The latest trilogy of Star Wars films and the Skywalker saga comes to a close with J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. It’s the conclusion of a nine film journey, one that has been littered with everything from cinema changing moments to hugely divisive plotting and characterisation. In 2015 Abrams picked-up George Lucas’ discarded lightsaber and delivered the spirited and energetic The Force Awakens (read the review), a film which brought Star Wars to a whole new generation, whilst also keeping old fans happy. Rian Johnson’s 2017 instalment The Last Jedi (read the review) was a disappointing entry which split fans and caused a serious disturbance in The Force.
Now Abrams is back with The Rise Of Skywalker, a Star Wars film which should give Star Wars fans everything they could hope for and more. It’s packed with call-backs to the eight films which have gone before, echoing and repeating lines images and moments. It never feels like fan service though – more like a love letter to everything George Lucas created over the decades. To quote Lucas himself, ‘It’s like poetry, it rhymes’.
The dead speak! Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) is alive and he built a secret super army called The Final Order which is set to destroy Carrie Fisher’s General Leia and The Resistance. For nefarious reasons he also wants Daisy Ridley’s Jedi protege Rey and Kylo Ren onboard as an ally, and it looks like he’s going to get his wish. Meanwhile Rey, Finn (John Boyega), Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) are on their own mission to track down The Emperor’s location in an attempt to thwart his plan for galaxy domination.
J.J. Abrams and co-writer Chris Terrio have ditched many of The Last Jedi’s more controversial aspects and decided to deliver what Star Wars does best by focusing on lightsaber fights, space battles and rip-roaring adventure. Yes, it’s a little over-stuffed and there’s enough going on to fill two films, but this delivers in a big, big way.
It’s great to see Rey, Finn and Poe finally creating the trifecta of friends which mirrors that of Han, Luke and Leia and the trio share an easy chemistry between the set pieces. However, its Adam Driver who delivers the best work, as the man still trying to decide if he’s really Kylo Ren or Ben Solo. He’s got a lot to work with here on both a dramatic and physical level – this is what Hayden Christensen’s Anakin Skywalker should have been in Lucas’ prequel trilogy.
The new generation of actors are great, but it’s wonderful to see old faces return for one final time. Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker is now a sage Force Ghost delivering advice to Rey much like he received from Obi Wan Kenobi. Billy Dee Williams is back as everyone’s favourite smooth-talking scoundrel Lando Calrissian and seeing him again behind the controls of the Millennium Falcon is the thing of childhood dreams. The Rise Of Skywalker is also Carrie Fisher’s final performance as Leia and it’s a fitting send-off for the actress and her iconic character. The performance may be created from editing room cast-offs, but it never feels that way. There’s a reverence in the way that Abrams has crafted Fisher’s character and performance and it feels organic to the movie and its plot.
On a technical level, The Rise Of Skywalker is a marvel. The special effects and design are next level great, perfectly building on everything which has gone before. It looks and feels like Star Wars at its best and there’s a real tangibility due to some impressive sets and practical effects. Speaking of Star Wars at it’s best, these films wouldn’t be half as good if it wasn’t for John Williams’ music and the 87 year-old has delivered a sumptuous score which includes some old themes and some beautifully new ones.
For over 40 years the cinematic battle between The Jedi and The Sith has rumbled on. George Lucas changed the course of cinematic (and blew the minds of audiences) when he opened the first Star Wars film with a tiny blockade runner being chased by a mammoth, Star Destroyer. The Rise Of Skywalker is the perfect ending to this. There will be those who adore it for how it connects to the larger Star Wars mythos and the movies which have gone before and there will be those who don’t see it as being progressive enough in what it delivers. These film’s have always based on old serials (the episodic nature is even in their titles), so you can’t complain too much when they skip from one adventure to the next in quick succession.
A ridiculously fun and energetic cinematic adventure, Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker is everything a true fan of George Lucas’ intergalactic saga wants. There’s humour, emotion and some real of depth as characters old and new bring their stories to a close. This isn’t just a great movie. This is Star Wars.