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: 83579%
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: When it's discovered that the evil Emperor Palpatine did not die at the hands of Darth Vader, the rebels must... [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

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