Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker does everything it can with the hand it’s been dealt, bringing Star Wars back to what made it special in the first place, prioritizing the dumb, fantastical fun that brought joy to many childhoods including mine.
Four years ago, me and my friends stood in line for an hour and a half to ensure we had good seats to our showing of The Force Awakens. The hype was real, and still to this day I cannot think of a movie I was more excited to see. Fast forward to 2019, and as Rey, Finn, and Poe seize the big screen one last time, the trilogy, which began what feels like so long ago, comes to an end.
Two competing visions, a creative tug-of-war, the Star Wars sequel trilogy should serve as a reminder of the dangers of not committing to a plan when developing a multi-feature story, especially when it involves one of the most popular and cherished properties of all time. The results? Incoherent storytelling, an underwhelming resolution, and decreasing box office numbers (TROS being the first of the trilogy not to break $200 million opening weekend). And even if The Rise of Skywalker ends up being my favorite of the trilogy, which it may possibly be, it’s too little too late; there have been too many questions asked and ideas thrown out and not enough time for all the necessary answers to be given or substance provided. There’s no singular person to blame (*cough cough* Rian Johnson), and at the end of the day, it is what it is. One can only hope the mistakes made are realized, and future content can benefit from it.
With muted expectations heading into The Rise of Skywalker, I had pretty much given up on the overarching story and only wanted a solid, enjoyable Star Wars experience, which I believe the film achieves. J.J. Abrams does not hesitate to get things started, showing he means business from the get-go, and filling his film with plenty of missions for our protagonists to complete and planets to explore. Fan service is also plentiful, specifically in regard to the role original characters play in the film, with the likes of C-3PO making a meaningful contribution, Lando Calrissian making a cameo, the return of Palpatine, and the list goes on. The film is also a visual spectacle bolstered by the wonder of John Williams’ score – the one thing consistent across the entire trilogy. Adam Driver delivers a series best performance as Kylo Ren, establishing his mercilessness early on and showcasing his dynamism throughout.
The biggest problem The Rise of Skywalker runs into is it is given the unfortunate task of concluding a trilogy as disjointed as this one; Abrams rushes to answers and big reveals, inserting his own take on how the second act should’ve gone, and in doing so leaves a feeling of unfulfilled potential – what could’ve been if he had full control the entire time. I cannot say I agree with all the story choices that were made, but among such a polarized fan base, I’d be shocked if anyone could say otherwise. In the end, The Rise of Skywalker is more a sigh of relief than a breath of fresh air, but I’ll take it. 8/10