SPOILER-FREE REVIEW: “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”

I first encountered Star Wars when I was 7 years old.  I remember that magical feeling of being taken to this galaxy far, far away and first encountering the characters of Luke, Leia, Han, and Obi-Wan. Of course, I wanted all the Star Wars I could get my hands on, so I soon watched and fell in love with the prequels as well. I never thought I would see the day of episodes 7, 8, and 9, but I dreamed of them as a kid. So, when Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012 and announced the sequel trilogy, I was shocked but also so excited for this new chapter Star Wars. Now that the final film has been released in the Skywalker Saga, I am happy to say it was worth it.

First of all, I want to preface this by saying this will be a non-spoiler review. There will be an in-depth spoiler discussion coming from Kaila in the next week or two, but this is a spoiler-free review of my thoughts for people to read for opening weekend. Also, I want to point out that I am a fan of both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. I was initially quite mixed on Episode 8, but since have come to enjoy it more and more with each repeated viewing. I was curious how J.J. Abrams would take what Rian Johnson did in that film and build on it here. Many reviews have pointed out that Abrams ignored or retconned many elements from The Last Jedi in The Rise of Skywalker. In my opinion, that is completely untrue. There are important things that were set up in The Last Jedi that are not only continued in this film but taken even further and have become major pieces in the story of this trilogy.

The most noteworthy things to talk about in The Rise of Skywalker without getting into spoilers is pacing, the cinematography, and the humor. Many reviewers have pointed out that the pacing of this film is incredibly fast and often clunky, which is true. However, I had less of a problem with it than I others have. Yes, it moves quickly but it is obvious that has to move fast due to the large amount of story, characters, and set pieces that are crammed into 2 and a half hours. Honestly, I would have preferred a 3-hour finale, akin to Avengers: Endgame to give the film more room to breathe. There is also a lot to see here, including numerous locations, many of them brand new and frankly, they couldn’t look better. If there is one thing that this film does 100% right, it is the visuals. Not only are they beautiful, but the execution of the shots make you feel like you are there with the characters, which is something that I have not often felt in Star Wars. The other thing that I really worked for me in this entry was the humor. My biggest complaint about The Last Jedi wasn’t the story or treatment of the characters, but the humor that fell flat and often took me out of the film. I am happy to say that this is not the case here, and I felt that the humor was infinitely better than The Last Jedi, and better than The Force Awakens as well. I also was blown away by the performances, largely by Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, and Oscar Isaac. Not only are these the best-written characters in this new trilogy, but the performances they give in this film are their best yet. The scenes shared by Ridley and Driver, in particular, are absolute magic.

What most people will talk about with this film, however, are the story and plot beats, many of which are questionable at best. I won’t be discussing them here, but there are a couple of things that are already proving to be incredibly divisive with viewers and for good reason. Not divisive in a Last Jedi kind of way, but on the impact they have on the larger story of Skywalker itself. While speaking on the negative aspects of the film, one of the things that didn’t work for me was the footage of Carrie Fisher as Leia. I was really looking forward to seeing her in this film but, unfortunately, the footage of her that was included was quite jarring and did not fit as naturally as I hoped. Also, many fans of Rose will be disappointed that she has almost nothing to do here, which was something I was worried about at the start.

For me, though, the negative things about this film were far outweighed by the great things. I had a blast from start to finish, and I look forward to returning to it many times in the future. J.J. Abrams did an admirable job of bringing back the franchise in 2015 and he did a seemingly impossible task by bringing the Skywalker Saga to a close with this film, and he did it well.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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