Film Review: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Director: J.J. Abrams
In Theaters: 12.19
If you get three Star Wars fans together in one room, you come back with five conflicting opinions, and that has never been more the case than it is with the Disney sequel trilogy. When I left the press screening of The Last Jedi, I felt as if I had just seen a daring game changer that finally gave us the grown-up Star Wars movie that fans said they had been craving, and that was easily the consensus among critics.
Then the haters came out of the woodwork, saying that they had been personally betrayed by political correctness and accused Rian Johnson of eating their babies.
The Rise of Skywalker was in a tough spot in trying to please these two polarized camps, to say nothing of the sheer baggage of trying to end a 40-plus-year epic saga that changed the course of mainstream movie history. Director J.J. Abrams doesn’t succeed in making everyone happy, but no one could have done so. This is easily the most intensely plot-heavy film in the series, and it’s also packed with spectacular action, which doesn’t leave a lot of time for character development. The new characters make very little impression and too few of the established ones really get any kind of an arc. The movie is packed with emotion and a sense of sentimentality that will work for some and be trashed by others.
If it sounds like I’m talking about Return of the Jedi, the comparison is inevitable.
The Rise of Skywalker begins a year after the events of the previous film, with the remnants of the resistance trying to hold on as Rey (Daisy Ridely) continues to train, this time under the tutelage of Leia Organa (the late Carrie Fisher). Meanwhile, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) seeks to rule the galaxy as Supreme Leader, but an even more sinister force has other plans in store.
The plot is a bit of a mess, and there are certain story elements that really didn’t work for me. Regardless, it’s a wild ride that tugs at the heart strings, especially if you grew up with the saga. Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver shine in their respective roles, and the entire movie is blessed by the surprisingly effective sequences with Carrie Fisher. The more savvy filmgoer will be able to easily tell how this was all done with existing footage not used in The Force Awakens, but damn if it doesn’t play. Abrams has certainly made the right choice and has more than done right by my favorite Disney Princess. Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron gets plenty of screen time, finally settling into his place a leader of the Resistance, and the chemistry between Isaac and John Boyega (as Finn) is a delight. But arguably the most heart-wrenching moments go to Chewbacca and C-3PO—as well as to a couple of others I won’t name—and I’ll readily admit that I felt a lump in my throat throughout the film, and I cried more than once.
The Rise of Skywalker is a must-see for fans, and it’s sure to be yet other very divisive entry in the Star Wars saga. I went into it expecting to have mixed feelings, and you should enjoy it. Or hate it. Or both. There’s no telling with us Star Wars fans anymore. –Patrick Gibbs