REVIEW — “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, billed as the final chapter in the nine-movie Skywalker Saga, is a well-made blockbuster but an unsatisfying finale to the franchise’s episodic series started with creator George Lucas’ original Star Wars in 1977.
In The Rise of Skywalker, Rey (Daisy Ridley), the last hope of the Jedi, trains for battle against the diabolical First Order, now commanded by Supreme Leader Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Ren’s mother, Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), leads a dwindled Resistance horrified to learn the late Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) has somehow returned. Using information originally uncovered by the dead Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Rey, ex-Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) and hotshot pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) set out with C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) to learn the mysteries of the Sith and end the reign of the First Order…
The treasure hunt brings the Resistance heroes to desert planet Pasaana, snowy planet Kijimi, and the ocean moon Kef Bir in search of various MacGuffins — including a Sith dagger and a wayfinder pointing them to the eerie Exogol, site of the Emperor’s lair — all the while encountering underdeveloped allies both old and new, including a suave-as-ever Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams), costumed Spice Runner-slash-scoundrel Zorii Bliss (Keri Russell), and rebel Jannah (Naomi Ackie), who finds common ground with Finn during the quest to destroy a Sith fleet of ships each possessing, what else, planet-destroying weapons.
Moving at a breakneck pace, always to the point of exhaustion, Skywalker rarely slows down as it hyperspeeds through characters, locations, and plots, each more rushed than the last. Much of this blame falls on the sequel trilogy’s wasteful middle chapter, the Rian Johnson-directed The Last Jedi, which refused to act as the penultimate episode of a 42-year saga; in turn, Skywalker overstuffs two movies’ worth of story into one 142-minute runtime, and the storytelling is spread too thin to deliver even a satisfactory end to this misfire trilogy, much less an entire saga.
It’s the last quarter of the movie where Skywalker finally delivers the grandiose expected of a Star Wars finale, with a space-set battle that is almost as epic and large-scale as the action-packed ending of Avengers: Endgame — purely in terms of visual spectacle. (Emotionally, The Rise of Skywalker is largely soulless outside of scenes involving Leia, who appears here through the use of re-purposed footage captured by director J.J. Abrams on The Force Awakens. Other old faces are the best part of Skywalker, as this trilogy finally chooses to treat its legacy characters with respect — but it comes much too little, too late.)
It’s the hackneyed battle below the stars — focused on Rey and the phantom Palpatine, who returns without explanation — where one begins to wonder if Lucas and Lawrence Kasdan deserve a screenplay credit on The Rise of Skywalker, which resorts to rehashing their Return of the Jedi to end the Star Wars saga.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opens December 20.