After 42 years, the “Skywalker Saga” of episodic “Star Wars” films comes to an end with the recent release of “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.” While the film has flaws, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” is a satisfying film that ends the sequel trilogy, which began in 2015 with the release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in an epic fashion.
Taking place a year after the events of “The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi,” the film sees the heroes of the Resistance prepare for one final battle against the First Order that will decide the fate of the galaxy.
The large ensemble cast is fantastic and is comprised of both original trilogy characters as well as the characters established in this new series of films. Actor Adam Driver continues to amaze as Kylo Ren, whose internal struggle between the Light Side and Dark Side of the Force makes him the most compelling character of the entire trilogy.
Rey, played by Daisy Ridley, also has evolved as a character similarly to how Mark Hamill evolved as Luke Skywalker in “Return of the Jedi.” Her abilities with the Force have grown, which leads to striking visuals. She also has some emotional instability which perfectly compliments Kylo’s struggles.
Other characters like Finn and Poe, played by John Boyega and Oscar Issac respectively, have a much larger presence in the film compared to “The Last Jedi,” where they were kept apart from Rey and Chewbacca, played by Joonas Suotamo. In this installment, they are all together, which leads to new group dynamics especially between Poe and Rey who barely spoke in the previous two films. Seeing all of these different characters interact just shows how the large universe of “Star Wars” has expanded thanks to recent films.
Several original cast members contribute to the film, and at the center of it is the late Carrie Fisher playing Princess Leia Organa. Since Fisher passed away in December 2016 after filming scenes for “The Last Jedi,” she was obviously unable to be filmed for “The Rise of Skywalker.”
While she could have been resurrected with Computer Generated Imagery like actor Peter Cushing in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” director J.J. Abrams opted to use spare footage of Fisher from both “The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi,” according to ScreenRant. This effect could have easily gone sideways and been one of the most distracting parts of the film. However, the footage blended well with the story, and Princess Leia was one of the most emotionally touching aspects of the film.
Other returning original characters include C-3PO and Lando Calrissian, played by Anthony Daniels and Billy Dee Williams respectively, and add a sense of nostalgia for the original “Star Wars” films while also contributing heavily to the plot. The original characters included aren’t cheap fan service but really make a difference in the direction the film goes.
The film has such a large cast that some characters don’t make much of an impression. One such character is Rose, played by Kelly Marie Tran, a Resistance fighter who was practically a main character of “The Last Jedi.” In “The Rise of Skywalker,” she does appear and fights for freedom, but her presence has been greatly reduced compared to her debut film, which is puzzling.
New characters have been included such as a bounty hunter named Zorii who has a past with Poe, played by Keri Russell, and an ex-Stormtrooper who joins the Resistance, played by Naomi Ackie. Most of these characters are fine, but don’t add a lot to the story.
Under Disney’s management, “Star Wars” has delivered incredible action including the Akira Kurosawa-inspired lightsaber fights of “The Last Jedi” and the jaw-dropping climax of “Rogue One.” The battles of “The Rise of Skywalker” are incredible to witness and, like “Rogue One” and “Return of the Jedi,” combine laser filled ground battles with well shot dog-fights between spaceships.
The weakest aspect of the film is the plot because of how much exposition is thrown out in the first 20 minutes. The film can get convoluted at times during its first act but if the viewer just sticks with the story, the film moves more flowingly. If a half hour was added to the runtime, parts of the film that needed more development could have been improved. Granted, that would put the runtime to about three hours, but the highest grossing film of all time, “Avengers: Endgame,” is also three hours so viewers probably wouldn’t mind.
There are some questions that the previous two films brought up that “The Rise of Skywalker” drops entirely. It could be that the filmmakers wanted fans to make their own interpretation but, at times, it feels lazy.
Throughout the film, there’s the impression that there was no cohesive vision for the trilogy before production started on “The Force Awakens” and that the screenwriters and directors were just focusing on each film. “The Force Awakens” had a good set up, “The Last Jedi” went in a strong, but different direction and “The Rise of Skywalker” has to blend the visions of two different films, which it does okay.
However, this does make it difficult for each film in this trilogy to perfectly connect. While the three films work fine as one story, there are some rough edges to watching all three back to back.
As a film, “The Rise of Skywalker” is enjoyable. As a conclusion to a nine part story, the film brings the entire saga full circle. Some may accuse the film of using fan service to a large extent but, since this film is finishing a nine film story arc, it makes sense to have some recalls to other Star Wars films. Also, there are so many original characters and creative action scenes, that callbacks to the original and even prequel trilogies feel earned.
It’s important to know that this isn’t the end of the Star Wars franchise. Between a planned trilogy helmed by “The Last Jedi” director Rian Johnson, an upcoming second season of “The Mandalorian” and more planned projects, Star Wars is going to continue for generations to come. With that said, “The Rise of Skywalker” is the end of a long running chapter and a perfectly fine ending. The Force is strong with this franchise and this film.