As brilliantly explained in Kevin Smith’s seminal film, Clerks, back in 1983, Return of the Jedi ended the first Star Wars trilogy in epic fantasy but was widely dismissed because it failed to live up to what Episode V – Empire Strikes Back had set up. If you’ve seen Clerks, then you know what I’m talking about. More than three decades later, JJ Abrams would say about the final film in the saga Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker, “Endings are hard, especially for me”.
And there is no better way to describe The Rise of Skywalker.
Despite the challenges that existed and the problems that presented themselves, JJ Abrams proves why Kathleen Kennedy chose him to direct Episode VII – The Force Awakens and create this new trilogy.
Obviously, feeling more like The Force Awakens, JJ Abrams shows an amazing eye for tempo and character as he juggles story with incredible pacing. Throughout the amazing number of action sequences, desert chases, space battles, lightsaber duels, is a story about identity – pushing the themes and story beats that were started in The Force Awakens. It’s a classic story and it’s a strong character story despite the fantastic setting this story is in and Abrams handles almost every aspect beautifully.
The action is epic on every scale thanks to Abrams’ love of the wide shots. You get the idea that Abrams appreciates the scale of this galaxy as he fills the frame for his action sequences. Favoring wide angles long takes, and sweeping camera movements that truly come alive on an IMAX screen. And through this, Abrams, and Oscar-winning writer of Argo, Chris Terrio, use the action to build a stronger connection to these characters. There was more than one time that I was leaning forward in my chair.
Abrams cast had carved out reputations for brilliant character actors before he cast them in Force Awakens and they all more than delivery on the challenges The Rise of Skywalker had. Daisy Ridley embodies that old saying, “speak softly and carry the largest stick”. She has a power and inner strength that emanate from her that create a performance that you absolutely believe. Oscar Issac is a hotheaded fighter pilot. John Boyega has an honesty about him that creates a refreshing counter to Oscar Issac’s bravado.
Adam Driver deliveries in every aspect as he creates a performance that I feel like he almost becomes the hero in the story that he started out the villain.
In the end, is Rise of Skywalker a fitting end to this new trilogy let alone a 42-year-old story? In short, yes. There’s an emotional maturity that Rian Johnson brought to The Last Jedi that truly compliments the epic fast-paced style of Abrams. It creates an emotional residence across this new trilogy that creates a stronger trilogy because of what Terrio and Abrams did with Rise of Skywalker.
The Last Jedi had its own flaws as any movie, let alone a Star Wars movie will have. But Johnson’s deconstruction of Luke Skywalker, the Jedi, and the fans own theories will never be one of those flaws.
Despite the astounding amount of good Abrams and Terrio have done with Rise of Skywalker, it’s not without its problems. What Star Wars film is? The biggest problem is Star Wars itself. From 1977 – 83, the limits in technology were almost a benefit in a way that it forced Lucas and his directors to keep the original trilogy centric on our heroes successfully for two hours. There are so many characters, worlds that big, and ideas of that size in Rise of Skywalker that the runtime is 2 1/2 hours and you feel like it needed a solid 3 hours + to properly tell the story they wanted to tell.
Speaking of problems, I do need to address Carrie Fisher because she passed away before filming was finished and that in itself created problems that Abrams and Terrio solved successfully and unsuccessfully. But in the end, they treated her death with a great deal of respect and elevated Leia to that of an icon.
No movie is perfect and Rise of Skywalker is especially no different. Despite this, Rise of Skywalker is a hell of a fun ride that serves both the fans and successfully climaxes this new trilogy. Well worth 3 1/2 stars, go see this movie in the theatre to get how much fun this movie is.
I don’t know where Star Wars will go from here. But with the closure of the Skywalker Saga, I’m excited to see the expansion of this galaxy and the characters therein. I’d even be curious to see what a remade Ewok Christmas special would like in this era.