In the conclusion to a 40-year journey, director J.J. Abrams returns to helm the film as well as write alongside Chris Terrio as we bring the stories of Luke and Leia Skywalker, Rey, Finn, Poe Dameron and Chewbacca to a close.
Since 2015’s The Force Awakens – the Star Wars films have been very divisive. From utter praise and admiration for Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One to sheer disappointment and disgust with Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi.
J.J. Abrams had a difficult task with creating not only a conclusion to the sequel trilogy (The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi) but to tie in the other six films as well – and that’s where this film starts to fall apart in some regard. While the obvious connections are made to the original trilogy, the prequel trilogy (The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith) are largely ignored outside some minor (and I mean incredibly minor) cameos.
What doesn’t help the film either is its pacing, which alternates from fast-paced, nonstop action to immediately hitting the brakes for a shot at an emotional moment which then slows down a bit too much. The first half hour of the film, quite literally, jumps from world to world and makes it feel as if there’s at least another chunk of story left on the cutting room floor that gave it some breathing room.
The writing also lends itself to some incredibly repetitive and cliched beats that end up removing any sense of emotional weight or impact in moments where there should be just that. It’s not as similarly plotted out as Return of the Jedi (as many like to point out that The Force Awakens is a beat-by-beat retread of A New Hope) but the self-contained writing for the story can’t seem to make a decision on what it wants to do with certain characters.
With all of that said, it makes it seem like a horrendous movie, which it is not. The Rise of Skywalker ends up being highly entertaining with some very hard-hitting emotional moments which will be explored in our in-depth spoiler review.
When the action is happening, it is crisp, clear and very entertaining to watch. The sabre choreography has been stepped up in a major way and Abrams has brought back the colourful visual palette he had in The Force Awakens.
With this film being his last time scoring a Star Wars film, composer John Williams gives it his all and provides plenty of throwback themes to films gone by, however not all of his iconic motifs are utilized to their fullest extent and it’s mildly disappointing.
The cast get much more time to shine and showcase their ability to act in a massive franchise such as this one. Daisy Ridley gives her best performance yet as Rey as she struggles to battle the conflict within her and remain true to the teachings of the late Jedi, Luke Skywalker. Oscar Isaac provides the second best performance of the film as Poe Dameron, who for me, has always been a highlight of this trilogy.
John Boyega’s Finn takes a backseat (as does Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose Tico) and it feels like a knee-jerk reaction to the reception of The Last Jedi. Finn is present in battle and on the journey, but nothing about his arc is overly memorable because wherever he goes, he’s either with Poe or Rey.
At the end of the day – this is Star Wars, and even the worst movie in the franchise, which is agreed to be Attack of the Clones, has entertaining moments. The Rise of Skywalker feels more like a direct sequel to The Force Awakens than The Last Jedi, which isn’t really how trilogies work, but this is far from a bad movie.