‘Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker’ Review: A Decent Final Chapter
It’s been 42 years since the premiere of the first Star Wars film. Between now and then, there have been 8 additional entries into the main Skywalker storyline, with each trilogy taking place in a different era in the far, far away galaxy. While some have been notably divisive (yes, prequels and The Last Jedi, I’m talking to you), Star Wars movies have overall been loved by many throughout the years. With each new trilogy comes technological advancements in visual effects and booms in merchandising sales. This epic franchise has not only shaped and evolved the film industry, but culture itself as well.
It’s now 2019 and Star Wars has once again taken the hearts of a new generation. In the era of Disney, Star Wars has seen a total modernized overhaul in terms of look, feel, and performance. With the sequel trilogy, Kathleen Kennedy, CEO of Lucasfilm’s, has delivered in producing movies with stunning sceneries and breath-taking visual effects. These newer films are a perfect blend of new and old, incorporating George Lucas’s practical puppetry with new aged digital computer graphics, it’s no doubt that Kennedy’s Star Wars has brought the franchise into a true to life perspective. In other words, Star Wars has never felt this real before. However, to a hardcore Star Wars fan, visuals aren’t the only deciding factor of what makes the movie real in terms of the overall story’s canon. With The Force Awakens, we’re given a fun adventure recalling back to a classical point in the franchise, almost playing it safe with fans and audiences alike. However, with The Last Jedi, we’re given a movie that’s different to what we’re used to. Throughout the film, things don’t play out the way they’re expected to. This formula ultimately leads to the discussion that’s still debated to this day: is The Last Jedi an amazing and different interpretation or a disappointing mess that doesn’t stay true to the story? All in all, Star Wars fans will inevitably have a sense of entitlement to these stories, which justifies the right to express how they feel about the treatment of established characters and elements.
That being said, coming off the heels of Rian Johnsons The Last Jedi, J.J. Abrams, director of Rise of Skywalker, has to appeal to both sides of the now divided Star Wars coin. Did he do a good job? I’d say he did the best he could.
If you’re looking for the ultimate Star Wars film that will rejoice the fandom and petition to everyone’s demands, you’re not going to find it in Rise of Skywalker. If you’re looking to see a good final conclusion to the entire Skywalker story and accompanied stories, there’s definitely some things to look forward to here. But at the same time, there are elements that make you wonder what could have been. As a Star Wars fan myself, I can say this isn’t a perfect film. Just like any other movie, it has its good moments and its questionable ones to go along with it.
The first act of the movie quickly sets the tone for what’s to come for the rest of the film. You can clearly see Abrams is trying to cram as much information into a good chuck of the beginning of the film, which is understandable due to The Last Jedi choosing not to elaborate on his ideas from The Force Awakens. Early on, we discover the intriguing intentions of our new and returning villains Emperor Palpatine, played by Ian McDiarmid, as well as Kylo Ren, played by Adam Driver. We also receive the long awaited introduction to the Knights of Ren, who unfortunately suffer from the over exposition surrounding everything but them, coming off as disappointing. Meanwhile, our hero’s journeys pick up full steam as they cross paths with Ren’s First Order military. Just like with our dark side users, these interactions are fast paced, but we get great patches of character moments throughout this introduction. We see that Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), and Poe (Oscar Isaac) have grown and developed since we last saw them in The Last Jedi, which was a major complaint within that film in which the lack of interaction and chemistry amongst our three main protagonists was displeasing. This complaint is notably dealt with nicely very early on in Rise of Skywalker and continues throughout the film, but again, it would have been nice to see these relationships further developed in both previous films. Character moments tend to excel on the light side rather than the dark, especially from General Leia Organa, played by the late Carrie Fisher, whose scenes pack the most punch when it comes to emotional impact. If you were worried about Leia’s concluding story not meeting a certain standard, rest assure that her part is the best fulfilling element of the entire movie.
As the story progresses, we’re taken to new regions of the galaxy where we see the plot beginning to thicken as new revelations are revealed. Going into the second act, we start to see drastic decisions being made that both sides of the Star Wars divided fandom will surely have divisive opinions on. I thought most of these decisions were great, and to be quite honest, the film seems to strive the most when these decisions reflects back to previous elements of the Star Wars franchise. As I watched, I felt staggering levels of excitement experiencing these returning queues. Some will inevitably call these moments fan service, but with the case of this movie, those call backs add more overall meaning to this concluding tale. Whereas the two previous films can get away with doing their own thing to an extent, Rise of Skywalker is THE concluding chapter to this entire franchise, so not having call backs and references based on what came before would have diminished the impact of the film on the Skywalker saga. While the movie excels in delivering impact and meaning to a certain level, there is a defining moment that suffers the most when it comes to tying the bow of the entire Skywalker story.
Rise of Skywalker’s biggest reveal and the entire third act of the film will be the most debated Star Wars moments for years to come. In a recent interview, J.J. Abrams acknowledges how his changes and approach will presumably be controversial with fans. “It was really important that we not just redo the things you’ve seen, but add new elements—which we knew will infuriate some people and thrill others,” When you take his words into account, one central idea arises; you can’t please everyone, especially in Star Wars. Ultimately, if you were a fan of Rian Johnsons experimental take on the franchise with The Last Jedi, don’t be surprised to be disappointed at the major reveal of this movie. If you’re a fan of J.J. Abrams close to home approach accompanied by his planted story seeds from The Force Awakens, I’d recommend watching this movie, as you’re likely to enjoy what it has in store. Regardless of which side you’re on, in the end, the ultimate debate will be for the films ending, which is a mixed bag to say the least.
Overall, I think there’s something here for every Star Wars fan. Understanding that this trilogy is unique in its production will solidify your understanding of Abrams approach to this story. With a little bit more planning and direction, Rise of Skywalker could have had more of a meaningful impact on the trilogy and the entire Skywalker saga. The fandom, no matter what side, will like and/or dislike certain elements of this film, and at the end of the day, that’s just the burden that follows these types of films. Overall, The Rise of Skywalker is a fun and energetic movie with heartfelt moments sprinkled across that rely heavily on nostalgia, which is ultimately one of the driving force of the film. The movie suffers from lack of development from the previous two movies, and that eventually bleeds into the overall ending, which is bittersweet at best. However, Abrams worked with what he had, resulting in Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker coming out as a decent final chapter to the Skywalker Saga.