The Rise of Skywalker, the final installment in the Star Wars saga, has yet to be released (it’s in theaters Dec. 19), but it’s already faring badly with critics (including Slate’s Sam Adams). With a 58 percent approval rating on the review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes (based on 178 reviews) and an average score of 53 at Metacritic (based on 49 reviews), The Rise of Skywalker is looking to be the most poorly received Star Wars movie since the widely panned The Phantom Menace in 1999.
A quick search shows that The Phantom Menace has a 53 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 51 on Metacritic, so it still holds the dubious distinction of most hated. But how does The Rise of Skywalker compare with the other prequel and sequel movies? (Because the original trilogy predates the internet and review aggregators don’t differentiate between first-run and more recent reviews, the ratings are less reliable as a gauge of history; The Empire Strikes Back has a 94 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes now, but the initial notices were characterized by the official Star Wars site as “mixed, lukewarm, and indifferent.”)
2002’s Attack of the Clones did slightly better than The Phantom Menace, just barely making “fresh” status with a 65 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 54 score at Metacritic. 2005’s Revenge of the Sith closed out the prequels with a “certified fresh” rating of 80 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and a 68 Metascore. With 2015’s The Force Awakens, the franchise looked to be on the up and up: the movie’s Rotten Tomatoes rating was 93 percent, and its Metacritic score was 81, earning a “must-see” badge from the site. The Last Jedi did comparably, with a 91 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an 85 on Metacritic. The comparatively tepid reviews for the spinoff movies Rogue One and Solo marked a slight downward trend, but nothing suggesting The Rise of Skywalker’s precipitous drop-off.
Of course, the people have not yet spoken on The Rise of Skywalker, and the disdain of critics is unlikely to signify box office failure. A variety of other factors, including social media buzz and the presence of Oscar Isaac, could very well influence the final popular verdict. However, those dispiriting numbers, as well as the movie’s current one-star rating on IMDb.com (based on nine reviews, granted) do not bode well for opening week.