Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is the generally satisfying conclusion to the Skywalker saga.
This post contains spoilers, but first, the non-spoiler review.
Overall I enjoyed this final installment of this trilogy. It gave me everything I want and expect from a Star Wars movie, delivered in a slick Disney approved package. There were lightsabers, an extravagant amount of new ships and exciting space battles, new aliens, new planets, old planets, familiar old faces, and the battle between the light and dark sides.
It's no spoiler that Palpatine is back, and no shock, pulling the strings. I wasn't sure I'd like how that got fit into the story, but it worked. It wasn't necessarily the way I'd have done it, but then there were a bunch of story choices in it that I'd have done a little differently. None of it was bad, just... it never really reached what I thought could be great.
Also, for a 2.5 hour long movie, it actually needed another 20-30 minutes. Everything was just so rushed, and the movie, the story needed a little extra time to breathe.
I appreciate how much of the story is Ben Solo's story. His arc is as important as Rey's, especially as it's such a good mirror of hers. He struggles to embrace the Dark Side, has to work at it... and in the end fails. His cracked helmet is the most visible sign of the struggle. He is redeemed, at least a little. He's still responsible for the deaths of countless individuals, the destruction of multiple planets. So by any measure, he's a war criminal of epic proportions, but at the end he found redemption in his sacrifice. I wish that they'd have skipped the kiss at the end. I get it, he and Rey have a connection, but...
Rey and Ben's fight on the Death Star was interesting. I really appreciate how everyone has different fighting styles, and how much is communicated through them, and what I got most out of that fight was that neither of them actually wanted to be fighting the other. Especially Rey. She seemed to be working really hard to just get on with her mission, and Ben was just in the way. She wanted to stop him, but a lightsaber battle wasn't gonna get it done.
Rey's battle with the Dark Side continues to show just how seductive it is. I really felt it was all cheapened by the revelation of her parentage. It was just so unnecessary. The last thing the story needed was to tie her in to the Palpatine bloodline, especially as there was no hint that Palpatine was married, or had kids, or a clone, or... something, anything?
Fin being force sensitive makes sense. Poe being a former drug smuggler wasn't much of a shock either. Scoundrels do bad things. Even if they have hearts of gold.
The way the movie handled General/Jedi Master Leia Organa worked. I do wonder how much of that was forced by Carrie Fisher's death, and how much was planned.
The Knights of Ren were, hands down, the biggest disappointment of the movie. They didn't really DO anything, they never SAID anything, they were just sort of... there. And lacking lightsabers or force pikes or anything... just. Eh. Such a waste of a cool idea.
Overall, it was a solid movie. I'll certainly watch it again, but probably not while it's in the theater.