The Rise of Skywalker is an entertaining end to the franchise that maybe tries to do too much for one movie to handle.
Spoiler Free Review
Score: 4 / 5
And so we have arrived. The end of the Skywalker Saga, a series that has spanned generations has received its conclusion with final installment. This is a movie that not only has given itself the task of concluding the new trilogy of movies starting with The Force Awakens, but also given a larger conclusion to the six movies that came before that. It’s a tall order and one made even more challenging with a runtime of 2 hours and 21 minutes. Does it stick the landing? Were J.J. Abrams and crew able to pull it off? Yeah, I’d say so. Mostly.
Let’s get this out of the way right now, there was always going to be a little bit of an awkward dance around how to include the only living original trilogy character Leia due to the passing of actress Carrie Fisher. The options were limited, re-purpose old deleted footage from the previous two films, try to digitally recreate her likeness? It was never going to be easy, and what they landed with by using never seen old footage works, but you can tell they had to do some delicate editing to get there. Kudos to the team and what they were able to accomplish.
Now with that out of the way, let’s get down to the meat of this. The Rise of Skywalker is super fast paced. A movie that rarely has time to hit the breaks. What this gives you is an entertaining action adventure that leans more on action than the joy of the adventure aspect. That runtime I mentioned before? You can feel like someone was telling them to run through moments to meet that. Why? I’m not sure, it doesn’t necessarily make the movie bad, but it almost feels like this movie could have been two movies. Like it could have taken a third of it, remixed it into the previous film The Last Jedi and given the rest of Rise of Skywalker some room to breathe. The last thing I want to mention that is more on the critical side of things is by the end of the movie, there is one particular set of moments that felt super fan service-y and not really reflective of the characters themselves.
To the good, there’s a bunch of it. This movie finally gives us a chance to see our trio of new heroes, Rey, Fin, and Poe interact as a group for a large amount of the runtime. It’s great, the chemistry between them is strong like Rey’s connection to the Force. Another fun standout in this movie is how much humor they fire out of C-3P0. Boy oh boy does Anthony Daniels get to steal this movie in the humor department. Along the way we see some fun new characters, (Babu Frik is another gem of a character), as well as the return of more original trilogy characters such as Lando and Emperor Palpatine. Lando’s role is small but fun to see, but it’s Palpatine’s inclusion in this story that will likely make or break Rise of Skywalker for a lot of fans. I won’t say much other than I personally enjoyed the heck out of seeing the puppet master back for one more go at trying to rule the galaxy. It’s also quite interesting how much his inclusion not only brings back elements of the original trilogy but also gives us some echoes of prequels in terms of mythology.
I’ll save talking about story details in a spoiler review but as a whole I enjoyed where it went, there is one major twist that propels the movie forward that at the beginning I wasn’t satisfied with but as the movie continued I was accepting of it. Again that’s for another talk. This movie definitely felt like one that was out to honor what came before and give a conclusion to a story that has been playing out in front of us for 42 years.
Beyond the story, the two other major elements of Star Wars were at full display here. The visuals were absolutely breathtaking, outdoing most of what this new trilogy has had to offer. The colors ranging from bright warm smoke bombs on a desert planet to a cold icy sky filled with endless Star Destroyers. It’s a treat, and something that should be seen on a big screen to fully appreciate. Then the secret weapon of this franchise, John Williams. The master composer left no stone unturned as he weaved themes from throughout the franchise and gave us the epic finale our ears have been waiting for. It’s glorious and deserves recognition for how much he packed into it.
Is this movie a perfect masterpiece? Does it give you the depth you’d expect out of a long-form TV show or smaller scale movie? No, but that’s not what Star Wars ever was. This was a franchise built on entertainment based around the battles of good and evil. The Rise of Skywalker delivers entertainment in spades and in the same process brings to an end to a story that began a long time ago in a galaxy far far away.