Despite an 86% Rotten Tomatoes audience score, it appears that J.J. AbramsStar Wars: The Rise of Skywalker has had a mixed reaction among fans, going by fan comments online. The Rise of Skywalker was released roughly a year ago. Disney may have made a corporate grab to try to ensure positive fan reaction as much as possible, but we don’t know that and probably never will. What I know is that I played the soundtrack of the film over and over in the weeks following the film’s release, thinking about how pleased I was with The Rise of Skywalker. Even after reading about criticisms, I still score the film as 7/10. You can read the THS review, right here. Looking back, there are many reasons to appreciate the work of Abrams, writer Chris Terrio and cast and crew. On this near-anniversary of The Rise of Skywalker, here are 23 of them.

1) The final sequence of The Rise of Skywalker

It was waterworks for me the moment the Lars homestead came into view. When Rey slides into the homestead, the tears continued, and they flooded through when Rey says “Rey Skywalker,” showing that she identifies so strongly with Luke and Leia Organa Skywalker that she is taking on their last name.

2) The payoff in The Rise of Skywalker of ‘there is another’

In Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda said “there is another” hope for the galaxy, referring to Leia. The implication of this hope is that they would be strong in the Force and could become a Jedi.

This is realized in The Rise of Skywalker. We see Leia both train Rey and a flashback showing her being trained by Luke and offering that she is just as strong – if not stronger – in the Force than Luke. This was much-appreciated because I had been hoping that the sequel trilogy would show that Leia was a Jedi.

Leia training to become a Jedi in a flashback sequence in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. (photo credit: Disney)

3) Luke Skywalker lifting his X-wing in The Rise of Skywalker out of the water

When Luke lifted his X-wing out of the Ahch-To waters, the moment brought a story thread full circle that began 39 years earlier, in The Empire Strikes Back. That’s when Luke tried to raise his ship out of the waters of Dagobah but couldn’t. It showed how much Luke had become one with the Force.

4) Foreshadowing in The Rise of Skywalker that Rey was Palpatine’s granddaughter

When lightning accidentally came from Rey’s hand, it was a strong foreshadowing that Rey was Palpatine’s daughter. A different kind of electricity went down my spine when I saw this moment, realizing then that Rey was Palpatine’s granddaughter.

5) Lando Calrissian

Fans wanted a particular main character from the original trilogy to return to the sequel trilogy. Abrams and Terrio answered affirmatively.

6) Luke’s role in The Rise of Skywalker in general

Luke’s appearance as a Force ghost in The Rise of Skywalker was crucial to the film’s plot. His appearance made it so that balance could once again be brought to the galaxy! That’s because Rey was going to become a recluse on Ahch-To. Had she done that, she would not have been able to have stopped Palpatine and brought that balance.

7) A tremendous, three-phase sequence in The Rise of Skywalker resulting in Kylo’s return to Ben Solo

A memory of Han Solo (Harrison Ford) visits Kylo Ren in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. (photo credit: Disney)

Kylo choosing to be Ben again was charted beautifully in a three-step sequence. First, Leia speaks to him through the Force, touching Kylo, and he could probably sense that she basically died for the effort. Second, Rey heals him (saving him from death), showing Kylo the goodness of members of humanity like Rey. (Yes, Rey probably wouldn’t have done it had she not sensed Leia’s outreach and sacrifice, but she saved Ben nonetheless. And doesn’t hurt that Rey said she wanted to take Ben’s hand.) Third, a memory of his father, Han Solo, appears, further bringing about a change of heart in Kylo.

8) The voices of Jedi in The Rise of Skywalker from the past

This was a thrilling moment because not did it only help Rey in defeating Palpatine, but we got to hear from so many past characters and actors, including Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) and Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein).

9) A main character died — and it seems clear he is dead

Too often are writers of blockbusters leaving open the possibility of main characters living on, even though it seems they are dead or should be. However, it seems rather clear that Ben Solo died in The Rise of Skywalker.

10) ‘The dark side of the Force is the pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural’

Palpatine repeating this line from Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith made me cry.

11) Flying stormtroopers

This was so cool! And “They fly now?” “They fly now!” was funny.

12) A return to Palpatine’s throne room

I got chills to see Palpatine’s throne room figure into the plot again, with the Imperial March playing. And it fit fell given that Palpatine returned to the series.