Director: J.J. Abrams
Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Keri Russell, Ian McDiarmid, Kelly Marie Tran, Domhnall Gleeson, Billy Dee Williams, Joonas Suotamo, Dominic Monaghan, Anthony Daniels and Richard E. Grant
42 years ago, in a galaxy far, far away, a film was released that changed cinema forever. No, not Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Pumping Iron documentary, but George Lucas’ Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. Eight movies later and we’ve reached the final frontier and the conclusion of this epic space story with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
J.J. Abrams is back on directing duties after Rian Johnson’s opinion dividing effort, The Last Jedi. Here, Abrams sweeps aside the avenues and ideas Johnson controversially revealed with his interpretation, to fall back on the foundations created in his own first, The Force Awakens. Because of this, rather than flow, the trilogy feels disrupted and lacks consistency with some potential storylines banished to the Great Pit of Carkoon.
It’s no spoiler to say that the Emperor (McDiarmid) is back and his First Order of minions are looking to take over the world(s). He’s recruited Kylo Ren (Driver) to hunt down the only person that can stop him, former scavenger turned Jedi, Rey (Ridley). She’s been trained up by Leia Organa (Fisher) and is struggling to come to terms with the rise of her powers. Daisy Ridley is on fine form battling her inner demons, frightened by what she’s becoming. Still telepathically linked to Kylo Ren, the two share an emotionally charged journey as secrets are revealed and decisions made leading to devastating consequences.
Elsewhere, Finn (Boyega) and Poe (Isaac) have teamed up to search for an artefact that will take them space hopping from planet to planet before doing their bit in the final battle. Along the way, some exciting new characters are introduced, particularly Keri Russell’s Zorii Bliss, a smuggler with a hint of Boba Fett about her, but she disappears as quickly as she arrives. Isaac has roguish fun channelling a young Han Solo, but Finn’s journey is rather static and underdeveloped. His intriguing relationship with Rey isn’t given any time to be explored and poses unanswered questions.
The main problem with The Rise of Skywalker is that an awful lot of it has been seen before in the previous instalments and fan service gives way to pandering. The violent seas showcased in the Endor system could be a nod towards the volcanic lava seen during Obi-Wan and Anakin’s battle in Revenge of the Sith, the pod race from The Phantom Menace is revisited and although this occasionally brings with it a comfortable sense of déjà vu, it also shows a lack of imagination. Cameos raise a smile and a warm feeling of nostalgia, but certain additions are too much and a little cringey.
As usual, the worlds visited look spectacular and John Williams once again provides a bombastic score, but there are one or two lulls which, given the urgency of the plot, shouldn’t happen.
The Rise of Skywalker does successfully manage to recapture some of the joyous frivolity found in the original trilogy, has moments of pathos and it has a satisfyingly conclusive feel to it, but it won’t please everyone. Although the Force isn’t as strong as it used to be, it just about manages to take you across the stars one last time.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is in UK cinemas now.