Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Review (Mild Spoilers)
The end of the third trilogy in the Star Wars saga is here and it had the unenviable task of juggling tying up the previous two films, concluding on its own, and still maintain a sense of continuity with the other films in the series. Does it succeed? In some respects it does, and in others, not so much. I'll explain why. The previous film, The Last Jedi, is without a doubt the most polarizing film in the series because of its handling of certain fundamental plot points from The Force Awakens. This film feels like an attempt to backtrack on how some of those plot points were handled, while trying to re-establish Rey's internal quest to discover her heritage.
What are Rey, Finn and Poe up to this film? If you've seen any of the trailers, you would know that spoilers – Emperor Palpatine – figures into the plot in some form or other. Obviously, Snoke was offed in the previous film and there needed to be a new villain, so here we are. The plot of the film is essentially Rey and the Resistance hearing news of Emperor's return and trying to find his exact location in order to thwart his menace once and for all. This involves going from one place to another to find clues to the Emperor's location at a brisk pace with almost no time to catch your breath. It doesn't feel like a two-and-a-half hour movie because every new location has visually appealing action piece to accompany it. Still, by the time we get to the final spectacle, it's almost hard to get excited because the Empire's side feels like it was doing nothing while waiting for the Resistance to show up. In fact, the threat of the Empire didn't feel as overwhelming as previous films save for one scene involving the destruction of a planet.
Rise, whether it was mandated by the studio of not, contains quite a bit of fan service. Some cameos almost seem designed to elicit maximum fan reaction. In fact, some parts of the film don't necessarily feel earned and/or feel like they came out of the blue. Also, some characters from the previous two films are almost inconsequential in this one (Rose and Maz Kanata, for example). The parts that do work, worked great. I thought they did an admiral job incorporating Leia in the story the way that they did given the circumstances, and a specific scene involving a turning point in Kylo Ren's arc worked resonated with me quite well. Once again, the standout performances are Daisy Ridley's Rey and Adam Driver's Kylo Ren, with Rey battling her darker side and Kylo struggling with his former identity as Ben Solo.
It goes without saying that The Rise of Skywalker is made for the fans. That comes at the cost of trying to win back some of the goodwill lost in the previous film by throwing tons of cameos and fan service on screen, with some working and others not. The action sequences are great but hardly the best in the series. The film is saved by the arcs of Rey and Kylo Ren and by decidedly ending in a satisfactory way. Overall, it was a fun watch given how it needed to tie up not just this trilogy, but the previous eight films.