By The Star’s First ‘Rey’: A Review Of 'Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker'
In what is reported to be the last installment of the Star Wars saga, that has now stretched over 40 years, we have ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ [spoiler-free]
Ever since the very first chapter, George Lucas’ Star Wars: A New Hope opened in theaters in 1977, it’s been part of, and ingrained in, our popular culture in a manner that defies comprehension. Even a second trilogy prequel (Star Wars I-III) that failed to meet expectations has not dampened the devotion and cult-like status given the Star Wars franchise.
It’s expanded beyond films into all sorts of merchandise and mediums. But it’s always good to remember that it was in cinemas where it all began. And it’s only fitting that some 42 years later, the film franchise officially culminates with The Rise of Skywalker.
In order to keep this absolutely spoiler-free, I’ll safely say that this is epic storytelling that directly hearkens back to Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens—which, not coincidentally, was also directed by JJ Abrams.
In effect, the blip on the radar that was Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: Episode VIII doesn’t truly impinge on the saga’s progression as much as we may have liked. I know audiences are still somewhat divided on whether Johnson’s Last Jedi possessed true Star Wars DNA; so leave it to Abrams to embark on a tale that has more to do with his Force Awakens.
The worlds conjured up here range from deserts, to scary raging seas, and all points in between. Smartly, we don’t locate all the action in outer space or deathly, planet-destroying starships. The Millennium Falcon goes on extra duty here and it’s more than mere fan service.
Not surprisingly, the action and narrative is really centered on Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). There’s an earnest attempt to invest Poe (Oscar Isaac) with a more fully-formed character; but personally, I thought it’s too late. And that leaves Finn (John Boyega) as the main character not asked to do all that much in this last installment. In fact, this film is rightly the Rey and Kylo show—something that should have been established from the outset, and throughout Force Awakens.
For me, that was the inherent weakness of Awakens; how it was outright pandering to the fans, with far too many scenes that were designed with sheer nostalgia in mind. While Last Jedi didn’t fall into that trap, it took off in other directions that left many disgruntled. I did like Last Jedi and the psychic connection between Rey and Kylo, which fully flowers here in Rise of Skywalker.
Full of surprises, revelations, secrets uncovered, and wooly tales of progeny—The Rise of Skywalker should be a crowd pleaser. It has a middling start but picks up the pace halfway, and doesn’t let go from that point.
Yes? Spoiler free, right? Just wish there was more heart at the core of this ending installment. At times, it’s more like an exercise in ticking boxes. The film works best when it’s Rey and Kylo in the center of things.
Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker is out in theaters nationwide on December 20.