9 Spoiler-Free Things Everyone Should Know About Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker

Note: There are no spoilers in this article beyond what has already been shown or referenced in trailers, ads, and merchandise. (There are spoilers for previous Star Wars films, but not this one.)

1. Is it better than The Last Jedi?

Yes, though of course how much better youll think it is depends a lot on your opinion of that notoriously divisive film. Im one of the seemingly-few people who neither love nor hate The Last Jedi (TLJ), and my overall thoughts are: The Rise of Skywalker (TROS) has a much more interesting plot, a lot more fun, and much better cinematography. They are very different movies, really, in many ways: chiefly, that much of TROSs story keeps Rey, Finn, and Poe together (considering that Rey and Poe didnt even meet until the end of TLJ), and theres no completely unnecessary, lengthy subplot like Finn and Roses Canto Bight trip. What Im trying to say is, whether you like the new movie may not have a lot to do with whether you liked the last one, so dont go in prejudiced one way or the other.

2. Will fans be happy?

Ive been a fan since there was just one movie, and I liked it. There was certainly a lot of fan service; on the other hand, there was a lot of fan service. You remember how you felt at the end of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, when the endings just kept coming? The fan service moments felt like that to me when one in particular happened near the end, and my 18-year-old daughter, whos loved the movies most of her life as well, agreed. It felt like I was being pandered to at the expense of the story and the brevity of the film, and it was just too much. You may feel differently, of course.

As a lifelong geek, and one whos seen the original trilogy more times than I could possibly remember, I was more than a little annoyed by the continued expansion of what powers the Force confers on its users. One new power in particular, which is absolutely essential to the plot, is so weirdly unlike any powers weve seen before that it threatened to (but ultimately didnt) ruin the film for me.

I could definitely have done with a few fewer gags, and particularly the ones that relied on misdirection. Funny is good, but you dont go to a Star Wars film expecting a comedy. Also, theres way too little R2-D2I like BB-8, but if youre going to do fan service you really should have more Artoo.

3. But will they be satisfied?

Ive considered this question a lot, and I have to say yes. It isnt a great movie, and it leaves many things unexplained, but director J.J. Abrams knows how to end a movie (a skill too many directors lack), and this one both ends itself very well and feels like a true ending to the Skywalker Saga.

4. Ive heard it undoes a lot of the developments from TLJ. Is that true?

Very much so, and Im conflicted about it. TLJ spent a great deal of time pushing the notion that having Force powers was not something that was unique to these few people, that the Jedi were really no better than anyone else, that heroes could come from anywhere. TROS does a full-reverse on that: Reys past is retconned, and the kid on Canto Bight who used the Force on his broom at the end of TLJ is neither seen nor mentioned (and theres more, but Im avoiding spoilers).

5. Should I rewatch the previous movies before seeing TROS?

I recommend at least rewatching the previous three: The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi for obvious reasons, and if youve seen the trailers you can probably guess why Return of the Jedi would be smart to include as well. If youve got the time, you should start with A New Hope and go from there, because being bombarded with references to the previous films gets even more tiresome if you know youre missing some of them.

That being said, and while there are references to the prequel trilogy, I cant bring myself to recommend that anyone see those movies, ever. If you like or at least dont mind them that much, and have lots of time available, it wouldnt hurt to watch them as well.

6. Will my kids like it?

If they love Star Wars, then almost certainly yes. If theyre cool or lukewarm (sorry) about Star Wars, then theyll likely be bored and/or confused by much of it. Theyll like the gags, though, Im sure.

7. Whens a good time for a bathroom break?

TROS is about 2.25 hours long, so this is definitely a concern. In most of the scenes, itll be reasonably easy to guess whether its going to be crucial to the story. Any of the less action-oriented scenes with Rey, Finn, and Poe together is a good choice, particularly when they arrive on Kamino. When you see Rey fly off on her own late in the movie, thats the last time you should take a bathroom break if at all possible.

8. Does Baby Yoda appear at all?

Sorry, no. But there is a very cute, funny little creature named Babu Frik who figures in the story and might not have been included only for merchandising purposes. However, the new little droid, D-O, is so both cute and unnecessary to the story that it could not be more obviously there just to sell toys.

9. Finally, how do the scenes with Leia work?

Awkwardly, for the most part. Abrams does an admirable job working her into the story at all, really, and Im glad he was able to, because Leia and the late, great Carrie Fisher both unquestionably deserve to be in the conclusion to the Skywalker Saga. But you can tell when theyve added characters to her scenes, and some of what she says and does doesnt make a lot of sense if you really think about the plot and how the character of Leia really should be acting. Theres also a flashback scene with digitally-young Luke and Leia that I really wish they hadnt included, or if they had, they had kept their faces hidden (youll understand when you see it).

Disclosure: My daughter and I attended a free preview screening of the movie. All opinions expressed here are my own.

Images: Lucasfilm / Disney.

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