Star Wars Episode IX, The Rise of Skywalker, officially released on Friday, with Thursday previews the day before!
I have seen it several times already, and wanted to wait to write this review until after I had gotten multiple viewings in. This post will include only the faintest of spoilers, and nothing that you wouldn’t have picked up already in trailers. In the coming days, weeks, and months I will be delving into many other points of the film that do discuss spoilers, but not here.
The film has received mixed reviews from critics and fans, but I loved it. The movie is a very enjoyable and fun experience that features plenty of satisfying, exciting, and emotional moments.
That’s the biggest thing The Rise of Skywalker has going for it, and it absolutely lives up to the task. With a running time of just 142 minutes the movie is a fast-paced adventure from the very beginning, and it rarely lets up. At times this makes things feel almost too rushed, as if a bit more time to breathe would have helped, but it’s very exciting all the way through. The film sees the main heroes all go on a mission together, and having Rey, Finn, Poe, Chewie, C-3PO, and BB-8 team up makes for some genuinely great moments between them, from moments of friendship to banter to humor. In particular, C-3PO really shines in pretty much every scene he’s in, and he provides some truly hilarious moments. Anthony Daniels absolutely nailed it in this one, and the iconic droid had a major part to play.
But the film is in many ways carried by the performances of Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley, both of whom are among the most brilliant actors to ever appear in the Star Wars franchise. Their performances as Kylo Ren and Rey, respectively, were tremendous in The Force Awakens and then taken to another level in The Last Jedi. That excellence continues in this one, and they nail every scene they’re in – which is quite a bit, seeing as they’re the main characters of this story. Story-wise, without giving away any spoilers, there was one major decision regarding Rey that I didn’t like, and I was disappointed (though certainly not surprised) when it happened.
And while I absolutely loved and thoroughly enjoyed this film, my main complaint with it would be that it felt like J.J. Abrams didn’t really care about anything other than telling the story he wanted to tell. Obviously that’s the role of a director, but I think if you’re working in an established franchise like Star Wars, you have an obligation to honor what came before. I actually don’t think Abrams trashed The Last Jedi to the degree others do, but it certainly does seem like Abrams didn’t necessarily care about the story that came before; he just wanted to do his thing. It’s almost like he took some of the things he wanted to do after TFA and just did them anyway, not caring that there was another chapter in-between. And that extends beyond just TLJ too, to other areas in which TROS (in very minor ways only a few would notice) seemed to contradict various Star Wars storytelling that came before.
But don’t let that create the impression that I didn’t enjoy this movie, because I did. There were plenty of moments that left me smiling and filled with joy, and that’s what I’ll remember this film for. It’s truly a fun ride. Seeing Leia one last time on-screen (it’s true that she’s the heart of the film), seeing Lando again, seeing Luke, and other surprises are all really cool. Rey and Kylo Ren are fantastic, as always. The action sequences are really well done. John Williams’ score is, of course, tremendous. The dynamic between Poe and Finn is awesome. C-3PO has a large role and, as I mentioned earlier, is hilarious. And, though I can’t say too much here, there’s one thing in particular (among many) that the film did that made me think it really is a fitting end to the Skywalker saga.
In many ways, I view this film an awful lot like I view Return of the Jedi (and I’m not comparing the films themselves as much as I’m comparing my perception/enjoyment of the films). Both of them are a ton of fun. Both of them are very enjoyable and immensely re-watchable. Both of them fail to live up to the installment that came before in terms of storytelling, writing, and execution. But both of them are also a return to the fun action and adventure and nostalgia of Star Wars that we love.
It’s not a perfect movie, but it’s a very enjoyable one. I absolutely adore this film and its characters, and I can’t wait to see it again soon!