Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Review by Demetri Panos
Please note: This review is written with very little to no SPOILERS. The plot will be described in the most simplistic of terms and when referring to specific plot points they will only be noted as “Plot Points” with no description given to what it is.
A Long Time Ago…just a little over 42 years to be exact, Star Wars opened and forever changed the Movie Going Experience. It showcased swashbuckling heroism, sinister villains, princesses, daring rescues, and duels with laser swords all within a Galaxy Far Far Away. Characters like Han Solo, Princess Leia, and Luke Skywalker became forever ingrained into popular culture. Now, 42 years later, STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER, the ninth and final chapter of the Skywalker Saga, showcases a nostalgic, respectful, bittersweet, emotional, and serialistic thrill ride, certain to entertain the saga’s multigenerational, multicultural and galaxy-spanning fanhood.
Director and co-writer J.J. Abrams was handed the Herculean task of bringing this iconic saga to a close. It should be noted that Abrams, aside from George Lucas, is the only filmmaker to have ever directed more than one installment of this franchise. Abrams delivers a movie filled with wonderful wistfulness, respectful sentimentality, and passion. Of course, he adds in a lot of action and adventure all of which is just as riveting as it is cheer-worthy.
Emperor Palpatine is alive and he is looking to make the First Order the Final Order and (minor spoiler) reinstate the Sith as the ruling order of the Galaxy. Our ragtag band of heroes (new and old) must work together and fight to keep the galaxy free of tyranny. There are multi-planet missions, space dogfights, lightsaber duels, droids, banter, and dazzling action. All fill every square inch of the silver screen with a sweeping cinematic verve! In other words; it’s everything you’d come to expect from a Star Wars movie.
It is difficult in such franchises not to salt and pepper it with fan service. THE RISE OF SKYWALKER is loaded with it and perhaps too much at times. This is were plotting becomes weighted down. J.J. Abrams and Chris Terrio try too hard to appease every fan including the toxic ones. One particular plot point is obvious. It actually negates the uniqueness and empowerment of a certain character. What makes this plot point so painful is that if it had not been introduced into the story, it wouldn’t have changed the narrative at all. So, instead, it feels crowbarred in just to appease a faction of fandom who squawk the loudest and feel like the franchise is of their own making and design. This was a mistake by Abrams and Terrio. It not only disrespects what was done before but it validates toxic fandom and rewards their behavior.
Fortunately, that is only one aspect of the movie. There is a lot more to appreciate. The sum of STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER’s parts make up its whole. It is filled with magnificent scenes meant to evoke maudlin emotion. To those fans who’ve been paying attention, they will be rewarded with a cathartic heart-rending payoff. A payoff that is earned with respect for what has come before.
This recent trilogy has raised the bar of performances in Star Wars movies. These three movies have showcased perhaps the strongest performances in all of the saga especially the work done by Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley. Throughout it all, they have treated the material with seriousness and the weight of a fateful drama. They elevate the substance by giving their respective characters a poignant gravitas. Oscar Isaac proves he can be a leading man boasting a ton of charm and charisma. John Boyega has looked to be comfortable in the role of Finn since his 1st appearance. His chemistry with all the cast provides Finn with endearing substance.
One cannot talk about the Star Wars saga without invoking the name of John Williams. His score in STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER subtly intertwines the classic themes with new arrangements. Williams, once again, is able to tell a story with symphonic style. Close your eyes, listen and your imagination will tell you all you need to know what’s happening on the screen. You don’t want to keep them closed for too long because THE RISE OF SKYWALKER maintains the cinematic prowess of the films before. It is a spectacle for the ears and eyes!
Saga/Series endings are difficult. No matter what platform; Film, television, streaming and books. One rule which applies to all formats is: The ending is not going to please everyone. Hard as the creators will try. This one rule will apply to STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER. How can it not? This is an end to a 42-year-old mythical saga. The movie will hold different meanings for all of its cross-culture multigenerational audiences. STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER is true Fan-Fare where its final scene inwrought with poignant emotional heft and in a word, Beautiful. It doesn’t seem as if it all began a long time ago….