REVIEWS

Review: 'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker' is Strong with the Force

by
December 19, 2019

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Co-written and directed by filmmaker J.J. Abrams (Mission: Impossible III, Star Trek, Super 8), Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is the third entry in this current Star Wars trilogy featuring Rey, Finn, Poe, and Kylo Ren. It ends the trilogy also featuring Abrams' Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) and Rian Johnson's Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017). The film is the final episode of the nine-part Skywalker Saga, which began in 1977 with George Lucas' iconic Star Wars, later subtitled Episode IV – A New Hope. Over 40 years later, the sprawling space saga of rebellion and romance comes to a satisfying end with a movie that is both visually stunning and emotionally resonant.

Picking up a year after the events of The Last Jedi, The Rise of Skywalker begins with Supreme Leader Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) in search of an ancient wayfinding device. The relic points to coordinates within the Unknown Regions, where Kylo believes the source of the Dark Side's power resides. Meanwhile, Resistance General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) dispatches the reliable Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac), and Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) to gather intelligence vital to defeating the diabolical First Order. Both sides come to the same implausible conclusion: the sinister Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), thought dead after the destruction of the second Death Star, is alive and has been manipulating events from afar to regain power. Now the Resistance and Rey (Daisy Ridley), the last hope of the Jedi, must find a way to the Unknown Regions and stop the resurrected Sith Lord before he can enact his revenge on the galaxy.

The Rise of Skywalker is asked to do the impossible ⁠— to serve as the cogent and cohesive final chapter to a trilogy while acting as the definitive end to a larger saga. The movie must be thrilling and action-packed; filled with jaw-dropping revelations to lingering mysteries; subvert expectations with bold storytelling choices while delivering the right amount of fan service. It must satisfy diehard devotees — those who enthusiastically consume the comics, novels, animated (and now live-action) series, and video games — and general audiences who casually enjoy the movies. It must reward a diverse, multi-generational fanbase for its time and money spent by offering a conclusion that solidifies the iconic franchise's status as the great myth of our time. In short, it must be everything to everyone. Does The Rise of Skywalker live up to those insurmountable expectations? Of course not. No movie could, regardless of the filmmaker at the helm or the studio behind it. That being said, Abrams' movie is everything I needed it to be, and then some.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Review

The pursuit of the film's MacGuffin leads our characters to several new planets, each with their own unique visual style. Production designers Rick Carter and Kevin Jenkins have outdone themselves with locales like Pasaana, a desert world home to a massive festival where thousands of aliens in colorful garb dance and celebrate; the frigid, mountainous planet Kijimi, where our heroes meet the diminutive droidsmith Babu Frik (voiced by Shirley Henderson) and spice runner Zorii Bliss (Keri Russell); and Exegol, the harsh and unforgiving world that hosts Palpatine and his Sith fleet. While the screenplay by Abrams and co-writer Chris Terrio does most of the heavy lifting, much of the film's storytelling is achieved purely with visuals conjured by Carter and Jenkins, costume designer Michael Kaplan, cinematographer Dan Mindel, and the incredible work of special effects and make-up artist Neal Scanlan and Industrial Light & Magic.

When it comes to performances, The Rise of Skywalker is Ridley and Driver's film, and rightfully so. The connection between Rey and Kylo Ren is central to the film's story and builds upon the dynamic established in The Last Jedi in surprising ways. By jumping forward an entire year, we're able to see the comradery (and chemistry) between Ridley, Boyega, and Isaac's characters after having the trio separated for most of this trilogy. Supporting turns by Star Wars veterans Ian McDiarmid, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, and Billy Dee Williams (returning as suave scoundrel Lando Calrissian) are strong, while other members of the massive cast – Russell, Kelly Marie Tran, and Naomi Ackie – are underutilized, as are the much-hyped Knights of Ren. Using archival footage from The Force Awakens, Abrams manages to integrate Carrie Fisher's General Organa into the story in a meaningful way, adding yet another emotional layer to the saga's poignant final chapter.

Despite my satisfaction, the film isn't without its flaws. Abrams adheres to creator George Lucas' philosophy of "Faster. More intense," resulting in a streamlined yet intricate story that moves at breakneck speed. You get the feeling that nearly every scene has been truncated to get to the point faster. The 142-minute movie would actually benefit from a longer running time and a pace that provides some much-needed breathing room between its dizzying, galaxy-spanning set pieces. I'm perfectly happy with what's presented on-screen, but I can't help but wonder what was left on the cutting room floor and how those bits and pieces might have further fleshed out and informed the narrative, its characters, and the environments they inhabit.

Speaking as one of those aforementioned die-hard devotees who is fully immersed and invested in the larger Star Wars universe, I am thoroughly pleased with and extremely grateful for The Rise of Skywalker. It's a fun, exciting, and cathartic conclusion to the Skywalker Saga that I can't wait to revisit and further examine all that it offers. I love this movie – I love how it expands and unifies the series – and I'm looking forward to whatever comes next, whether it's on the big screen or Disney+. This may very well be the final word in the story of Skywalker, but it isn't the end of Star Wars. The Force will be with us. Always.

Adam's Rating: 4 out of 5
Follow Adam on Twitter - @AdamFrazier

Find more posts: Review, Star Wars

11 Comments

1

Wow. A positive review. Haven't seen it yet. Adam, did you like TLJ? Just curious....

Sascha Dikiciyan on Dec 19, 2019

2

There's a link to my review of TLJ in this review, I was somewhat mixed on it (3.5 Stars) but I actually think TROS makes it a better movie for me – I'm very happy overall with the whole Sequel Trilogy.

Adam Frazier on Dec 19, 2019

3

There's a link to my review of TLJ in this review, I was somewhat mixed on it (3.5 Stars) but I actually think TROS makes it a better movie for me – I'm very happy overall with the whole Sequel Trilogy.

Adam Frazier on Dec 19, 2019

4

Basically, an impossible task to make these new sequels. I guess we had to learn they are just films at the end of the day. Hopefully, the next three will find their footing a bit better.

DAVIDPD on Dec 19, 2019

5

I think it would have been better if JJ would have directed all 3. He obviously had a vision. Rian should have done a stand alone movie so he can nuts with new ideas. I just thought that TLJ was a selfish movie that added nothing to TFA or left it off wanting to know more...

Sascha Dikiciyan on Dec 20, 2019

6

One of the best reviews I've read for the movie. Watched it yesterday and I couldn't agree more. I really want to go and slap everyone in the face for saying this was a bad movie, or that it was disaster or what not have I seen over the internet. There was literally no way for anyone to conclude this story without flaws or missing certain moments of tranquility. My only regret with this movie is like the reviewer says is that it needed time to breathe. It could have very well have been three hours and I'd have been fine with it. Just to give enough space for all the characters to breathe for a while and also the audience, to cherish all the emotional moments more deeply. All that aside, (SPOILERS ALERT) it stars off in a most powerful way; in the desolated agony world of the Sith and one of the best villains in the history of cinema (Ian McDiarmid) Darth Sidious is there to remind us; that it all started with him; that he is the monster at the end of the book for Skywalker and there is no one better to draw the best from our heroes. Every minute he has on screen I was in awe. He is the pure manifestation of evil and the scenes between him and Rey at the end with the chants from the fallen Siths (whatever they were) and the music score hauntingly creeping goes into my favorite SW moments. Every cast member shined in the their role. Everyone contributed perfectly in every scene, I especially liked the dynamic and so many scenes between Kylo and Rey, huge bravo to Adam and Daisy for their stunning performance, given that this is their legacy, their story from The Force Awakens, through Last Jedi and now finishing here. This movie was to me a nod and emotional send off to every movie which came before it and sealed the legacy forever. 9 movies in total, but every trilogy stands in it's own pantheon on what it represented at it's time. The original's started it all giving us a world of wonder, a beautiful space epic who at it's core cherished the fellowship and the family and hope. From there on out the prequels showed a different view, a more complex and deep character study on Anakin Skywalker and his seduce to the dark side. Revenge Of The Sith is still to me the best SW to date. And finally we have the new trilogy, which took parts from the both, but mostly from the originals, telling us that not your blood, but your choices define who you are (ref. Rey) and tied it all together for a new generation. It started with a boy looking into a binary sunset, it ended with a girl looking at that same one. If that is not a perfect conclusion I don't know what is. A thousand generations live in us now and the force has never been stronger. Thank you JJ Abrams and everyone involved.

aleks_989 on Dec 19, 2019

7

Wow. This was...well written. Glad you enjoyed it!

Sascha Dikiciyan on Dec 20, 2019

8

I saw it last night and I feel it's more deserving of a 2.5-3 rating. It's an incredibly fast paced, typical paint-by-numbers Star Wars movie, taking cues from all it's predecessors and cramming in as much nostalgia as possible. It's an incredibly predictable and "safe" Star Wars film, which to the majority of the audience, will be the appropriate way to end the saga. Unlike The Last Jedi, there's no risk here, nothing shocking or new aside from different locations and new MacGuffins to chase. With all the foreshadowing throughout, it takes the mystery out whats to come and for me, that mystery is what makes movies/stories fantastic. For the final installment, I guess I was hoping for a bit more riskiness, but they were lazy and played it safe, even down to the villain Palpatine being recycled. Just like the Force Awakens being almost shot for shot the same as a New Hope, I'm sure Rise of Skywalker will be compared to Return of the Jedi the same way. It served it's purpose, it was an okay film and I while I wasn't WOWED, it hit the beats it was expected to hit and answered all the questions. I'm glad it's over and now we can hopefully get some new fresh stories underway in what I feel was an incredibly mediocre ending to what ended up as an incredibly stagnant story line.

THE_RAW_ on Dec 20, 2019

9

I saw it last night and I feel it's more deserving of a 2.5-3 rating. It's an incredibly fast paced, typical paint-by-numbers Star Wars movie, taking cues from all it's predecessors and cramming in as much nostalgia as possible. It's an incredibly predictable and "safe" Star Wars film, which to the majority of the audience, will be the appropriate way to end the saga. Unlike The Last Jedi, there's no risk here, nothing shocking or new aside from different locations and new MacGuffins to chase. With all the foreshadowing throughout, it takes the mystery out whats to come and for me, that mystery is what makes movies/stories fantastic. For the final installment, I guess I was hoping for a bit more riskiness, but they were lazy and played it safe, even down to the villain Palpatine being recycled. Just like the Force Awakens being almost shot for shot the same as a New Hope, I'm sure Rise of Skywalker will be compared to Return of the Jedi the same way. It served it's purpose, it was an okay film and I while I wasn't WOWED, it hit the beats it was expected to hit and answered all the questions. I'm glad it's over and now we can hopefully get some new fresh stories underway in what I feel was an incredibly mediocre ending to what ended up as an incredibly stagnant story line.

THE_RAW_ on Dec 20, 2019

10

Saw the movie yesterday, and I loved it. It referenced the original trilogy very well, particularly with one short iconic line that spoke volumes. That got me right in the feels. (Star Wars fans will probably know what I'm talking about). However, it should be noticed that while main villain was well referenced in the prequels, not much else in episodes 7,8 and 9 does.

MAWG on Dec 21, 2019

11

I am very much surprised with the fact how much I agree with this review...

shiboleth on Dec 22, 2019

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