"Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker," a Spoiler-Free Review

"Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" by Maria Morera Johnson (CatholicMom.com)

Copyright 2020 Maria Morera Johnson. All rights reserved.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker possesses just the right combination of nostalgia, archetype, arcs, surprises, and closure, not to mention explosions and impressive battles. I’ve enjoyed the Star Wars Saga since I was a teenager when the first film premiered in 1977, and have more or less liked every episode since that first one (minus the silly scene of the “family portrait” at the end of The Return of the Jedi and the incomprehensible Jar Jar Binks).

While I won’t say this is a franchise that defines me or has somehow dramatically impacted who I am, I do acknowledge that it has a meaningful impact on the culture.

In fact, Star Wars has been an excellent tool in my literature classes because of its great themes and archetypes.

I can love these films and wear the critic’s hat. The stories are predictable. The dialogue is sometimes terrible. The resolutions are obvious. But the stories! They inspire and uplift me. I’m all about the both/and capabilities. The critics can point out what they want — the films speak to us in ways that delight and entertain. The bottom line is simple; the films are successful. They entertain us, make us laugh, make us cry. They give us heroes who are flawed and still manage to prevail. They give us a universe in which Good triumphs over Evil.

While we might discuss the themes of mercy and redemption throughout the series, with prodigal sons who descend into the Dark and then find the Light, we need only look back to the first episode release, Episode IV, to understand what this series is all about. When it first played that summer of 1977, it was just named Star Wars. The subtitle, A New Hope, came later, and is, to me, the key to understanding the whole story.

Evil — through chaos, war, oppression, and injustice — assaults the galaxy throughout the saga. Nevertheless, our heroes do not fall into despair though they do come close a few times. They long for peace, justice and love to prevail. Nothing is more poignant than Leia and Han’s love for their son, Ben, and their hope he return home. Or Rey’s conviction that the Light is worth fighting for, despite her own fears. Or Luke’s faith that the Light will, in fact, prevail.

Our heroes put their hope in the Light, giving them the strength to persevere in the fight. We love these films because the good guys win. Because hope, as we understand it as Catholic Christians, “keeps man from discouragement; it sustains him during times of abandonment; it opens up his heart in expectation of eternal beatitude. Buoyed up by hope, he is preserved from selfishness and led to the happiness that flows from charity” (CCC 1818).

Hope permeates the Star Wars Saga and that is why it resonates with so many people. Not a hope that is filled with happy endings and good luck, but the deep desire and longing for happiness that is rooted in the Good.

Copyright 2019 Maria Morera Johnson


About Author

Maria Morera Johnson, author of My Badass Book of Saints, Super Girls and Halo, and Our Lady of Charity: How a Cuban Devotion to Mary Helped Me Grow in Faith and Love writes about all the things that she loves. A cradle Catholic, she struggles with living in the world but not being of it, and blogs about those successes and failures, too.


  1. Margaret Dwyer Hogan on

    You are so right in your review about what resonates with people in these films. I have recently come to the understanding thru lots of prayer and listening to my son who is 21 that there is an undercurrent in this generation that they lack a belief that they can make a difference. The dangerous underbelly to all of the media flooding the world is the view that “things are they way they are” – and “that is just the way the world is today.” This is a generation raised post 9-11, amid confusing messages about what is good – and what is evil. Almost accepting chaos, disorder and cynicism as the norm. That is what I love about this review – I can now articulate to my kids why they like Star Wars – even though they probably don’t know why. Maybe planting some seeds of hope with the discussion. Thank you!

    • Thanks for starting the conversation, Margaret. The topic, narrowly about Star Wars, and broadly about today’s movies with superheroes, antiheroes, and a fascination with the dystopian are themes I love to talk about, especially with young people. In fact, my book, Super Girls and Halos, addresses many of these themes. I wrote about it recently at Catholic Digest for adults to have tools for these conversations. These stories have seeds of the Gospel, as Bsp Barron says. The settings may be strange to us, but characters, and their virtues, are often similar to the saints. Remember saints were sinners who overcame their sin through grace. If we can get past explosions and special effects, what we find in these stories are profound character studies worthy of analysis and discussion.

      here’s the link: http://catholicdigest.com/faith/spirituality/superheroes-and-saints/

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