Review

Star Wars Episode 9: The Rise Of Skywalker Review - A Galactic Disappointment

  • First Released Dec 20, 2019
    released
  • movie

Star Wars: Episode IX swerves hard to retcon The Last Jedi's story.

However you felt about The Last Jedi, at least it had something to say. With the much-maligned Star Wars: Episode VIII, director Rian Johnson attempted to make a statement about the insipid allure of nostalgia and an over-reliance on the past. Many fans agree it didn't stick the landing, but the parts that arguably worked--like Kylo and Rey's intimate rivalry, or Luke's shocking cynicism and triumphant redemption--successfully remixed familiar Star Wars tropes into something that felt new-ish.

Unfortunately, The Rise of Skywalker director J.J. Abrams doesn't seem to have fully grasped Johnson's message in The Last Jedi--that we have to "let the past die" to move forward. Johnson sought to establish a fresh direction for the Star Wars saga, but in Rise, Abrams is interested in killing only the parts of the past that he disagrees with. Instead of continuing down the path that Johnson set, Abrams swerves the franchise into yet another hard u-turn, cramming enough story for two movies into one, and largely acting like the previous film never happened--or actively retconning it.

The result is a movie that feels less like the conclusion to a Star Wars trilogy, and more like the casualty of a behind-the-scenes battle between the visions of two diametrically opposed directors. Rise of Skywalker bends over backward to undo what The Last Jedi did, just as that movie subverted all the mysteries set up in The Force Awakens. But much more than its predecessor, Rise of Skywalker exudes petulance--like Abrams is mad someone played with his toys wrong, and his only remaining recourse is to scoop them all up and go home.

Rise establishes in its opening crawl that the galaxy has received a mysterious transmission from Emperor Palpatine (something that would have been exciting to actually see onscreen). Rey (Daisy Ridley) continues her training under General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), while Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac), and Chewie (Joonas Suotamo) rendezvous with an alleged First Order mole who wants to feed them information. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), meanwhile, searches for the former Emperor, who he considers a threat to his power.

From there, the story leaps at lightspeed between set pieces, from an alien version of Coachella to encounters with fantastic creatures that rarely last more than a few moments. As the movie progresses, it makes less and less sense. Rise takes great pains to hastily establish answers and payoffs for mysteries established in The Force Awakens, waving away plot points from The Last Jedi with repeated dumps of confusing dialogue. Events that should be monumental are immediately undercut or undone, without breathing room for the audience to absorb what's taking place. Characters you thought must certainly be dead pop up later inexplicably unharmed, while others simply keel over with little explanation. Uncanny CG puppets of familiar actors' younger selves haunt flashbacks to better times. What should be the movie's most emotional moments are undermined by the weight of exasperating absurdity.

Unsurprisingly, Rise of Skywalker is--like both movies that came before it--gorgeous to look at, beautifully scored, and extremely impressive in a technical sense. But to watch this movie for the first time while still harboring any small hope that it might pull the whole conceited mess together in the end is to subject yourself to frustration, disillusionment, and emotional whiplash.

There's a reason that hope existed at all: Flawed as it may be, The Force Awakens did a lot right in the world-building and character department. Beneath Episode IX's disregard for coherent storytelling are the bones--like the Death Star's sunken wreckage--of a compelling conclusion to this saga. Rey, Finn, Poe, and Kylo are great characters; what they lack are actual character arcs. Rey's life as a scavenger lends her some unique skills, for example, but she spends an inordinate amount of time in this movie simply wandering off, face vacant, while her friends are in danger. Or take Finn--these movies have never actually bothered to dig into his past as an indoctrinated Stormtrooper, and, in fact, Rise actively trivializes this backstory at a pivotal moment when it could have explored it further. The group's dynamic is strong when they're together, but fun banter isn't enough to cover for the fact that these characters have rarely spent actual time with one another onscreen or been fleshed out beyond the surface level.

Leia's presence is unsettling. Granted, it's no one's fault that the great Carrie Fisher was unable to complete this journey with us. But her scenes in this movie are filled with nonsequiturs, dialogue that was clearly ripped from previous films' unused footage and then re-contextualized with new conversations written around them. Other legacy characters, like Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams), C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), and Chewie, are treated with varying degrees of respect, and their inclusions are often irrelevant and occasionally nonsensical (you'll struggle to figure out why Lando pops up where and when he does, for example). And don't forget about Palpatine himself (once again played by Ian McDiarmid), who has indeed returned, and--well, let's just say you're going to have a lot of questions when it's over.

Star Wars Episode IX: The Riser of Skywalker
Star Wars Episode IX: The Riser of Skywalker

And forget about any of the less central characters; Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), who was introduced in TLJ, is present, but has about as many lines as the background character played by an actor from Lost making a cameo. New faces like Zorii Bliss (Keri Russell, whose face is never actually seen) and Jannah (Naomi Ackie) get a few lines of dialogue each before being casually tossed into the blender and mixed into the background of the rest of the film. New creatures like the infantile puppet Babu Frik and the droid D-O (who turns out to be almost literally a kicked puppy) are charming, but lack depth. Like so much of what gets established in this movie, they're utterly pointless.

That adds to the sense that Abrams is trying to cram the plot of two movies into the space of one. In a hypothetical alternate timeline where J.J. kept control of the whole trilogy, he could have left room between this film's abundant reveals and introductions for the characters to interact naturally and for the weight of emotional twists and turns to settle in before yanking the rug out from under audiences yet again. Instead, Rise rushes at breakneck speed to end each scene and get to the next, never stopping to savor any victory or process any loss or defeat. It adds up to a pale cover of Star Wars' greatest hits--dramatic lightsaber duel, ancient artifact scavenger hunt, epic space battle--chewed up and spit out as a series of loosely related vignettes connected by clumsy dialogue and nonsensical plotting.

The icing on top is a layer of cloying, saccharine sentimentality that Abrams uses to messily spackle in the story's cracks. At one point the characters choose to rely on a plan that already failed them in The Last Jedi, and not only does no one acknowledge that--but it inexplicably works this time, because this movie's condescendingly optimistic tone demands that it must, continuity and logic be damned. At the same time, Rise gleefully plays fast and loose with rules and laws that earlier movies established decades ago, like Jedi and Sith powers, or the capabilities of "force ghosts." Rise even has its own version of the notorious Midi-chlorian--in other words, another new plot device that didn't need to be articulated in the first place getting over-explained to the point of self-parody.

In the end, it all feels simply empty. It should never be so clear to audiences that something in the filmmaking process has gone so terribly wrong--that the people who made the first film in a trilogy apparently didn't bother to sketch out a plan for the second and third, and that the movies' directors had visions for the series' future that were so fundamentally at odds. Star Wars deserved better.

Disclosure: ViacomCBS is GameSpot's parent company

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The Good
Beautifully shot and scored
Visual effects are often impressive
The Bad
Whiplash-inducing story feels like two movies crammed into one
New and old characters alike are squandered with no development or meaningful arcs
Clumsy dialogue that fails to buoy absurd plot points from scene to scene
Takes great pains to retcon nearly everything that happened in The Last Jedi
Should-be emotional moments have no weight, or, worse, are actively absurd
Cloying themes and messy over-explaining fail to fill in logical gaps
4
Poor
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Mike Rougeau is GameSpot's Managing Editor of Entertainment. He loves Game of Thrones and dogs.
548 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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J_P-

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Edited By J_P-

The disney star wars sequel trilogy in all its entirety is a universal disappointment.

2 • 
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GOBX71

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I've a query for the supporters of Abrams bland Disneyfest. If you like it because it's "for the fans" and "respects the Canon" more than TLJ, riddle me this. How do you get a Death Star that's been utterly annihilated as seen in film 3 of the original trilogy, Return of the Jedi and plonk it in the ocean?

Like it went up in a giant ball of flames, there was nothing left. But Abrams wants it as a set location so it's what-un vaporized?

2 • 
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RobR

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The people have spoken. It's still holding steady at 86% with 70,110 verified ratings. So the so-called critics saying it is the worst Star Wars film are pretty much useless.

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J_P-

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Edited By J_P-

Who's to say that they aren't trying to use reverse psychology and put in fake audience reviews while removing any negative ones?

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dzimm

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@robr: It's only "holding steady" because Rotten Tomatoes hasn't bothered to update the user review average. Tens of thousands of reviews were posted, and the average never budged. They've locked it down, probably in coordination with Disney.

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Mogan

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Mogan  Moderator

Trying to undo TLJ cost this movie any hope of being good. The attempts to change the story's direction were rushed and sloppy, and the ending they came up with made the whole sequel trilogy pointless and managed to undermine the ending of the original trilogy at the same time.

The Last Jedi sucked, but nobody involved in this movie had any better ideas, and they wasted everyone's time undoing what setup and foreshadowing the sequel trilogy had for its final act without a good plan for where to take it instead.

Rise of Skywalker is easily the worst Star Wars film yet. It's not even close.

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Berserk8989

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@mogan: I agree with all of it but for one thing: The Last Jedi did not suck.

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Pyrosa

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The reviewer fails to recognize that millions of fans WANT Rian Johnson's failure wiped.

So yeah, this one suffers from Marvel-like breakneck pacing to deliver the full story JJ wanted to deliver, while undoing what Rian broke. (JJ is quoted on better sites politely describing that's what had to be done.)

Enjoyed this immensely more than Endgame, about the same as Infinity War.

Enjoyed it FAR more than TLJ, and a bit more than TFA. It's fan service, and after the 7-vs-8 debacle, this is EXACTLY what was needed.

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RobR

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The so-called critics got this wrong. Just look at the over 43,000 verified ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, it's still at 86%. My whole family loved the movie. I liked the Rey lineage twist. It was a great end to the Skywalker Saga.

2 • 
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RGreen

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TRoS was garbage, especially the incomprehensibly bad editing, but I for one was glad it retconned the cinematic abortion that was TLJ.

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Dilandau88

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Having just watched this film last night, I agree 100% with this review. It's harsh, but totally true. Messy story telling, rushed, and not a fit conclusion to the trilogy or 42 years of Star Wars Legacy. I feel it was the weakest of the three new films.

3 • 
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brxricano

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Nah son, Different colored lasers. 9/10

Lol, Im just reading "The Bad" and im thinking, idk if this critic has ever seen star wars before lol. you can stencil this score for all movies, past present and future. your review is a synopsis sir, A SYNOPSIS. Time to add ninjas, samurai, explosions, and sex (non sibling interactions please only thank you...ffs Lucas). More action, less NBC soap opera nonsense. and make the bad guys lasers exclusively red, and the good guys green. Your shootouts look like some nosy passive aggressive d-bag is popping shots from a linen closet.

TY FOR LISTENING DISNEY LOVE YOU~

Remember fanboys, its a connection, k? Its about feeling part of a community and paying $40 every time you say both Star AND Wars. Shut up and buy now.

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JSusie

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I just got home from the movie.

Had zero issues with any of the "critiques" of this review. Everything was tied up nicely, the acting was good, and the cgi was amazing.

Definitely worth my money and time to go see it.

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J_P-

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disney wars is just garbage all around.

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Divisionbell

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While it definitely wasn’t a 10, it also definitely was not a 4. I thought it was a decent Star Wars movie. Definitely some areas where I wish they delved deeper, but it was not the mess that most critics seem to keep claiming it is.

2 • 
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Icedvike

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I think giving this movie a 4 is hypocritical. It's not a ten by any means, But it is entertaining. How do you correct the mistakes of the last film perfectly? It put JJ Abrams in a almost impossible position. There are things that are a little far fetched, But he did his best to tie it all back together. There will never be a saga like the first three films, But in the wake of that, You get what you get. Your never going to please everyone, And these days, Critsism comes pretty cheap wouldn't you say? The series is over now, And maybe we can just let it breathe now and enjoy it instead of tearing it down.

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Epic_G_ame08

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Edited By Epic_G_ame08

A score of 4. In no way. Oh may whats wrong with you ?

The score given here It's just not fair.

I saw the film in the cinema today with my 6 year old son( was in same age i watched the older movies) .I'm glad that Star wars weren't put in the sand. I felt very well entertained. After i saw the the last jedi and thought damn star wars is in the ass. But this movie makes it good very good. Luke sounds like he was ever before not like an Star Wars Jedi Grinch he was in the last jedi. Never liked the scene where Rose kissed Fin its a kindergarden romance out of nothing. Hey i give you a high voltage shock an later on i saved you just to put you on shock again to say i love you wtf..... J. J. Abrams you did a damn good job ! Its an score of 9 Like a 10 points, but the only thing that disturbed something that this film does not completely deviate from the old films.
The end was a little over the top and could be the end of Star Wars XD... Hey no foes. Its Game of Thrones that f... up not Star Wars. End i bought the UHD just to complete the series. At least i can say im happy to complete my Star Wars collection cant wait.
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Bread_or_Decide

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This is why you don't negotiate with terrorists.

Soulless pandering to the loudest of toxic trolls.

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Rowsdower007

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The Force Awakens was a hollow shell of a movie where they tried to make you live out your star wars fantasies through the main characters like it was a disney ride. Didn't feel like star wars. Critics: loved Audience: loved initially

The Last Jedi tried something new and succeeded in being different but sucked at capturing the star wars feel and had meandering plots that made rewatches torture. Critics: loved Audience: not so much

Rise of the Skywalker actually had heart, animitronics, cool twists, and yes, plotholes, too fast pacing like The Force Awakens but actually FELT like a star wars movie. I said the only way I could like this movie is if it made the first two obsolete and didn't even want to see it if not for already having tickets. I'll say this, check your movie critic at the door and just take in your star wars fanboy and you'll love it, just like Return of the Jedi and Revenge of the Sith. Not good movies. Great Star Wars experiences. (for most I'd say. Some more critical star wars fans may not be saved.) But as an EU fan that was disappointed they got rid of the EU, I still enjoyed myself a lot.

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BigCat2K20

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After watching Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker, it leaves fans (let alone movie goers) more questions than answers. I don't mind nostalgia & Easter eggs. But, it heavily leans on that too much, jammed too many things & comes across as anti "The Last Jedi" hurt the movie to me.

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Greylock3491

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A 4 out of 10?

I found the movie entertaining, which is all I wanted and expected. I'd definitely give it a passing grade.

PS - Why are all of the reviews here so negative these days?


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Rowsdower007

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@Greylock3491 said:

A 4 out of 10?

I found the movie entertaining, which is all I wanted and expected. I'd definitely give it a passing grade.

PS - Why are all of the reviews here so negative these days?

And what did they give the last two which were far worse as Star Wars movies and totally mediocre.

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Bread_or_Decide

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@rowsdower007 said:
@Greylock3491 said:

A 4 out of 10?

I found the movie entertaining, which is all I wanted and expected. I'd definitely give it a passing grade.

PS - Why are all of the reviews here so negative these days?

And what did they give the last two which were far worse as Star Wars movies and totally mediocre.

Because critics are smart.

Fanboys are idiots.

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christhunder34

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The Kylo-Ren relationship was the only enjoyment out of the movie for me. I felt Kylo's conviction in his acting, how he couldn't eliminate Rei to turn him complete to the dark side and eventually she led him to redemption.

I couldn't relate to the pilot though, maybe I just miss Harrison ford as the pilot space cowboy - facial expressions, seriousness and comedy had good contrast with the more solemn deep and meaningful Jedi/Sith lore/story in the originals.

But if the movie was too epic, fans would crave more so in some ways its good it completed in a subdued way.

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ThatLooksWeird

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Babo!!!

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dzimm

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This movie is like eating a big muffin out of a vending. The packaging looks like nice, but it doesn't taste that great, and you're hungry again in 20-minutes and looking for something more substantial.

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ahpuck

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It's cool to hate everything now days. I actually liked it. It's not a great movie, but it's not as bad as "critics" claim it to be.

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DoneWithGamespot

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"retcon"?

What thesaurus master is this guy trying to impress by putting this ridiculously obscure word in the headline?

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Dilandau88

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@donewithgamespot: Maybe you just need to expand your vocabulary? ;)

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Mogan

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Mogan  Moderator

@donewithgamespot: That's not really an obscure word at all on a gaming/entertainment news site like GameSpot.

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sethjustseth

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@mogan said:

@donewithgamespot: That's not really an obscure word at all on a gaming/entertainment news site like GameSpot.

Right? Considering that's the most common word associated with the prequels/sequels, I mean what the hell. Retcon is obscure?

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DoneWithGamespot

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@sethjustseth:

I've never heard or read the word retcon until this review.

I have no idea what you're talking about.

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pillarrocks

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Plan on seeing it next next week hopefully it ain't sold out.

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judaspete

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Audience score on RT is 86% right now. Could it be Disney was right and bloated fan service is in fact what we all wanted?

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Bread_or_Decide

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@judaspete said:

Audience score on RT is 86% right now. Could it be Disney was right and bloated fan service is in fact what we all wanted?

Yep, give in to the fan babies.

I'm not looking forward to where this takes us.

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judaspete

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@Bread_or_Decide said:
@judaspete said:

Audience score on RT is 86% right now. Could it be Disney was right and bloated fan service is in fact what we all wanted?

Yep, give in to the fan babies.

I'm not looking forward to where this takes us.

I hope there is room for both nostalgic fan service like this and Mandalorian, and bold exploration of new ideas like TLJ. I mean, they're going to be making these movies for the rest of eternity.

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Rowsdower007

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@judaspete said:

Audience score on RT is 86% right now. Could it be Disney was right and bloated fan service is in fact what we all wanted?

It absolutely was for me. As someone who hated the last two, I loved it. Plenty of problems as a movie, but a great Star Wars experience. I actually didn't want to go and was walking out loving it.

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Ferrari3

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I liked it...don't care if you didn't.

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Rowsdower007

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@Ferrari3 said:

I liked it...don't care if you didn't.

Then you agree with most audiences. Critics don't really have a great track record for reviewing Star Wars movies for the Star Wars fan.

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Paulf001

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It wasn't even that bad. Seems like click bait.

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the worst star wars film ever.

Oh I thought they couldn't mess this up, it couldn't be as bad as the last jedi.....oh I was wrong 😢 my gosh people were laughing in the audience as if it was a rift track. It's bad this time believe the hype

On the side note still glad I saw it but it's a bad star wars film. Still go see to see it with ur eyes

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knowledgeplease

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@jcwainc: people were laughing because c3p0 was on fiyaaaaaa

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Mighty-Lu-Bu

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Saw it last night... it was so much better than the Last Jedi. I legitmately cried 5 times during the movie!

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jcwainc

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@mighty-lu-bu: i laughed 5 times. dont know what movie you were watching worst star wars film ever. kick Kennedy out

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Rowsdower007

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@jcwainc: The Force Awakens was a hollow shell of a movie where they tried to make you live out your star wars fantasies through the main characters like it was a disney ride. Didn't feel like star wars. Critics: loved Audience: loved initially

The Last Jedi tried something new and succeeded in being different but sucked at capturing the star wars feel and had meandering plots that made rewatches torture. Critics: loved Audience: not so much

Rise of the Skywalker actually had heart, animitronics, cool twists, and yes, plotholes, too fast pacing like The Force Awakens but actually FELT like a star wars movie. I said the only way I could like this movie is if it made the first two obsolete and didn't even want to see it if not for already having tickets. I'll say this, check your movie critic at the door and just take in your star wars fanboy and you'll love it, just like Return of the Jedi and Revenge of the Sith. Not good movies. Great Star Wars experiences. Also: many people hating on this one are right alt morons that have a problem with female heroes even if they turned out to be good characters like in this one. (didn't really believe so in the last two, but my mind was open). Oh and there's a quick lesbian kiss at the end which should make the alt right freaking furious.

Upvote •