‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ Film Review

Disclaimer:  I am not a hardcore fan; I am a casual fan of Star Wars.  This may be a problem for some of you – I get that – but hear me out when I say that The Rise of Skywalker was a pretty good movie, which took the last two films (and likely the franchise) to a good place in the end.    

From start to finish, The Rise of Skywalker, is a satisfying conclusion to the Star Wars franchise.  The film is filled with classic characters, enthralling special effects, and relatable themes that make this story about a galaxy far, far away…. remarkably human. 

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Courtesy of Lucasfilm

The prequel trilogy was released when I was growing up, so naturally I have been inclined to see every numbered movie in the series.  All three sets of films feel so different; however, the latest trilogy is by far the most different from the other two.  If I were to give a poorly though-out explanation for this (which I will) I would say the 10 years between Episode III and Episode VII, and the change in directors from Lucas to Abrams could be the culprits. 

The problem with the Star Wars film franchise, in my opinion, is that it spans over 40 years.  The jump from the original trilogy to the prequel trilogy was very divisive.  Any grumblings from people towards the new films will mostly be from hardcores that live in the good old days of Episodes IV-VI.  The fact of the matter is, the J. J. Abrams/Rian Johnson Star Wars films, for the most part, tell a very similar story that builds on the past.  Due to the gaps in time between the last films and these newer ones, I particularly have a hard time judging them.  I don’t know whether to judge the newest of the trilogies against the previous two, or to judge it in a vacuum.  But that is the least of my quandaries when it comes to the franchise.

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Courtesy of Lucasfilm

Star Wars as a cohesive story was executed in an odd way.  Some writers will write the conclusion and work backwards to the beginning, others will start from the beginning and work towards the conclusion.  Star Wars, was originally conceived as a trilogy (Episodes IV-VI), then was given a prequel trilogy (Episodes I-III), and then was given a sequel trilogy to the original trilogy (Episodes VII-IX).  What the viewer is left with, and please feel free to disagree with me, is a bit clunky.  It is almost as if the three groupings of trilogies can be viewed as separate film series’ set in the same universe.  It could just be me, but the patchiness does kind of translate to the framing of the overall story. 

For Episode IX, J. J. Abrams returns to direct the final installment in the Skywalker Saga.  Picking up from where Rian Johnson left off, Abrams returns to the writer’s chair as well, this time alongside Batman V Superman and Argo writer Chris Terrio.  The Rise of Skywalker once again pits Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), and the rest of the Resistance fighting against the First Order and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver).  These actors do a wonderful job at conveying a myriad of emotions that help propel this character driven story.  Alongside these actors, are franchise favorites (which for your enjoyment I won’t spoil).  The performances are filled with passion and help immerse the audience into the story.

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Courtesy of Lucasfilm

The special effects are also very impressive.  I have always been fascinated by how they made the first Star Wars, and even with the knowledge of CGI technologies with highspeed processors and loaded teams of SFX experts, I am still impressed by the franchise’s ability to pull off some dazzling visual effects.  Where the visual/practical effects had the most impact is in its efforts to immerse you in the physical world.  The detailed sets, creatures, and landscapes really do place the viewer in a galaxy far, far away.  Even with this being the last (main series) film in the franchise, it is amazing how the creators take the time to introduce the viewer to new creatures and cultures native to these exotic lands.  One point I do not think people can argue on (although I am surprised every day, especially when it comes to Star Wars) is that the world building has always been an integral part of Star Wars’ success. 

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is an epic adventure from start to finish.  The film is a giant in terms of special effects, fight choreography, and acting; however, I can see how some people (inevitably die-hard fans) will have a problem with some of the plot decisions J. J. Abrams makes.  I personally think that regardless of whether one thinks the newest trilogy fits with the rest of the Star Wars saga, the final film does nicely take what The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi establish and runs with it in the best possible way.  The film is widely entertaining and ultimately creates a satisfying ending to the legendary film franchise. 

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Courtesy of Lucasfilm

The main criticism I would give this film is the reintroduction of the Knights of Ren.  I was so lost when these characters were on the screen.  Not only was there presence a bit confusing (they were absent in Episode VIII – The Last Jedi, so I totally forgot about them) they also did not really add anything to the story and were incredibly distracting.  This could be a me thing, but the Knights of Ren were pretty superfluous in this film.  I understand why Rian Johnson would omit their presence from the last film -even though they were apart of Episode VII – The Force Awakens – creating a bit of an inconsistency in the overall arch of the newest trilogy

Although fans have been left divided by the decisions these directors have made (especially Rian Johnson) it cannot be disputed that the latest installments have generated excitement and elicited opinionated discussion. Besides, what more could you ask of a film series, am I right?

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Courtesy of Lucasfilm

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, is a fun film that brings together most of the beloved aspects of the franchise; beautiful worlds and exotic creatures, as well as Jedi lore and introspective moral dilemmas.  From exhilarating action scored by the iconic music of John Williams to charming nods to stories of the past, The Rise of Skywalker has most, if not all, of the elements that make Star Wars so brilliant. 

Rating: 9/10

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker flies into theatres on Friday December 20, 2019

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