Cinematic Releases: Redemption of the Jedi: Star Wars - The Rise of Skywalker (2019) - Reviewed

star wars

This weekend. It all ends. At long last, the Skywalker saga has come to a final spectacular conclusion worthy of its namesake. 

Ever since 1977, the episodic Star Wars franchise has been selling tickets and riling up longtime fans with new and challenging extensions of the classic trilogy. Now, over forty years later, we get closure with one last chapter in this specific corner of the galaxy far, far away. After this, no more trilogies says the head of Lucasfilm, Kathleen Kennedy. 

Well, this week finally sees the release of J.J. Abrams finale for the series with what is a challenging balancing act and the best of this third branch of what was initially the Lucas creation. Will fans battle over the internet over his choices or will we finally be at peace with this fictional creation that's spanned several decades? Most of us already know the answer to that. There will be battles but hopefully only small skirmishes instead of all out war. Although it won't be quite as divisive, there will be wranglings over how quickly and ferociously this plot moves forward. There is no time to come up for air. Sometimes they're cramming to get this thing done. And it shows. But Abrams love for Star Wars is glaring here. That bit feels nearly too perfect. 

Ever since the 2017 release of Rian Johnson's The Last Jedi, the fandom has been at odds with itself. Many despised the choices he made. And some of us loved the way he departed the standard tropes and attempted to refresh the Skywalker saga with a more inward look or facelift. Trying to make everyone happy is not an easy task. With Johnson's cards laid plainly on the table (he still stands by his work as he should), Mr. Abrams had an unbelievably hard task to accomplish with this ninth film. Does he build upon Johnson's work? Or does he retreat to his more action laced leanings? It's definitely the latter. 

For the most part, he stunningly succeeds. If not for the forceful pace of The Rise of Skywalker, this is the closest we've gotten to the tone and look of the original trilogy. The cinematography is exacted and at last it has more of a pleasing film look than the last two movies. Plus, the special effects and battle sequences have much more weight to them. It's obvious that reports of George Lucas being called in to assess were true. This definitely has the markers of his creative genius. 

For the first time ever, a Star Wars movie starts with action and never lets up. At a breakneck speed that continues throughout its 141 minute run time, Abrams asks us to rise to the occasion and know that this is ultimately ending. No questions asked, it's over. Either you're all in for the ride or you might be overwhelmed by how much they force into one movie. In all honesty, this could have probably been stretched out to two concluding films, much like The Hunger Games. There's a lot to look at, a lot to sink your teeth into, and the delightful fan service that was mostly missing from The Last Jedi. The return of many characters along with numerous cameos makes this feel like we're returning home again. Several times, my eyes welled up knowing this would be the final time seeing many characters that have inhabited my life since 1977. It feels good to get an extended farewell. 

Unlike Episode VIII, there are no more moments of reflection or demystifying the entirety of the film catalog. This is a more visceral tale that sees the return of the Emperor, the continued clash between Rey and Kylo, and a reprise for the John Williams soundtrack catalog. Bits and pieces of the scores from all the movies are interlaced and used perfectly throughout The Rise of Skywalker.  Tearing through numerous environments, planets, and cavernous realms, audiences will be thrilled by where Abrams and crew take this story. Finally, all the actors including Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac seem comfortable in their respective roles. The dynamic interplay between them is awesome here. There's actual tension weaved throughout the script that shows them as characters with real emotion and stakes this time around. 

Again, there are tons of little connections, visual cues, and dialogue that carry through from all previous entries. The overall theme of this movie truly does resemble the story arc that was introduced in 1977. The hero's journey is looked at through a more thoughtful eye this time around, with J.J. really trying to pull back the reins with some course correction from Johnson's work, that does seem blatantly heavy handed at times. This is much more a sequel to The Force Awakens than The Last Jedi. In a way, it was a mistake. But, potentially needed to sway evil back to light. This might get those warring factions of fans to enjoy themselves again!

Having been introduced to Star Wars in '77 at the ripe old age of 3, this has been a way of life for me. It's in my blood. Even though there are numerous flaws with The Rise of Skywalker that are mainly resting on the frenetic movement between scenes, J.J. Abrams vision is nearly perfect. Go into this one knowing your head is going to swell with the ambition it shows. It's front loaded with nostalgia that only amplifies our love for Star Wars. Ultimately, this last bit of the Skywalker story brings us full circle, showing us that all things in this universe have always been cyclical in the galactic struggle between Sith and Jedi. 

-Chris George