Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (spoiler-free review)

The Skywalker saga comes to a close…

The Star Wars universe is vast and to be sure this is not the end of Star Wars (as evidenced by The Mandalorian and the upcoming final season of The Clone Wars).  But for my generation who grew up on the 1977 film known then only as Star Wars this is the culmination of a journey.  And what a ride it was.  The Rise of Skywalker ended the saga the way it needed to end.

Payoff Poster for The Rise of Skywalker

Director J.J. Abrams returns to the helm of the franchise after stepping away for The Last JediRian Johnson tried to take the franchise in a new direction, but with the series coming to a close and no room to really develop the ideas he started, it felt like a disservice to many of the fans.  Some really liked the refreshing take, but others were disturbed by how casually Johnson seemed to get rid of Luke (much like Paul Atreides in the Dune series).  The addition of a completely new love interest for Finn seemed forced, and the side mission Finn and Rose went on was out of place.  Johnson’s strongest contribution was this mystical relationship between Rey and Ben (Kylo Ren) which Abrams expanded upon in even newer ways (and maybe ways that made little sense).

Joonas Suotamo is Chewbacca, Oscar Isaac is Poe Dameron, Daisy Ridley is Rey and John Boyega is Finn in STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER

To be sure, Abrams (and Johnson) faced the daunting task of living up to the original trilogy.  Not even series creator George Lucas was able to do that with his prequel trilogy.  So if you are hoping The Rise of Skywalker will be the perfect summation to the massive Star Wars saga – be prepared for some disappointments.  But also GREAT triumphs!  Given what he had to work with, Abrams did an amazing job pulling it all together.  It was the first time in this new trilogy that the film had the old Star Wars feel (at least to me).  The dynamics between Rey, Poe, and Finn FINALLY felt like Luke, Leia, and Han (with Chewie, C3PO, and R2D2 being the mainstays).  There were some much needed resolutions as well as fan favorite cameos.

Kelly Marie Tran is Rose and Daisy Ridley is Rey in STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER.

Rose fans will be disappointed as she has become window dressing in this last film, making one wonder what happened between her and Finn between movies.  But with everything that happens in this already long film, I don’t think it was meant as a disservice to Rose but to the complexity of trying to close out the saga.  Two new characters were introduced in Zorri Bliss and Jannah but they were there to help flesh out the background of Poe and Finn respectively and give them some much needed depth.

Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) in STAR WARS: EPISODE IX.

This was a great film.  The action was amazing.  The respect for the history of Star Wars felt right (although Abrams did take liberties in more than a few aspects of the film).  And just the right amount of cameos to really do service to the long history of this franchise. Some of the plot points felt forced, but most of it was clever, inventive, and obviously a result of Abrams himself being a huge fan who loves these films, too.  Daisy, John, and Oscar do a wonderful job portraying their characters.  I’ve never been a huge Kylo Ren fan, but I know I’m in the vast minority.  And not because of Adam Driver (huge fan of his) but because his character seems to have too many holes in its development.  But Adam does such a good job of portraying the tortured soul and this film is his best performance to date. Overall, a worthwhile conclusion to the best film franchise in movie history.

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