Long, long ago, in a galaxy far away…
Star Wars (I’m always going to call it that, not A New Hope) came out when I was 8 years old. I saw it something like 21 times in the theater that summer. I was hooked, and have been ever since. I have a bookcase (not shelf, case) that’s well past full of Star Wars novels. I’ve played the role playing games, had just about all the original run of action figures, and enjoyed the Galaxies online game until they killed it with the big revision later. So, I’m a fan. That’s part one of my disclaimer about this review, part two being I’ve never been happy with Disney erasing the Expanded Universe, and so far, I haven’t seen anything from the new canon I consider to be an improvement. Not that the new stuff is bad, just that it’s not better. I will do my best to avoid spoilers, but there will probably be a few.
The Rise of Skywalker ties up the most recent trilogy of movies notionally closing the stories of Rey, Finn, and Poe, the new trilogy of heroes. The First Order, the sequel to the Empire, is a major threat to the fragile New Republic. Our desperate band of heroes, led by General Leia Organa, has to find a way to stop them, especially when a new threat emerges: a broadcast from the Emperor, apparently back from the dead.
As seems to be the case with most stories of late, this kicks off a scavenger hunt, a planet-hopping “Find the thing to let us do the thing” that features a lot of danger, action, and finally some background on Poe Dameron. A major new military threat comes out of nowhere to aid the First Order, so our heroes split up to handle the physical and more mystic threats. Kylo Ren is still running around being a Vader acolyte, and he makes some surprising decisions.
Carrie Fisher died some time ago, a great loss for everyone. JJ Abrams does a great job of using archived footage and some CGI to make Leia a part of this story. She made a great leader, and we finally got some on-screen acknowledgement of her Jedi training. I was very happy to see that, and it was long overdue. That, too, is something the books of the Expanded Universe did better.
In true Star Wars movie flavor, there’s a desperate raid on a doomsday weapon, a lot of fighting on land, air, and in space, and the distinctive hum of lightsabers. There are losses along the way, and a final major battle that hinges more on hope than any sort of sound strategy. It certainly honors the spirit of Star Wars in general.
The “Rise of Skywalker” title makes sense by the end of the movie. All the talk about it being “the end of the Skywalker saga” does not, at least not in my opinion. As a Star Wars movie, and even the end of a trilogy, it’s a satisfying story. As a big major end of the line piece, it doesn’t quite work. Earlier this year, Endgame wrapped the Infinity Saga, linking all the Marvel movies and giving us an incredible ending to a long saga. Rise of Skywalker doesn’t manage it quite as well, and it had decades longer to get to that point.
What I liked: There was great action, and it certainly felt like a Star Wars story. I’ll always feel a thrill at the sound of a lightsaber igniting, and they use the iconic weapon well in this story. We got to see the return of some familiar faces, and the inevitable loss of some others. Some scenes were nice callbacks to the previous stories.
What I didn’t: It felt rushed in many places. Iron Man’s death in Endgame had a major impact and we had time to really feel it when it happened and later at the funeral. This movie never did that. Every emotional beat was “Ok, check that off, get the next thing in quick!” While there were some tips of the hat to what came before that worked, at times, it felt more like “Oh, we’re doing this again.” Like I said, it worked as a movie and a Star Wars story, not as a big “This it the end of a saga” piece.
I liked and enjoyed this movie. I didn’t love it, which is hard to say as a Star Wars fan. I’ll give this a solid 3.5 out of 5.