‘The Rise of Skywalker’ Offers Powerful Lessons About Fate & Family
What Rey & Kylo Ren have to teach us about destiny and choosing who we are.
I was in the theater opening night for The Rise of Skywalker, the penultimate Star Wars movie. My boyfriend is a die-hard Star Wars universe fan, and although he isn’t as happy about the direction the franchise has gone since Disney took the helm, I’m a pretty big fan of the final trilogy. Luckily, he forgives me.
The Rise of Skywalker was an appropriate and mostly satisfying ending to a saga that’s meant so much to so many people. Most of the reason I feel this way is probably based on my appreciation of the characters- and one in particular. There have been many complaints about the lack of development of storylines for Finn and Poe in this final chapter, but my focus throughout was mostly on Kylo Ren. In fact, the thing I liked least about this movie is that I think the wrong Skywalker was given the glory at the end of the movie, but we’ll get to that.
Star Wars has always played between the good and the bad, but the duality of Rey and Ben brings a new level to the question of what makes us who we are and whether we can change our futures and our destinies.
For my money, Kylo Ren/Ben is the most interesting character in this trilogy hands down. Adam Driver plays the part with nuance and subtlety underneath the simmering of the dark side. The thing about Ren is that from the beginning, doubt is always evident. The duality of the force in he and Rey is the perfect explanation for that doubt.
As Kylo’s character developed, you could see that his anger was only based in fear. Like many bullies, Kylo is insecure about what he’s doing. When he gives in to his angry urges and lets the dark side live in him, he gains the illusion of control through that temporary power. The problem is that it is just that: an illusion. There’s a lesson here about why it’s so important to be cognizant of the things that we are afraid of and how they are affecting our behavior.
It is much easier to get angry, to exact revenge, to hold back forgiveness, than to admit you were wrong.
This is really how things play out. People are afraid of what they don’t understand, and instead of taking the time to open themselves and learn and figure out those feelings, it is often more comfortable to lash out in anger. We fight against the idea that maybe we haven’t been the best people we could be. We are loathe to admit that we made mistakes. It is much easier to get angry, to exact revenge, to hold back forgiveness, than to admit you were wrong. That perhaps you didn’t have the knowledge that you needed to act the way that you would have wanted to act.
When Kylo Ren experiences self-doubt, he doubles down on anger and destruction, seeking that power and control he’s craving. On the flip side, Rey tends to latch on to the idea that she might not be able to do what she believes she is destined to do. Rey overcoming her doubts is a classic story, but much less satisfying than Kylo Ren’s return to himself, to Ben Solo.
Because of the nature of duality, neither character could have done what they did without the other. Rey could not have defeated Palpatine without Ben, and Ben could not have re-discovered his light without Rey and the communications that they had.
The play of the dark and light they both had within them was the thing that kept me interested. Throughout the movie, it’s obvious they can see those threads in each other while people outside of their dyad cannot. Ren tells Rey about her lineage to hurt her and try to draw out the dark in her, but without that knowledge she might have been less open to Ben’s return to the light.
Letting go of fear is one of the hardest things human beings can do, but one of the most powerful.
When Han Solo appeared, Kylo Ren started to fade as Ben Solo came back into the light. Ben admits that he knows what he needs to do, but is afraid, and by admitting his fear he’s able to leave the anger behind him. Letting go of fear is one of the hardest things human beings can do, but one of the most powerful. Fear holds us back from so much, and we can all learn something from watching those who’ve been able to let it go, even when they’re on the big screen.
When Ben is able to see the light in Rey and she offers part of her power to him to help him heal, when he reconnects with his family who has seen the good in him, he is able to let go of darkness. Despite everything that has happened between them, Rey refuses to leave him alone to die.
At the end of the movie when Rey looks at the sky and proclaims herself to be a Skywalker, it’s not about biology or blood. It’s about life and the choices we make and where they lead us. Star Wars has always been about chosen family, about the people we choose to have in our lives and how those choices affect us. It’s reinforcement that the people we share values and space with are as important as the people we are related to by blood.
For me, the Skywalker who has risen is not Rey, though, it’s Ben. His re-awakening to the light side is the return and the end of the original Skywalker family. Without his sacrifice, Rey would not have been left to carry on any legacy. Ben is the one who has been through the most change, and that has struggled with the most interesting feelings. Rey being framed as the Skywalker who has risen felt cheap to me. The real rise of Skywalker was Ben’s coming into the Jedi power of his lineage.
The real rise of Skywalker was Ben’s coming into the Jedi power of his lineage.
The Rise of Skywalker is a story of redemption, but it’s not a story of happy-ever-after for those who have been redeemed. In the end Ben saved Rey, but his redemption was done without an audience. His legacy will still be the death and destruction that he caused. Even if Rey were to spread the word that he turned good and saved her life in the end, that is not what people are likely to remember.
The story would have been a thousand times more interesting if Ben had lived and he and Rey had worked to keep the balance between the dark side and the light side together, or if she had made the ultimate sacrifice. He really got the short end of the stick, while Rey got to take the Skywalker name and live on. It felt too clean, too easy, and most of all, too boring.
Star Wars is a story about hope. What is the force if not faith in good? There’s an underlying message in the story about being alone, and that having faith in something matters. In The Rise of Skywalker, we are reminded that nothing is set in stone. Our lives are not a product of the DNA that makes up our bodies, and our lineage does not dictate who we are and who we can become.
Even though everybody has moments (or even years) of weakness where we wonder if maybe we cannot rise above what we have been given, stories like this remind us that we can. Even more than that, so does Ben. Doing the right thing is rarely the easy thing. It’s rarely the thing that gets you the glory either.
Star Wars has always been about destiny and the power we hold within ourselves. It’s about the choices we make and whether we are able to rise from darkness to hope and light.