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Movie Review: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is an Exciting and Emotional Journey


STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER
Starring Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega. Oscar Isaac,
Anthony Daniels, Naomi Ackie, Domnhall Gleeson, Kellie Marie Tran, Kerri Russell, 
Richard E. Grant, Ian McDiarmid  and Billy Dee Williams
Screenplay Chris Terrio and JJ Abrahms
Directed by J.J. Abrams

Reviewed by Paul & Patrick Gibbs

 Out of Four


When we first saw a press screening of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, most of us who attended the screening fell in love with the film and considered it a masterpiece. When we ran into writer and Star Wars expert Bryan Young later that evening at another screening, we talked between us about how much we loved Rian Johnson's film."I think it's safe to say J.J. Abrams has the hardest job in the world following it", Byan remarked.  Of course it turned out that The Last Jedi became the most divisive film in the entire franchise, loved by some and hated by others. But Bryan was still right, now on multiple levels: In trying to make a conclusion to the trilogy that both satisfied those of us who loved Johnson's subversive and audacious take, and those who thought it ruined Star Wars, Abrams faced literally an impossible task. Add to that simply the weight of creating a satisfactory conclusion to 40+ years of the most beloved and influential film series of all-time - and making both prequel haters and lovers happy -and we wouldn't wish this task on David Letterman's proverbial monkey on a rock. The question is, did he pull it off? The answer: Of course not. But he probably comes as close as an anyone could have to it, and he will certainly satisfy enough of the fans to make The Rise of Skywalker a big hit.

Images Courtesy of Lucasfilm
The story begins almost a year after the events of the last film, with Luke Skywalker dead and General Leia Organa leading what is left of the resistance. Meanwhile, Rey (Daisy Ridley) is finishing her Jedi training under Leia’s tutelage, while Leia’s own son, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) seeks to take over the galaxy as the new Supreme Leader. But he’s hit a snag, as reports surface that there is someone else looking to beat him to it.

That’s about all we can say without giving any spoilers. This is by far the most plot heavy film in the trilogy, and at times it threatens to collapse under that weight. But it’s also the most action packed, and Abrams does action very well. The director is more willing to shoot action more like J.J. Abrams than like George Lucas this time, with an abundance of slick and kinetic Steadicam shots and wild stunts.  

Images Courtesy of Lucasfilm
The cast is completely invested in the proceedings, with Ridley and Driver as the standouts, and Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron stepping up and taking on the larger role that the character has been leading up to all this time, and he has even more of Han Solo's hotheaded bravado. Finn (John Boyega) gets plenty of screen time, but less character arc than in Jedi, and, as with Han Solo before him, he is now at a point of total commitment to the cause and has lost a bit of the roguish, out for himself dynamic that made the character interesting in the first place.  Still, Boyega is very good, and when he and Isaac are on screen together their chemistry makes it all work. The late Carrie Fisher’s spirit really illuminates the film, and the choice to make her a major character by using discarded footage from Force Awakens works surprisingly well.  The tender and emotional moments start to hit in the second act, and Abrams bulls-eyes most of them like he was shooting womprats in Beggar's Canyon back home, and some of the most heart wrenching moments go to Chewbacca and C-3PO, which is entirely a good thing.

Unfortunately, the new characters who are new to this episode aren't nearly as resonant or as fully realized as those in Last Jedi (we can't even pretend to try to understand where the Rose Tico and Admiral Holdo are coming from), though Richard E. Grant has a presence that is perfect for an Imperial General and Keri Russell is appealing enough to make you wish she'd been given a lot more to do. 

Images Courtesy of Lucasfilm
 There are definite criticisms to be made, but for better or worse, most of them are the same criticisms that could be made of Return of the Jedi  (trying to cram in so much that that sometimes feels rushed and truncated, straining possibly too hard to find neat "have it both ways" answers to difficult questions, etc). But it also features many of that film's strengths, like thrilling action and soaring emotions.  In the end, for us the prequels remain the only trilogy where the third film is the best of the bunch.


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