Brian Formo’s review published on Letterboxd:
Everyone around me sobbed and shrieked at all the fan service within Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. I am neither hater nor fan, but I have zero nostalgia. I was immunized against the decade long flu of IP worship that's hit the megaplexes and so all I want from movies are a good film, not a checklist of shipping relationships and bloodline questions. Surely, if you drop the cloak of fandom it's easy to see that The Rise of Skywalker is a wholly average blob of a film. It makes up lore seemingly on the spot in order to step up the stakes and also toss it aside so quickly. The Rise of Skywalker sprints to an object, picks it up and instantly recognizes its never before known lore, and then tosses it aside. New planet, who dis? Does Palpatine want Rey killed or brought to him to kill him? Why does it feel like all this is being made up scene to scene?!
Does it feel like after The Last Jedi offered something slightly different and a very vocal minority of the Internet took on the Dark Side and Disney and J.J. Abrams' response was to appease all their worries? Yes. The most egregious is having new characters constantly ask Rey her surname even though Poe and Finn get to walk around on a first name basis without anyone demanding their bloodline story. Whether or not her parentage makes fans feel good, I will leave up to them, but for me, it's exhausting in practice and the actual parentage is such an obvious nature vs. nurture storyline; but y'know simplistic themes are this franchise's bread and butter, and the family you choose over your bloodline is an apt enough way to bring this franchise forward 42 years. But Abrams' ego is all over this as he sidelines Rian Johnson's main character contribution, Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), away from all the action, gives his friend Greg Grunberg more to do in the story, and introduces more characters of his own as though only his creations and Lucas' can be the ones to decide the fate of the galaxy.
Still, I'm not about to declare Rian Johnson's movie a masterpiece because this movie debases itself, either. Johnson's second entry in the new trilogy was the best of a bunch of middling and vanilla movies, happy to reinvigorate a cash cow but not pushing the initiative to enliven it or play around with expectations. Abrams set up the new trilogy with a remix of the first film done with new characters. For the second entry, Johnson introduced a few new ideas that didn't fit with the safe remix approach, and though he took a few risks, Johnson still had one of the worst sections of any major blockbuster this decade with the casino planet hijinks. Bless him for the mind sexting and shirtless Ben Solo, though. This galaxy is so sexually frustrated despite everyone being so attractive.
Which, ultimately, if I needed to say anything non-critically about my viewing experience of the Skywalker closer (which mostly just feels like the new trilogy closer if you ask me) it's this: While The Rise of Skywalker moved everyone around me to tears... mostly it just made me upset that I left New York before Adam Driver and Keri Russell did “the hot play.”
tl; dr: not a good movie but, even worse, it placates the vocal internet. And I felt cute, might delete later, which is something I seem to do on this site whenever I post negative-skewing blurbs about these sell merch and theme-park-ticket movies. I often delete because I don't want to sound like I'm attacking fans and these movies so clearly aren't for me, but this go 'round, maybe I'll keep it up for a change. I think fans should know that their fandom got what it deserved: a limp movie theater response to all the reply guys and video guys. Fandom sucks. Nostalgia is a disease. Culture has bowed down to keyboard typing for far too long. Here's your middle of the road nine-film closer which treats storytelling as fan service litter patrol. The most artless of all the Star Wars films.