The film suffers from a myriad of plot holes and poorly explained story points (including Palpatine’s return), and having more time to work on successive drafts could have ironed these problems out in the rewrite process. The crew would have also had more time in pre-production and principal photography to truly honor Carrie Fisher’s memory, as well as to properly edit the film in post-production.

However, at its core, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker suffers from a poorly written screenplay, one that relies too heavily on fan-service and the story structure of the original trilogy. The biggest thing that could have helped the film is a better script, one that forges ahead in a unique and interesting way without soft-retconning the events of the previous movie. Furthermore, instead of relying on the past, The Rise of Skywalker could’ve focused more on concluding the sequel trilogy’s story, rather than being a grand conclusion with little setup. Unfortunately, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is simply hindered by a number of problems, ones that have nothing to do with The Last Jedi and come entirely from its own troubled production.

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