When J.J. Abrams said yes to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, he must have known he was taking on the impossible. Rather different to your average directing job, this story spanned 42 years, nine films and countless other mediums – but it needed an ending. There was also a hefty financial expectation, what with the previous eight films in the saga racking up £5.6bn between them. Add to that a pressing need to placate critics of Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi, and Abrams finds himself in a pickle. Has he managed to find a magic solution? Well, yes and no – but Episode IX is a fan-focused finale that will leave the franchise’s core audience roaring like Wookiees with delight.
Picking up some time after the events of Johnson’s divisive second chapter, The Rise Of Skywalker features the surviving Resistance members on a new mission. They’ve heard rumours of a powerful Dark Side-user operating in a distant region of the galaxy, and hope to track down the source and destroy it. Elsewhere, the evil First Order continues to target the weak and helpless, while Rey finishes her Jedi training under the watchful eye of General Leia Organa, played by the late Carrie Fisher in some handily-discovered old footage. Eventually, the young Force-user is discovered once again by Sith Lord Kylo Ren and a cat-and-mouse chase plays out across multiple planets before climaxing in one of the most epic closing sequences you’ll ever see on screen. Seriously, it’s massive.
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Fast-paced and frenetic, much time and energy has been spent on making The Rise Of Skywalker feel as big as possible. The visuals are stunning and the action scenes non-stop – there are more lightsaber battles in the first half of Skywalker than in the rest of the trilogy combined. This is a film made almost exclusively with its fans in mind. Every scene contains a nostalgic reference, the cameos never end and classic characters pop up to blurt out their signature catchphrase before you can say “I’ve got a bad feeling about this”. It won’t put off the casual moviegoer, but if you preferred The Last Jedi‘s brand of forward-looking storytelling – “let the past die, kill it if you have to” – you’ll be rolling your eyes quite a lot.
In fact, Abrams appears to have reversed most of Johnson’s narrative and abandoned some plot lines altogether. We won’t spoil those here, but it must have been soul-crushing for one cast member in particular to read the script for the first time and discover their drastically reduced role this time around. To be honest, it’s quite surprising that they haven’t kicked up a fuss in the press tour. Some of the alterations work – and others make no sense at all. The Rise Of Skywalker could leave one person in an ecstatic nerdgasm and the next scratching their head. Ultimately, this is a trilogy of strange bedfellows. None of the parts, from The Force Awakens onwards, fit well and they all seem to dislike each other intensely. Perhaps the problem lies in choosing two different directors for three movies, but sadly, they never feel like one vision.
Saying that, most who watch this film will have an enjoyable time. It’s exciting, surprisingly funny – special mention to C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), who nails zinger after zinger in a standout turn – and is stuffed with strong performances from its leading cast, especially John Boyega as Stormtrooper-turned-rebel Finn. Nearly all the unanswered questions are resolved and Skywalker feels sufficiently satisfying as a final chapter. It’s taken 42 years to get here, but (for now) the circle is finally complete.
- Director: J.J. Abrams
- Starring: Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega
- Release date: 19 December 2019