“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” is coming to theaters this Friday. After sitting out “The Last Jedi” J.J. Abrams is back in the director’s chair to complete this ninth entry in the Skywalker Saga. This review is going to be 100% spoiler-free and will just be my generalized thoughts and feelings on the film, without diving in the specifics of plot-points or character-arcs.
Rian Johnson’s vision for Star Wars and his world-building directions in “The Last Jedi” certainly caused a divide among the fandom. I still found it to be a solid film, with many enjoyable aspects. There were a few story directions I didn’t really like, but I thought it was a fine movie overall. Yet, I was still excited to see Abrams back directing and co-writing “The Rise of Skywalker” and I must say, he delivered a successful final-act for this recent trilogy under the Disney banner.
This movie was called on to close-out not only the trilogy that started with “The Force Awakens,” but it was also attempting to close out the Skywalker Saga that has been going since 1977 with “A New Hope.” That’s a lot of pressure to put on a movie. But I think Abrams and Chris Terrio pulled it off with this script. It bookends both the trilogy, and the episode films with a heartfelt approach that grabbed me from the opening scene and had me hooked. It isn’t perfect. There were sections of development both in the story and characters that felt slightly rushed. However, it was still layered with all the emotional intensity and ramifications you want in a movie wrapping up so many story layers and a collection of characters this large.
There was a consistent urgency in the situations throughout this movie that created effective dramatic weight. I felt the importance of scenarios, relationships, missions, and the consequences to them as well. This movie also thrived on the emotional connection to the characters. Rather than simply riding the intensity created from massive action set-pieces and the result was one of the more heartfelt entries in the entire franchise. This constant dramatic undercurrent connected me to the story even more. Already being invested in these characters from the last two films allows you jump right into things. The chemistry between the cast was genuine and the growth in the characters is effectively captured through the performances.
The inner conflict of the characters feels sincere and it’s compelling to see where they will go in this story. One that weaves more than enough unpredictability as to where things will end up. There was also a charming rapport between the cast members. That added with great dialogue that balanced dramatic themes and a sense-of-humor very well, created both a charming atmosphere and a genuine connection to everyone. The routine splashes of levity were nicely timed. They did a great job of breaking the dramatic intensity without every undercutting the tension of situations or scenarios. This was something I really appreciated given I think that has been a primary issue since the Disney acquisition.
The uneven tone that results from misplaced attempts at humor has been a drawback, but that was not the case here. Instead the writing was wittier, it was worked more naturally into the dialogue, thus was able to create that smooth emotional ebb and flow you want. It will pull on your heartstrings in one scene with a climactic punch, then it will have you chuckling the next and it very rarely felt forced. The various subplots and how they wove into the overall narrative was emotionally gripping, and it captivated my attention. There were slight tweaks here and there that I would’ve made, but that dips into spoiler territory.
Regardless, the hindrances for me were small when immersing myself into this closing of the saga. The special-effects, production-design, wardrobes and make-up were all on par with what you come to expect from a Star Wars movie and once again this one delivers endless visual appeal. As mentioned, the sci-fi action was runner-up to the characters, and I loved that change in tone. There were still waves of fantastic action that complemented the progression well. And with that finality woven into the story it makes the action much more hard-hitting. I had high hopes, and the filmmakers pulled it off. I think there is enough fan service, detail in the story, and new directions to take inside this world to hopefully start pulling fans back together. And had it been maybe thirty-minutes longer and spent a little more time with the main characters, this could have been close to a perfect Star Wars movie for Disney.