Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker may have earned over $1 billion at the worldwide box office back in 2019, but by today's standards, it was considered a box office disappointment (due to its budget and it failing to match its predecessors). Panned by critics - unlike The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi - it proved to be a divisive end to a trilogy which split the opinions of fans from the start.
Ultimately, it's fair to say that these sequels failed to live up to expectations (despite being very good movies in other ways). Now, we're taking a look back not at what was bad about them - and there was a fair bit - but what could be considered missed opportunitues that, simply put, we're unable to forgive.
From underwhelming story arcs to cameos and story twists which never came to pass, it's hard not to be left fuming about some of these, especially when The Clone Wars, The Mandalorian, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Andor have delivered strong storytelling which has, in a lot of ways, exceeded the expectations of fans.
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10. Forgetting Finn's Story Arc
Remember when Finn was a reluctant Stormtrooper who turned on the First Order? Despite initially wanting nothing more than to escape Captain Phasma and be free, his friendship with Rey put him on a heroic path that saw him mortally wounded at the hands of the villainous Kylo Ren.
However, by the time The Last Jedi started, Finn was a coward again and went through the same journey, albeit with Rose at his side instead of Rey. The Rise of Skywalker, meanwhile, ignored all of that, turning this ex-Stormtrooper into a generic hero who had realised he was Force sensitive completely out of the blue (not that the movie addressed that in a meaningful way, of course).
Exploring what it meant to Finn to have been a Stormtrooper was sadly overlooked in the sequels, a real shame considering we had never got a peak beneath their masks before The Force Awakens outside of The Clone Wars. Colin Trevorrow's Episode IX would have tackled this, but Abrams did not.
9. No Anakin Skywalker Force Ghost
Poor Hayden Christensen took the brunt of fan frustrations over his role in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, but he did the best with what he was given. Inserted into the end of Return of the Jedi, we learned then that the former Sith Lord had learned how to live through the Force after death, but you wouldn't know that from his complete absence from this sequel trilogy.
Concept art confirmed that Anakin - still torn between the Light and Dark sides of the Force - was once set to appear in The Force Awakens, and while we did hear his voice in The Rise of Skywalker, that wasn't the Force Ghost appearance we wanted and hoped for in these movies.
While Emperor Palpatine revealed that it had been him Kylo Ren communicated with when he thought he was speaking to his grandfather, the fact Anakin wasn't present for the fall of Darth Sidious (or even just to communicate with his son or daughter) is a massive mistake we can't get over.
8. Supreme Leader Snoke's Identity
The Force Awakens left fans desperate to learn more about the mysterious Supreme Leader Snoke, and countless fan theories quickly followed. Was he the Emperor? A resurrected Darth Vader? Darth Plagueis or perhaps another powerful Force user who had pulled Palpatine's strings?
Tie-in novels suggested that he had been watching events from afar for many years, tracking down the remnants of the Empire and transforming them into the First Order before seducing Ben Solo to the Dark Side. Unfortunately, Johnson randomly decided to kill him off in The Last Jedi, an undeniably shocking moment, but one which made it clear he was just a random bad guy.
In a throwaway, blink-and-you'd-miss-it moment, The Rise of Skywalker indicated that Snoke was just another clone body used by Palpatine to manipulate the Galaxy. Honestly, none of it really made sense, and this newly created villain proved to be one of the worst Star Wars antagonists ever.
7. What Became Of The Jedi Temple?
The Force Awakens alluded to the role of the Galactic Senate in a post-Return of the Jedi Galaxy, but what of Coruscant and the Jedi Temple? Had Trevorrow been able to direct Duel of the Fates, we would have learned that The First Order had made the planet their home, with the citizens hidden beneath it and just waiting for the opportunity to fight back against their oppressors.
Finn would have led the charge in that battle, but the fact we never got to return to this crucial part of Star Wars history is a great shame. It speaks to a wider issue in these sequels, though, because as great as it was to visit new planets, not taking us back to many of the locations from the prequels, original trilogy, and animated spinoffs robbed us the chance to see how they'd changed.
Imagine a Naboo torn apart by war or if we'd got to see a podrace on Malastare? Instead, we got what felt like knock-offs of some familiar locations like Jakku (Tatooine) and the snowy Starkiller base (Hoth). These new planets added little to the franchise, so why did they even bother?
6. Overlooking The Prequel Trilogy
Look, the prequels weren't great, though they did manage to tell a cohesive story...unlike the sequels! Regardless of whether you loved or hated them, though, completely ignoring them wasn't the right move. There were a handful of references (the creation of a clone army, for example), but little of what happened there really seemed to matter at this point in history.
It makes sense at this point that people of Rey, Finn, and Poe Dameron's age would think the Jedi just a myth, especially after they were wiped out and portrayed as the enemy of the people.
However, with The Rise of Skywalker delving into the past as both Rey and Kylo Ren attempted to track down those Wayfinders, those characters could have very easily visited significant locations tying into these early movies, whether it was Palpatine's former home on Naboo, the Jedi Temple, or chance encounters with the descendants of some familiar names and faces.
5. Never Reuniting Luke, Han, And Leia
It's a miracle that Abrams was able to convince Harrison Ford to return as Han Solo at all, so we're not going to hold it against him that he killed off the beloved smuggler in The Force Awakens (especially when it was handled so well). However, not finding a way to reunite this iconic trio is downright unbelievable, and a true missed opportunity for this divisive sequel trilogy.
Yes, Han got to see Leia one final time, and Luke also had some parting words for his sister, but that wasn't the same as seeing these three back in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon.
In all honesty, it felt like we were just being trolled when Luke showed up and didn't say a word in The Force Awakens, and as understandable as it may have been to put the spotlight on a new cast of heroes, making these three an afterthought in the sequel trilogy simply can't be forgiven.
4. The Skywalker Lineage
These nine films may have been dubbed the "Skywalker Saga," but thanks to the sequel trilogy, we know that the Skywalker family were little more than a footnote in history. The childless Luke Skywalker died to distract his nephew, and Leia Organa passed away shortly after using the Force to reach out to her nephew...despite being able to fly through space in the previous movie.
Abrams' hands were tied with Leia's fate, of course, but following Ben Solo's death, the Skywalker family came to its end. Rey took the name for herself, of course, but we'll get to that a little later!
Ultimately, we have zero problem with Rey being the one to stop the Emperor and lead a new Jedi Order, but what was the point of Darth Vader sacrificing himself or Luke becoming a Jedi if they weren't the ones to bring balance to the Force? An argument could be made that they had a part to play in a much larger tapestry, but the Skywalkers really weren't that important in the end.
3. Outer Space Battles
Say what you will about the prequels, but those outer space battles were truly thrilling. Revenge of the Sith, in particular, really knocked it out of the park, though it would be unfair to overlook the phenomenal fights the original movies also delivered. The sequels? Well, do you even remember them?
The closest we got to an epic space battle was at the end of The Rise of Skywalker, but that proved to be little more than a jumbled mess with Abrams throwing in as many ships as possible.
That might have made for an impressive visual on IMAX screens, but considering the fact it heavily featured randomly introduced "Sith Troopers" and members of the Resistance riding on horses dressed to look like aliens, it didn't exactly stand out as a classic space battle in this franchise. On the plus side, lightsaber battles were something these sequels did do fairly well.
2. Luke Skywalker's Dark Side Temptation
Luke Skywalker's story arc in The Last Jedi was controversial with fans, and not even Mark Hamill himself appears to have been on board with the creative decisions made there. Despite that, you can't fault Johnson for trying to do something bold with the Jedi Knight, and this did prove to be an effective explanation for why he had decided to turn his back on the Force and go into hiding.
The fact he was tempted by the Dark Side to strike down his nephew in order to do the "right thing" (which wasn't all that different to Anakin striking down Mace Windu to save Padme) is fascinating, but it wasn't something the movie explored anywhere near enough before Luke's death. His feeling of failure aside, it's hard to believe Luke would ever turn his back on the Resistance.
Hamill believes Luke should have turned to the Dark side, and it's a shame these sequels didn't have the b*lls to head down that route. Instead, he was just a failure who spent years in hiding, letting his friends and family suffer, and by the time we caught up with him in The Rise of Skywalker, he had undergone a total personality transplant which just ended up making things worse.
1. Emperor Palpatine's Return
Bringing back Emperor Palpatine wasn't the worst idea, and if you watch those scene in a bubble, they're pretty good. It's not that hard to believe he transferred his essence into a clone body incapable of holding his evil spirit or that he would have a loyal cult made up of Sith loyalists. Unfortunately, the movie barely addressed any of that; instead, we had to learn about it in tie-in novels.
It doesn't help that The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi didn't even hint at Palpatine's return, and when he did show up again, it felt forced, random, and poorly explained. With the proper build, this could have been truly epic, but Abrams mostly dropped the ball in terms of its execution.
His final demise was full of plot holes, and the fact his own lightning is what ended him (meaning he killed himself, rather than it being Rey) was just plain silly. We have no issue with Palpatine coming back, but this vilalin's story would have been better off ending in Return of the Jedi as Abrams and Chris Terrio simply didn't have what it took to make this any more than a missed opportunity.