Review by Sean Boelman
After a second chapter that divided critics and audiences, J.J. Abrams returns to the Star Wars director’s chair for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the final chapter in the saga that began back in 1977 with Lucas’s original film. Although it admittedly isn’t as ambitious as Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi, Abrams’s much safer vision is the wholly satisfying conclusion for which fans worldwide have been clamoring.
This movie picks up in the battle between the Resistance and the First Order as a new threat arises in the form of a familiar foe hoping to regain control over the galaxy. Whereas The Force Awakens was essentially a rehash of the original story and The Last Jedi was something entirely different but overly convoluted, The Rise of Skywalker benefits from a simple plot that feels like a fresh adventure with these characters.
Abrams never goes as far as retconning any of the major developments that came out of The Last Jedi, but the film does go in an entirely different direction from that implied by the divisive last entry. Even though this is very obviously catering specifically to the fans, it is effective fanservice at that. As Star Wars movies should be, The Rise of Skywalker is a crowd-pleaser.
Additionally, Abrams returns the series to its spectacle-driven nature with The Rise of Skywalker. There were a few memorable action sequences in The Last Jedi, but The Rise of Skywalker is nonstop action from the very opening. Audiences will have their eyes so locked on screen watching intricately-choreographed lightsaber battles in fantastical worlds that there is no time to process some of the film’s more problematic inconsistencies.
As always, the cinematography and visuals of the movie are absolutely phenomenal. Abrams is able to fully immerse the viewer in a galaxy far, far away thanks to excellent production design and use of CGI. Over the course of the film, multiple new worlds are explored in beautiful ways, but there are also some welcome callbacks to settings from the series’s past.
Perhaps the most satisfying thing about this movie is that it brings the arcs of the three main characters of the new trilogy full circle. Characters such as Poe Dameron and Finn, who were amusing but underdeveloped side characters in the last two films, are given much more to do in this entry. Still, this does not come at the expense of the Rey/Kylo Ren conflict at the center of the story.
This movie also features series-best performances from some of the actors. Adam Driver does an excellent job as Kylo Ren in this film. In the last two movies, he has felt a bit out-of-place, but he is much more subtle with the character in this entry. Driver has a couple of scenes in which he is truly mind-blowing. Daisy Ridley, Domhnall Gleeson, and Oscar Isaac are also highlights.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker may not be the most complex film to come out of the new trilogy, but it is arguably the most compelling and entertaining. While it may be sad that this is the last adventure to be had with these characters, there is still plenty to explore in this galaxy far, far away.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters on December 20.