“No one’s ever really gone.” -Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker
By Cain Dennis
Star Wars has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. The Original Trilogy is, in my mind nearly perfect, and I love the Prequels despite their glaring issues. Every time a new Star Wars movie opens is basically a holiday to me, I celebrate each opportunity I’m given to revisit the universe that is one of the biggest reasons as to why I love movies as much as I do. Despite my disappointment with “The Last Jedi”, I was looking forward to “The Rise of Skywalker” very much, and when opening night came, I was once again ready to jump back into this franchise. I had high expectations for this film that seeks to cap off a nine-film saga, and some of them were met, but while “The Rise of Skywalker” is, in my opinion, a satisfying conclusion to this trilogy that began with 2015’s “The Force Awakens”, it isn’t a worthy conclusion to the 42 years running Skywalker Saga.
“The Rise of Skywalker” spends quite a bit of its runtime seemingly apologizing for missteps in Rian Johnson’s “The Last Jedi”. It feels like Disney did not have an outline in place for these three films before starting them. I feel that if J.J Abrams was concerned with having to course correct from one movie to the next, then he should have directed all three to keep his vision intact rather than handing the trilogy’s middle film off to another director who obviously had no interest in following the precedent set by the previous film. This film also had to shoulder the burden of handling Carrie Fisher’s iconic Princess Leia in a fitting and respectful way after her untimely passing. Some of her scenes come across as a bit jarring with her dialogue, and it’s obvious that they were very limited with how they could handle her character with the footage that they had leftover, but I think they did a good job with what they were working with. I’m happy that they included her rather than just coming up with a reason for her to have disappeared between films.
Although this film has its fair share of plot inconsistencies and issues, I still really enjoyed it and had a wonderful time in the theater on opening night. The cast, namely Adam Driver as Kylo Ren and Daisy Ridley as Rey seem so natural as their characters, and their chemistry with their co-stars makes their scenes and exchanges so much fun to watch. A lightsaber duel between Kylo and Rey out on the water atop wreckage of the Death Star harkens back to the combat scenes of the prequels, and I loved every second of their battle. Kylo Ren’s personal struggles are believable and the weight of them is conveyed perfectly to the viewer. Adam Driver’s performance is consistently my favorite aspect of these three films. Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and Finn (John Boyega) are also entertaining, and they both thankfully feel more important to the story here than they did in “The Last Jedi”.
This movie feels like Star Wars, and it’s packed with fan service, and I know that “fan service” is a dirty word to some, but I personally enjoyed the nods and references. I also appreciate the dedication to puppetry, the creature designs in this movie are stellar, my personal favorite new character is Babu Frik, the very tiny Droidsmith. His mannerisms and dialogue made me laugh every time he was on screen. I’m also very thankful that composer John Williams decided to return and lend his abilities to scoring this new trilogy, he is truly an untouchable talent. Every musical cue and piece is so in tune with the feeling of the film. His music is integral to the Star Wars franchise.
Despite its flaws, I had a great time with “The Rise of Skywalker” and think that most fans of the franchise will as well. In the moments that it shines, it shines bright. It’s a good ending to a while troubled, good trilogy but it falls short of being the completely solid conclusion that “Return of the Jedi” was for the Original Trilogy. After some contemplation, I like this film more than “The Last Jedi” but a bit less than “The Force Awakens”.
I’m going to give “Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker”