News

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker First Reviews: A Mixed Bag of Nostalgia, Jam-Packed with Story and Action

Critics say J.J. Abrams undermines himself in an attempt to please everyone, but still turns out a relatively entertaining movie to close out the Skywalker Saga.

by | December 18, 2019 | Comments

Whether it’s a series finale or the last part of a movie franchise, the ending of a popular media property is always going to have mixed reactions. Especially if it’s something that’s been around through multiple generations. While Star Wars as a whole is not finished, the primary saga begun in 1977 now reaches its conclusion with the release of its ninth “episode,” The Rise of Skywalker. Some fans will be satisfied, others won’t be, and that balance is reflected in the wide range of positive and negative reviews of the new movie.

Here’s what critics are saying about the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker:


Is this the ending we’re looking for?

“It’s an emotional, thrilling and satisfying end to the Skywalker Saga.” – Ian Sandwell, Digital Spy

“A breakneck adventure that carries the spirit of George Lucas’ original Star Wars trilogy into a gratifying, delightfully bizarre denouement.” – Evan Dossey, Midwest Film Journal

The Rise of Skywalker provides about as competent an ending as one could hope for from such a sprawling, weird saga.” – Nick Johnston, Vanyaland

“As the final chapter in this saga, it should have been much better.” – Brent Hankins, The Lamplight Review

“With lazy conventions and convolution, puddle-deep platitudes and cheap nods to nostalgia, this saga concludes on a wildly unsatisfactory note.” – Courtney Howard, Fresh Fiction

“It should surprise no one that a mixed bag of a franchise ends with a mixed bag of a final chapter.” – Rob Hunter, Film School Rejects


Where does The Rise of Skywalker rank in the franchise?

The Rise of Skywalker is, to me, the most elegant, emotionally rounded, and gratifying Star Wars adventure since the glory days of Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety

“While this isn’t the best of the Star Wars franchise, it certainly fares better than Episodes 1, 2 and 3.” – Allison Rose, FlickDirect

“Rest assured that there’s nothing in this final Star Wars that would prompt the eye-rolls or the snickers of Episodes I-III.” – Alonso Duralde, The Wrap

The Rise of Skywalker is one of Star Wars’ worst films… Even the prequels had some fun and heart behind them.” – Robert Daniels, 812filmreviews

“The stories in the other Star Wars movies, even the Prequels, have a way of bringing a viewer into that world. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker never lets us in.” – Mike Ryan, Uproxx


Walt Disney Studios

(Photo by Walt Disney Studios)


What’s the movie’s relationship to The Last Jedi?

The Rise of Skywalker feels like a welcome course correction.” – Brian Lowry, CNN

“Abrams and company get around the Last Jedi fanbase blowback the easy way: by making a movie, a pretty good one, essentially pretending there never was a Last Jedi.” –  Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

“You have to wonder how much Abrams looked at fan reactions to The Last Jedi when he considered how to close the Skywalker finale.” –  Kirsten Acuna, Insider

The Rise of Skywalker has to deal some of with the anti-Lucas curveballs that director Rian Johnson introduced into The Last Jedi, and it may actually be a better movie for it.” –  Owen Gleiberman, Variety

The Rise of the Skywalker actually makes The Last Jedi stronger.” –  Michael Roffman, Consequence of Sound


How is J.J. Abrams in his return as director?

“The Force was strong with him. Very strong. The Rise of the Skywalker finds Abrams at his most creative — and original.” – Michael Roffman, Consequence of Sound

“Whatever controversy Abrams might have brewed up with his artistic choices, he still captures magnificently the soul of this series.” – Clarisse Loughrey, Independent

“Abrams is an exceptionally capable director of action and of actors, so the film goes down easy, even if you’re struggling with some of the plot’s maneuvering.” – Nick Johnston, Vanyaland

“This may well be the closest Abrams has come to showing some personality in one of his tentpole pictures, if only because he was forced.” – Evan Dossey, Midwest Film Journal

“The filmmaker commits the greatest sin of all: he co-opts his vision to appease first, and create second.” – Robert Daniels, 812filmreviews


Walt Disney Studios

(Photo by Walt Disney Studios)


How is the action?

“The battles are spectacular.” – Bill Watters, Aggressive Comix

“The action sequences, from large-scale space skirmishes to multiple close-quarter lightsaber clashes… are among the best of the entire series.” – Brent Hankins, The Lamplight Review

“There’s a lightsaber duel that’s pretty fantastic — not because of any unprecedented whirling-action whoa! factor but because of the emotions it channels.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety

“The action set-pieces all hurry along with perfunctory plainness.” – Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair

“The action lacks energy. These might be the worst shot lightsaber fights in the history of Star Wars.” – Robert Daniels, 812filmreviews


Will the movie please fans of Rey?

“Rey is once again the center of the movie, and she’s once again maybe its best part… Daisy Ridley continues to make it look all too easy.” – Germain Lussier, io9

“For the first time, Ridley’s performance is every bit as captivating and impressive as Driver’s, and it works to make the drama land.” – Rob Hunter, Film School Rejects

“We always knew Driver could deliver, yet Ridley matches him with her most mature performance to date.” – Ian Sandwell, Digital Spy

“I was moved by her performance… this movie does nothing to diminish Rey as one of the brightest stars in the Star Wars saga.” – Evan Dossey, Midwest Film Journal

“Rey is basically a leveled up Thanos with all the Infinity Stones… She is a suspense-free character as she’s never been truly tested in this trilogy.” – Jeffrey Lyles, Lyles Movie Files


Walt Disney Studios

(Photo by Walt Disney Studios)


How well does it handle Leia?

“One major highlight is the touching sendoff to Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia… Skywalker gives the star and her character several key shining moments.” – Kara Warner, People Magazine

“The character treated with the most reverence, unsurprisingly, is Carrie Fisher’s Leia… paying poignant tribute to Leia’s legacy both on and off the screen.” – Clarisse Loughrey, Independent

“It’s surprisingly organic and never feels like a gimmick, and seeing the Princess onscreen for the final time is sure to evoke a flood of emotions from the Star Wars faithful.” – Brent Hankins, The Lamplight Review

“[It’s] a technical accomplishment that nevertheless proves awkward and limiting.” – Brian Lowry, CNN

“It’s not enough for a full length role, which hurts and slights Leia from having a satisfactory arc worse than not having her appear at all.” – Jeffrey Lyles, Lyles Movie Files


What other characters stand out?

“Finn and Poe. They inject a playful radiance into this tedious string of events.” – Robert Daniels, 812filmreviews

“Credit must be given to Joonas Suotamo and Anthony Daniels for making Chewie and C-3PO the heart of this movie.” – Kaitlyn Booth, Bleeding Cool

“Two of the movie’s most moving moments belong to Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and C-3PO (Anthony Daniels).” – Alonso Duralde, The Wrap

“McDiarmid’s gravitas as an actor has been sorely missed… [his] chops haven’t faded, though, and his performance here and Driver’s are the best of this trio of films.” – Johnny Oleksinski, New York Post


Walt Disney Studios

(Photo by Walt Disney Studios)


Will the movie give fans what they want?

“There are many surprises and treats for audiences and moments of fan service that are sure to have fans cheering with delight.” – Amanda Keats, HeyUGuys

“If there’s something you always wanted to see in a Star Wars movie, but haven’t yet, odds are it’s in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.” – Germain Lussier, io9

“[There are] crowd-pleasing payoffs that have been decades in the making. It’s fan service, but done in service of the plot and not just thrown in for the sake of it.” – Ian Sandwell, Digital Spy

“It felt like The Rise of Skywalker was put together by reading angry Reddit boards, just throwing in anything a fan might possibly want to see.” – Mike Ryan, Uproxx

“It feels cobbled together from notes stuffed in the suggestion boxes of Reddit and Twitter.” – Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair


Should we just sit back and enjoy it?

“If you treat The Rise of Skywalker as an exciting visual experience first and foremost… you will have a fine time.” – Chris Taylor, Mashable

“Speaking purely on an enjoyment and entertainment level, the film hits every mark.” – Danielle Solzman, Solzy at the Movies

“It’s a flawed, messy film but it recaptures the spirit of adventure I love in Star Wars. There’s a corny innocence to the film… and it made me happy watching it.” – Rachel Wagner, rachelsreviews.net

“It’s always been easy to make fun of and poke holes in a Star Wars movie. This one in particular, though, is just as easy to lean back and enjoy.” – David Bax, Battleship Pretension

“There are moments when this movie truly soars and, when it does, you’ll be reminded why you fell in love with this franchise in the first place.” – Kaitlyn Booth, Bleeding Cool


Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is in theaters December 19. 

#1
Adjusted Score: 79424%
Critics Consensus: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker suffers from a frustrating lack of imagination, but concludes this beloved saga with fan-focused devotion.
Synopsis: Finn and Poe lead the Resistance to put a stop to the First Order's plans to form a new Empire,... [More]
Directed By: J.J. Abrams

Like this? Subscribe to our newsletter and get more features, news, and guides in your inbox every week.

Tag Cloud

Vudu Schedule Cartoon Network mutant Opinion ratings tv talk cancelled television Amazon Prime Video Peacock Star Wars remakes Spike Starz Marvel Television Cosplay feel good godzilla satire toronto new star wars movies Red Carpet BET Awards docuseries Black History Month deadpool Crunchyroll boxoffice Martial Arts The Witch Tubi festivals X-Men Awards cinemax james bond werewolf Trophy Talk spinoff popular scary movies psychological thriller Columbia Pictures CNN kaiju game show high school 90s cancelled Musicals quibi The Academy dexter romance king kong Pirates Holidays Brie Larson adaptation crime series child's play Star Trek spanish language 99% young adult GoT renewed TV shows Paramount Network jamie lee curtis Lifetime Christmas movies know your critic 4/20 Hallmark Christmas movies Hallmark screenings rotten movies we love cancelled TV shows Spectrum Originals australia Ovation finale marvel cinematic universe Academy Awards facebook Superheroe new york LGBT dogs spider-man FX on Hulu revenge parents transformers robots women TCA cults criterion Baby Yoda 2016 casting Tarantino prank ITV news Image Comics 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards Disney streaming service Song of Ice and Fire olympics Fox Searchlight DC Universe indiana jones Amazon Studios Turner 24 frames Reality New York Comic Con Country Endgame rom-coms Rocky IFC Films spy thriller Mindy Kaling Reality Competition political drama Mudbound ABC PaleyFest ABC Family Family saw Action MSNBC Creative Arts Emmys Netflix boxing fast and furious Teen Western nbcuniversal Nat Geo miniseries 21st Century Fox Pet Sematary justice league El Rey Tomatazos Lucasfilm Trivia sequels First Look Holiday Shondaland Election Funimation vampires CBS science fiction RT21 71st Emmy Awards gangster Sundance Now adenture talk show crime thriller USA YouTube Superheroes Infographic richard e. Grant stoner cancelled TV series Photos toy story Classic Film Certified Fresh movies Apple dramedy theme song discovery critics elevated horror Comedy Central Mystery french composers Box Office basketball Year in Review See It Skip It 2021 Marvel Studios true crime MTV Fantasy Black Mirror AMC golden globe awards 72 Emmy Awards Horror Wes Anderson The Arrangement Interview politics Logo name the review anime based on movie Esquire green book halloween tv Sci-Fi blockbusters LGBTQ Nickelodeon versus Music TNT National Geographic video on demand HBO Go Comedy rt labs indie TLC binge Tokyo Olympics nfl Rock Disney Channel scorecard laika international Shudder obituary Summer trailers HBO Max Pixar Avengers anthology SundanceTV dceu hispanic MCU mcc TV Sneak Peek 1990s CW Seed wonder woman Winter TV VH1 73rd Emmy Awards Netflix Christmas movies serial killer Discovery Channel Musical golden globes concert President Comics on TV Walt Disney Pictures IFC comic book movies Britbox docudrama award winner streaming movies rt archives telelvision adventure Acorn TV reviews YouTube Red DC streaming service Trailer FXX Writers Guild of America south america TV renewals hist Marvel Showtime Film Arrowverse Comic Book TBS teaser kong Amazon Prime harry potter Toys what to watch stand-up comedy book adaptation foreign technology diversity TCA Winter 2020 twilight black cops emmy awards Television Academy slashers animated Syfy Nominations sitcom TCM BAFTA slasher crossover disaster comedies mockumentary joker Anna Paquin strong female leads halloween christmas movies dark WarnerMedia Lionsgate Ellie Kemper Women's History Month spain suspense OWN APB cartoon game of thrones asian-american American Society of Cinematographers unscripted kids Turner Classic Movies CBS All Access Disney Plus Masterpiece ABC Signature social media rt labs critics edition sag awards thriller Broadway king arthur TIFF DirecTV blockbuster Extras Mary Tyler Moore Mary poppins YA singing competition Paramount Plus Apple TV Plus The CW doctor who DC Comics WGN sequel classics Food Network Biopics Countdown Rocketman Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Sundance PBS Premiere Dates Disney+ Disney Plus legend dragons Elton John worst live action Film Festival Pride Month video VICE Mary Poppins Returns Podcast Awards Tour Winners best canceled Adult Swim Super Bowl comic books TCA Awards television Dark Horse Comics worst movies space ViacomCBS Amazon Polls and Games Character Guide movie Valentine's Day japan Spring TV heist movie documentaries Calendar TCA 2017 period drama universal monsters SXSW Kids & Family Tumblr Hulu A24 History The Purge rotten TV Land posters RT History independent comic book movie BBC America debate OneApp TruTV 20th Century Fox DGA Thanksgiving psycho NYCC NBA 2017 book USA Network Warner Bros. cars Television Critics Association aliens San Diego Comic-Con The Walking Dead 2019 Exclusive Video Video Games razzies SDCC lord of the rings jurassic park cats Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt royal family superman medical drama BET BBC One Rom-Com travel breaking bad Set visit ID Alien children's TV natural history cooking E! sports Grammys A&E zombies reboot comic TV One crime drama Ghostbusters Pop GLAAD 007 GIFs a nightmare on elm street Emmy Nominations Binge Guide films FX documentary action-comedy FOX Fall TV dc NBC Marathons biography Captain marvel festival Quiz Watching Series Drama Animation free movies Epix italian nature batman historical drama venice CMT romantic comedy witnail Pop TV marvel comics stop motion Universal new zealand comics Legendary Christmas screen actors guild HBO hollywood ESPN Apple TV+ 45 aapi VOD archives Sony Pictures Stephen King fresh target supernatural all-time spanish Emmys ghosts Hear Us Out scene in color Chernobyl franchise Pacific Islander critic resources E3 comiccon football canceled TV shows 2018 mission: impossible Fox News superhero hidden camera Comic-Con@Home 2021 blaxploitation 2015 Cannes Lifetime directors Sundance TV TV movies Best and Worst PlayStation streaming zombie Crackle Paramount Travel Channel japanese First Reviews 2020 93rd Oscars chucky The Walt Disney Company biopic Disney latino monster movies Freeform Bravo Oscars die hard YouTube Premium police drama BBC hispanic heritage month Heroines pirates of the caribbean zero dark thirty war