Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – Review

That was definitely a finale. Whether or not it’s satisfying…well…that’s up to you.

There’s a lot to love in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. I’m a huge geek when it comes to this franchise, eating it up and arguing it out. I own over a hundred novels, at least that many comics, and have played almost every video game. I’m not laying anything on the table to show off, just letting you know what this means to me. Disney’s era with the series has had its ups and downs, many of those occurring in the same films. This movie is no different, existing as a mixed bag that is wildly entertaining even if it’s wobbly.

I still adore Adam Driver’s performance as Kylo Ren/Ben Solo in this trilogy. That guy is a powerhouse unto himself, a wonderful addition to the story that functions as what might be the best of our leads. Daisy Ridley’s Rey is an interesting character (I’m not getting into the Mary Sue discussion…I’m just not), Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron is a fun and standard hotshot flyboy, and John Boyega’s Finn is much better utilized in this film than he was in Rian Johnson’s entry. There are plenty of surprises and new characters, but these four have led the franchise and Adam Driver remains the absolute best of them. His journey, from traitorous son to where he winds up here, has been largely successful due to just how damn much I enjoy watching this guy do his thing with the character. 

Outside of Driver we still get some solid performances. Sometimes that’s what’s necessary, and Star Wars hasn’t exactly been the pinnacle of performance in every film. The original trilogy was an action serial, the prequel trilogy was a tragic melodrama, and the sequel trilogy has been a series of vignettes that are more based around utilizing the existence of a millenial in the remnants of an older generation’s fallout. Poe serves as our steadfast diehard, driven to keep the fight going with older warriors that understand his generation. Finn is our rebel, having served the darker side of that generation and decided he can’t do it anymore. Rey, however, is confused. She’s now responsible for a legacy that she didn’t get to know outside of rumors and a couple of encounters with specific individuals. It’s an interesting statement, one that I don’t know wholly works, but there’s some weird-ass payoff that I kind of dug.

Let’s address something really quickly – there is a ridiculous amount of lore in this film. Structurally it’s a nightmare unless you’re just willing to go with some things, and with the sheer amount of stuff handed to the audience that’s going to be a very tall order for some people. There’s MacGuffins and essence transfers and new worlds and…just…some crazy Force powers. Abrams builds on something Johnson did in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and I’m not saying anything further about it but…I kinda dug it. 

That lore, though, makes this film a mess. When Star Wars: The Force Awakens came out four years ago we all saw little puzzle boxes left out, a standard for Abrams, and figured there’d be answers forthcoming. There was a plan, but the team enjoyed what Rian Johnson wanted to do so much that they deviated and went so far in a different direction that this film now feels like a course-correction to lead back to the original idea. That leaves us with a ridiculous amount of plot that feels like it might have originally been meant to spread over two films. I can even see kind of where the split might have originally been. That creates some issues with the pacing that leaves it breakneck and yet exhausting all at the same time. We introduce so many things in the span of two-and-a-half hours that I needed a break afterward. Go into this with a clear head and get ready for what will, at times, feel like a lecture of Force philosophies and powers that are difficult to understand. I hate to tell you that because I want so much of this to be special but you do need to brace yourself.
But me? I’m used to massive amounts of Star Wars lore being thrown at me. I grew up in the era where George Lucas just casually let us know that the Force is an infection via symbiotic microorganisms in the blood of space wizards; I’ve seen some shit. While this is far from a perfect film I can say that I really did enjoy it. While it’s an absolute beast of a film, it’s not going to start a holy war like the last one and it’s not a nostalgia trip like the first of Disney’s releases. This is, lore and all, a crowd-pleaser that elicits cheers and tears in equal measure (seriously…I unexpectedly burst into tears at one moment). While this seemingly hands Star Wars fans what they think they want, the whole thing works on that level. I don’t know that I can say how to hold this up to the others, seeing as the production history with these films has left them disjointed and awkwardly put together as a trilogy, but Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is a solid entry to the franchise that does its best to wrap up everything at once. It’s far from perfect, but it’s a good time. I’ll be curious to see how it watches when I sit down and see them all back-to-back, but I’m okay with the Skywalker Saga ending here.

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