With director JJ Abrams returning to the “Star Wars” universe once again (taking the reins for Rian Johnson), he’s able to repeat history of generations’ past. He offers fans the final film of a three movie saga that never quite hits the high bar set by the previous films. “The Rise of Skywalker” is a great movie in its own right, but like “Return of the Jedi” it is held back due to many unfortunate screenplay inconsistencies, characters that don’t do much of anything, and blatant retconning that Abrams commits to at the expense of the story. “The Rise of Skywalker” is a very good movie and great closer to the Skywalker saga, warts and all.
Rey (Daisy Ridley) continues her Jedi training with General Leia (Carrie Fisher), trying to understand the Force, which evades her. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), meanwhile searches the galaxy for the Wayfinder, an ancient Sith device that reveals the location of a mythical planet, which is home to Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), whose been enacting a devious master plan to control the universe. Palpatine demands Kylo Ren track down Rey to destroy her, with the Resistance fighting on fumes. Poe (Oscar Isaac), Finn (John Boyega), Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), BB-8, and C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) return, searching for help to take on Palpatine’s army, and comes into contact with an old friend of Poe’s, and tribal leader Jannah (Naomi Ackie), who join them to take down the First Order.
JJ Abrams’ direction is electric with some damn good action sequences (the gun fight in the hall was dynamite), as well as some genuinely gut wrenching character moments. I was hooked from minute one and much of the narrative’s inherent flaws thankfully didn’t detract or distract from the film’s overall excitement. Abrams has a lot of love for this universe and it shows in the way he reconciles the mythos and brings it all full circle right from “The Phantom Menace.” Everything from that point is considered canon, and Abrams is able to compensate for some retcons by drawing references from even the most lambasted films from the Skywalker Saga. Rey’s journey is absolutely epic, as is her inevitable clashing with Kylo Ren. Ren is haunting as the film’s menacing villain who is at odds with his own personal grasp for power and his remaining shred of decency that lingers.
Adam Driver gives my favorite performance in the film, as his approach to Ren is just unnerving. Abrams also successfully fleshes out under developed Poe Dameron to allow for a bigger hero arc, and Oscar Isaac is a welcome return. Like “Return of the Jedi” it’s a movie that will maintain so much of its entertainment value and pop culture importance, even if it never quite sticks the landing in the end. “The Rise of Skywalker” is troublesome for so many reasons, mainly for its quick pace, numerous unresolved sub-plots, weird plot devices introduced (that dagger…), and characters that appear just to… well, do nothing at all. Rose Tico, anti-hero Zorii Bliss, droid D-O, Lando Calrissian, and yes, even Finn doesn’t have much to contribute to the overall narrative.
Not to mention there are so many ideas that the movie never clarifies for us. Who were the Knights of Ren again? Did they actually subtly imply Jannah was the daughter of a character in the movie? What did Finn want to tell Rey? When did they discover Lightspeed Skipping? Why didn’t anyone ever think to ask C3P0 if he knew Sith? Who programmed it in to droids? That said, “The Rise of Skywalker” promises to keep fans talking for a very long time, especially with Disney and Lucasfilm set to expand on the universe cinematically very soon. If this is the end for the underdog heroes we met in “The Force Awakens” it’s a great one, in spite of the lingering questions we’re left with.