Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker (2019) – Movie Review

Is the force strong with the final episode of The Skywalker Saga?

Rise of Skywalker

Specs

Title: Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker

Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Richard E. Grant

Directed by: J.J. Abrams

Written by: J.J. Abrams & Chris Terrio

Label: Disney

Release date: 19th December 2019 (UK)

Runtime: 141 mins

Rating: BBFC 12A

Synopsis

In the closing episode of The Skywalker Saga, Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac) encounter familiar faces – both friendly and hostile – in one final mission to try and prevent the First Order and Supreme Leader Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) from ruling the galaxy.

Review

And so a film series started with a risky independent film in 1977 no studio wanted to make comes to an end with a massively-budgeted, no-expense-spared blockbuster released by the largest English-language entertainment conglomerate on this planet.

Is it any good? Depends on a billion different things, and at this scale of film-making and release in the 21st-century world of digital social media, there are already a billion different opinions, so regardless of what the rest of this review says, you the reader are bound to find someone who agrees with your take, right down to your individual nuances on the topic.

For this writer, however, part of the generation whose entire lifetime of tastes and choices were hugely influenced by that very first film and everything that followed (I was 7 years old when I saw STAR WARS on UK release in the cinema), it was incredibly hard to put aside everything around the film and just relax into allowing the film to do its job on me. But I mostly managed to, and by the end had enjoyed myself a great deal.

Is it a mess? Sure. Is what is on-screen evidently affected to its detriment by behind-the-scenes palavers? Absolutely. You need not have ready a single bit of press about the film for the last year and you would still sense things that are ‘off’. Is the great John Williams actually phoning it in for once? In some places, most definitely. And yet, and yet… despite everything, when the film works, it works so very well indeed.

As someone who didn’t like the first one of this trilogy but loved the second one, this one managed to somehow salvage thrills, spills and dramatic kills out of the mess that it is. More than ever before, do not look for logic or any science in this science fantasy (a venerable literary tradition given short shrift by the blockbuster film/game generations), because that is not what is relevant, not what matters with STAR WARS; instead, enjoy the mish-mash of outside influences put through the action movie blender with dollops of faux spirituality and enough fan-service to keep most satisfied.

One of the main reasons I enjoyed THE LAST JEDI was because I saw it with my ten-year-old nephew, who grew up on a diet of REBELS and CLONE WARS. He loved it, and I saw the saga again through the eyes it is intended for. Would this entire trilogy have worked better if it had taken something more akin to Russell T. Davies’ approach to his revival of DOCTOR WHO, dropping all the baggage of the older series to make it lean and spritely for a new generation? Almost certainly; when it focuses on opening up new vistas instead of pressing nostalgia buttons, this new trilogy always works better, and nowhere is this more evident in RISE OF SKYWALKER than in the use of certain old characters, that title, and the final scene.

It says much about the film that the character and performance I liked the least in THE FORCE AWAKENS has become for me now the MVP of this trilogy, and that’s Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren, followed a close second by Daisy Ridley’s Rey. I would happily see her turn up again in some cool capacity in another story, as I would like to see Keri Rusell’s Zorii, perhaps teamed up with Poe – their banter is just so 1940s in the best way – but ultimately the first and third films don’t really know what to do with Poe and Finn, although Boyega manages to get more out of what he’s given than Isaac does; the sidelining of Rose is an absolute insult, however. But I’m starting to drill down, to nit-pick; ultimately, the real review isn’t what I think; my era of this franchise ended in 1983. The real one will be when I see it again with my nephew and I see it through his eyes; the eyes of the generation this trilogy should have been for all along.

In Conclusion

A messy, drawn-out, box-ticking, fan-servicing final chapter that, thanks to good acting, Chris Terrio’s script and some ace direction from J.J. Abrams (who shows the same flair for character moments through original action scenes he has done since the ALIAS pilot), still manages to stick the landing. Come for the loyalty to the saga; stay for the extravagant action sequences and lump-in-throat moments for the older generation; leave ready to put this to bed and move on.

Hugh K. David

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is at cinemas now!