As the final installment of the Skywalker saga, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker had a lot riding on it. After the back-to-back successes of The Force Awakens and Rogue One, Lucasfilm began to hit a rough patch. First came the divisive response to The Last Jedi. Then, just a few months later, Solo underperformed, leading Lucasfilm to rethink its entire strategy.
The Rise of Skywalker needed to restore the saga’s former glory, find a satisfying end to the sequel trilogy, and tie all three trilogies together. On just about all fronts, J.J. Abrams’ film has fallen tragically short. While it’s nearing a $1 billion worldwide box office, the film has earned the weakest reviews of the series’ history. Actually, it shares that dubious honor with one other Star Wars film.
‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ divided fans and critics
What should have been Star Wars‘ shining moment has been anything but. If anything, The Rise of Skywalker has deepened the divide between fans and critics. Critical topics like Rey’s (Daisy Ridley) true identity and Palpatine’s (Ian McDiarmid) return underscore just how poorly conceived the sequel trilogy has been from the beginning.
The Last Jedi attempted to build upon The Force Awakens and take the saga into new directions. Whether those directions were what fans want or not is another story. In the process, the fandom was split into those who prefer one film’s approach over the other. So The Rise of Skywalker tries to please everyone and, in essence, winds up without a narrative focus of its own.
In fact, just as The Last Jedi frustrated fans and delighted critics, the opposite is true with The Rise of Skywalker. Just when the Star Wars saga is supposed to be mending old wounds, it refuses to let the past die. The result is an entry that is far from the pinnacle of the saga’s greatest triumph.
The saga’s final entry is also its worst-reviewed
In fact, critics are so displeased with The Rise of Skywalker that it sits at the very bottom of the list of the best-reviewed Star Wars movies. With only 53 percent positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, Abrams’ film is Rotten. But at least it isn’t alone. Aside from the animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars, The Phantom Menace is the only other Rotten film in the saga, also with a 53 percent rating.
That film, of course, is notorious for its shoddy script, wooden performances, and the infamous Jar Jar Binks. So it says a lot about how critics feel about The Rise of Skywalker to see it on the same level as The Phantom Menace. Even Attack of the Clones and its drippy romance has a higher rating, with 65 percent Fresh.
For comparisons’ sake, both the other films in the sequel trilogy — The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi — are among the best-reviewed. The former ties with A New Hope at a 93 percent Fresh rating, while the latter boasts a tidy 91 percent. Rogue One, Revenge of the Sith, and Solo follow with 83 percent, 80 percent, and 70 percent, respectively.
Of course, the Star Wars film with the highest Rotten Tomatoes rating is 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back with a 94 percent Fresh. That installment has long been considered a fan favorite and is arguably the most beloved of the saga. So it stands to reason the critical consensus would support that conclusion.
‘Star Wars’ still has a bright spot right now
Those less-than-stellar reviews for The Rise of Skywalker might not be what Lucasfilm was hoping for. However, it does only highlight the saga’s need for a bit of a break. Even the film’s cast thinks the franchise needs to slow down going forward. And hopefully, Star Wars can return to the big screen refreshed and ready to go.
As for the future, Lucasfilm still has plenty to be excited about. After all, the future of Star Wars, for now, lies with Disney+. And if The Mandalorian‘s 95 percent Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes is any indication, the saga might be on the right track. Here’s hoping the “galaxy far, far away” is a lot closer to that mark the next time it blasts into theaters.