For over forty years, the imagination of one man has transported millions of people to a galaxy far, far away. In 1977, George Lucas created what would become the greatest movie franchise the world has ever seen, and in doing so started a cinematic world-wide phenomenon that can never be surpassed. Three generations of movie-goers have each had their own Star Wars trilogy to claim as their own, and now with the release of Star Wars: Episode IX- The Rise of Skywalker the newest trilogy and the entire Skywalker saga as a whole comes to its ultimate ending with the release of the ninth movie in the franchise.
The Rise of Skywalker picks up a year after the events of The Last Jedi and follows Rey, Finn, and Poe as they try to uncover an ancient Sith artifact with the hopes that it will lead them to Emperor Palpatine. Palpatine who was presumed dead after Star Wars: Episode VI- The Return of the Jedi has recently made himself known to the galaxy once more. Palpatine looks to conclusively take total control of the galaxy through the assistance of Kylo Ren, who has recently become Supreme Leader of the First Order. And with the First Order growing stronger with Palpatine’s help, the Resistance and their band of heroes must work against the clock to uncover the Emperor’s location and put a stop to his planet-destroying plans once and for all.
Before I get into my review, I would just like to say I did really enjoy this movie. As a life-long Star Wars fan there was just no way I was not going to like it. With that being said, let me dive in. The best word I could possibly use to describe this film would be epic; it is epic in every imaginable way from its sheer scope to its visuals to its storytelling. But this aspect not only works as a positive but also at times as a negative in the way that this movie tries to do so much in just two and a half hours. Much of the first half of the movie is simply exposition and introduction to a whole bunch of new plot points that all need very elaborate explaining. This is a problem that may not stem just from this individual film but could be traced back to the tumultuous production history of this entire new trilogy.
The new trilogy started in 2015 with J.J. Abrams’ The Force Awakens. Then in 2017, the second film in the trilogy, The Last Jedi was released, which was written and directed by Rian Johnson. However, this last and final installment in the trilogy, The Rise of Skywalker was written and directed by J.J. Abrams once again. The main problem that arose from switching back and forth between writers and directors was that J.J. Abrams’ The Rise of Skywalker almost felt like a sequel to his The Force Awakens, while just making references to and trying to amend much of what happened in Johnson’s The Last Jedi. In this sense, the story didn’t really have a clear linear path and thus made the three films feel narratively fragmented from one another. The story backtracks and recants plot points several times, which makes large story developments, reveals, and plot twists feel almost unearned, while the whole story arc seems somewhat unplanned. Simply put, J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson clearly had two very different visions of how this new story should unfold, and because of this it definitely affected the cohesion of the entire new trilogy as a whole. That being said, if you loved The Force Awakens you’ll probably like this one a whole lot more than The Last Jedi, and consequently those who loved The Last Jedi will most likely not like this one very much at all, as it backpedals on much of what made the The Last Jedi so unique from other Star Wars films before it.
With the problems of discontinuity addressed, it’s important to discuss all of the characteristics that are really great about this movie. Quite simply, the best feature of this movie is just how much fun it is. We finally get to see Rey, Finn, and Poe in a bunch of scenes together for the first time. A lot of this movie feels like a classic 80’s adventure flick in the vein of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark and even the original Star Wars, as this trio goes on a quest for an ancient artifact on fantastical new planets we’ve never seen before. All the characters play their roles to the fullest and it is worth mentioning that a character who is very often sidelined had a stand-out role in this movie: C-3PO. Anthony Daniels has played the anxious, golden, informative droid for over 40 years and in this movie his character truly shines through for some great scene-stealing moments.
Another great aspect of this movie, which I’m sure some will write off as just fan service, is how much the movie references past Star Wars films. There are a ton of important nods to both the original and prequel trilogies, and for much of the movie I was just laughing along and totally geeking out over some of these references. There are also some great bittersweet moments that any fan of the franchise will be sure to truly appreciate as well, although I did wish some of these scenes packed more of an emotional punch. Nevertheless, it really was quite magical to see Star Wars icons like the Millennium Falcon and R2-D2 and legends like Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher together on the big screen one last time.
As this film is not only the final movie in the newest trilogy but also the whole Skywalker saga, it was important that it acted as definitive end that tied up all loose ends; and this it definitely succeeded in doing. The Rise of Skywalker answers many questions that we had been wondering about for years and does so in a satisfying manner. Furthermore, the last 20 minutes of this film really does a great job in wrapping things up and left me with a genuine smile on my face as I exited the theater, content with what I had just watched.
As a whole, The Rise of Skywalker is a fun, action-packed ride and definitely a great movie to see this season. It is a pleasing conclusion to arguably the greatest film franchise ever, and should be sure to leave fans of the series quite happy. Although it is not without some problems, if you just buy into what is shown and try not to dissect everything on the screen, you will be sure to have a blast and enjoy the end of an era. And to those die-hard fans who want more content, there’s no need to worry as other Star Wars projects will continue to be made by Disney, including the show The Mandalorian which has already been renewed for a second season. On a closing note, I quote the words of Obi-Wan Kenobi, which have never rung truer for fans going to see this final Star Wars film: “The force will be with you, always…”
Cover Photo: IMDB