Review: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is the final film of the new trilogy, and the end of the Skywalker Saga that started in 1977. Director J.J Abrams returns to tie up a 42 year old story and provide some closer for fans, both old and new.

Rise of Skywalker picks up a year after the events of The Last Jedi. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) has discovered a Sith Wayfinder,  a device that lets him travel to Exegol, a hidden planet where the next phase of the First Order is being prepared.

Meanwhile, Rey (Daisy Ridley) is training on the Resistance base with what’s left of the group. When Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac) return with intel from a spy, they learn Palpatine is still alive and has a plan to wipe out the Resistance once and for all. It’s the usual Plapatine plan – destroy worlds, dominate the galaxy, and kill the Jedi.

Rey finds something about the Sith in the Jedi text that says where they could find another Wayfinder aka Easy Pass to Exegol. Rey, Finn, and Poe head to another planet to find an ancient artifact that will lead them to the Wayfinder and help them defeat Palpatine before it’s too late.

The journey to find the artifact feels very much like an Indiana Jones movie. The group hops from planet to planet following clues and looking for an ancient artifact. Of course, they come across some familiar faces and a lot of trouble along the way. Most of the trouble is courtesy of Kylo Ren and his army of storm troopers.

The film succeeds at being a Star Wars movie. The plot has familiar beats, there’s cool force stuff from Rey and Kylo, some fun light saber fights, and a big battle at the end. These are all things any Star Wars fan could tell you would be in this film without seeing a single frame. As cliché and redundant as these things are, they are also the things fans love about the franchise.

Where the film fails…it’s hard to stick the landing. Honestly, it’s not really a failing of the film rather than it not being able to live up to lofty expectations.  It’s difficult to tie up 42 years of story, provide screen time for core characters, and end the story in a satisfying way. It’s a tough task. In the same year we’ve seen Avengers: Endgame and HBO’s Watchmen stuck their landings, Game of Thrones crashed and burned…l it literally burned for a whole episode. Thankfully, Rise of Skywalker never stops feeling like Star Wars and that’s a good thing.

The other issue, and it’s an issue with adventure heavy films, is the story moving a little too fast. The pacing is great for action sequences but it doesn’t allow audiences to sit with the characters long enough to care about their journey. Jannah (Naomi Ackie) is a cool character that has an interesting back story. The moment she’s introduced, we’re whisked off to another planet to continue the adventure.

The core of the story is focused on Rey and Kylo. Adam Driver is great as Kylo but he may have two pages of dialogue. He spends most of the film brooding and acting very intense. Rey is the star of the film and the star of this trilogy. She’s one of the best Star Wars characters we’ve had over the course of nine movies. Rey is a perfect mix of Leia and Luke with a little bit of Han sprinkled on top. Daisy Ridley does a really good job showing Rey as vulnerable, scared, and strong at the same time. Out of all the characters in the latest trilogy, Ridley’s performance reminded me that Rey is the character I’ll miss the most.

Oscar Isaac takes up the mantle from Harrison Ford’s Han and brings the comedy. Isaac doesn’t get enough love for his comedic timing and the way he can sell a joke with just his eyes or a smirk. There are some tense moments and Poe is always around to loosen up the tension with something humorous. If Disney+ wants to make The Adventures of Poe Dameron, I’d be all for it.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is a fitting end to the trilogy and the Skywalker Saga. With the exception of a few moments, the film delivers the way a Star Wars movie should. In one scene, C-3PO says, “Taking one last look sir…at my friends.” – that’s the prefect description for this film. It is one last look at characters, household names, and faces fans have grown to love over four decades.  J.J Abrams gave fans a finale, a last look, that they’ll be pleased with.

Grade: B