This franchise became so controversial after The Last Jedi I should probably state where I stand in the Star Wars wars. As stated in my reviews, The Force Awakens has “enough entertainment to satisfy fans new and old, even though the script is filled with repurposed plot points and questionable character motivation.” “The plot [of Rogue One], specifically character choices and motivations, is not well thought out, and at times the film gets a little too inside baseball for those not part of the cult.” The Last Jedi's “plot is overstuffed and at times nonsensical, leading to a lot of misfires in the story.” Solo is “an entertaining space adventure that is best when it's not spending time covering obvious, connective plot points” to Episode IV.
The Rise of Skywalker has marvelous cinematography and production design, another satisfying John Williams' score, and the action scenes are thrilling, but its poor plot points and pathetic pandering make it the worst of the Disney releases and in the running for worst of the franchise, though I am not sure I'll get myself to revisit the prequels.
A year after the events of The Last Jedi, things are pretty much the same between the First Order and the Resistance. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) gets himself a magic box known as a Wayfinder, which leads him to the planet Exegol, where inexplicably Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) survived the Death Star blowing up in Return of the Jedi. He has been hiding with a flotilla of Star Destroyers so massive it's not clear why he hasn't unleashed them to defeat the Resistance. Palpatine reveals he been pulling the strings behind the scenes this trilogy to lure Kylo into his service.
Kylo wants to usurp the Emperor as Sith leader and thinks he can accomplish this if Rey (Daisy Ridley) joins forces with him, a task he failed at during the previous film. He is constantly chasing after her, and they fight throughout in different locales, in person and in some type of mental state the physical world spills into when the screenwriters, director J.J. Abrams and Chris Terrio, need to pass along clues.
A Sith artifact that can lead them to Palpatine is found. C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) is the only one who can read it but his programming won't allow him to decipher it. Poe (Oscar Issac) knows a guy who can crack the programming, though there will be consequences for the droid. They head to the planet Kijimi, which is under First Order occupation. He runs into Zorri Bliss (Kerri Russell), with whom he has a past. It is barely dealt with here, but will likely be explored in a another medium at a future date.
In their final battle, Rey wounds Kylo when he is distracted by his mother Leia (Carrie Fisher) using all her remaining energy to reach out to him across the galaxy. It raises the question, why she didn't try this when he was right outside the cave she was hiding in during The Last Jedi. However, this is the way they chose for Leia to die, similar to Luke's overexertion, in part because of the limited deleted scenes featuring Fisher they had to use. At least her death sticks. The audience experiences multiple characters dying only for them to come back quickly, which is cheap trick to create drama and manipulate viewers' emotions.
By the third act, the film borrows from ROTJ. As he did with Luke, Palpatine wants Rey to join him on the Dark Side, which makes one wonder why he didn't make it easier for her to find him. She tries to hide, but spirit Luke (Mark Hamill) convinces her to face him. The film wants Kylo, like ROTJ did with Anakin/Vader, to be redeemed. It wasn't believable when Vader did it since he didn't have a relationship with Luke, and it's not believable seeing an imaginary father-son dynamic inspire change in Kylo.
In addition to the movie being frustrating on its own, it's frustrating that it undercuts developments in The Last Jedi. Kylo told Rey her parents were nobodies, a point some viewers took accepted even though Kylo was a villain. It returned the franchise to the idea that anyone could tap into the Force, but it turns out Kylo's information isn't true. Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) was an important new character who risked her life alongside Finn (John Boyega) and was developing a relationship with him, but here, not only is she sidelined at the home base with R2-D2, Finn is still pining for Rey and he meets Jannah (Naomi Ackie), who was forced into Imperial servitude as a Stormtrooper before she escaped. Not only is this disappointing to see for the character, but also for the actress who was harassed online by abusive fans because of their response to the character. Intentionally or not, the filmmakers sided with those terrible people, which is the incorrect response. Other than Luke dying, The Last Jedi could be skipped and I don't think a viewer would be missing much.
Am sorry to see The Rise of Skywalker and this new trilogy falter as much as it did, and there are plenty of other problems that could be pointed out. Hopefully the next installments will be made by those with a better understanding of storytelling and what works in the Star Wars universe, which isn't scenes of illogical fan service.