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Film Review

Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker

Directed by J.J. Abrams
From: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Released: 12.20.19
Review by Julian Lytle | December 18, 2019 at 2:30 PM

Basically: The heroes of the new trilogy deal with a returning Big Bad in their fight for a new future.

Star Wars. Am I the only one who’s actually sick of Star Wars? Not the movies or stories but the conversations around the franchise. I’m tired of seeing the chatter and think pieces about every single detail of the new movie or the comparisons of Rian Johnson’s ideas vs. J.J. Abrams’. And now Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is here to bring the end of the Skywalker saga…I guess. 

/// Minor Set-up Spoiler Alert: After the events of The Last Jedi the resistance is on its last legs. Supreme ruler Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) rages across the galaxy at the rumor of the Emperor’s return. A large part of this movie is about our three heroes, Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), and Poe (Oscar Issac) trying to overcome this situation with General Leia (Carrie Fisher). ///

Photo © Lucasfilm/Lucasfilm Ltd.

The Rise of Skywalker moves fast, it doesn’t sit around with a lot of quiet moments in comparison to the more cerebral The Last Jedi. Most of the conflict this time is between Rey and her mentor Leia. It’s actually kind of surprising how much Carrie Fisher is in this film since she sadly passed away back in 2016. Seeing her appear so much in Episode IX is welcoming and helps to pass the torch better than The Force Awakens did. 

Something that I find really great is Finn actually has character progression (finally after two whole movies). He no longer repeats his arc of wanting to run away before learning why he must stand against his former oppressors. Now Finn is the heart of the group, making sure they don’t stray too far away from each other. Boyega and Issac play off each other with their usual chemistry that carried through from the previous movie. They give me good feelings of an 80s buddy cop movie we’ve never seen. It’s as if they’ve been on so many other adventures together offscreen.

Photo © Lucasfilm/Lucasfilm Ltd.

Ridley does the most here—even more than the previous movies. The film’s internal conflict is mostly with her and not shared with Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren this time. Driver brings a lot to his role, finally making Kylo Ren work, rather than still feeling like his character from Girls but with a lightsaber. He’s allowed to be way more subtle now even with all the Force Facetime calls he has with Rey. He is mostly someone physical for Rey to focus her internal conflict on—since this movie finally answers where she comes from. I think this storyline might be a division point for many fans because, honestly, The Rise of Skywalker chooses a safer route to resolve the film’s main conflicts than previous chapters. With that being said, I don’t know
if any film could wrap these storylines up in a way that everyone will completely
find fitting. 

For me, The Rise of Skywalker does well to keep the tone and similar thematic approach of the previous Lucas films (the ones you love AND the ones you hate). The Joseph Campbell-isms (the archetypal journey of heroes and villains) are laid bare. For me, the universality of Star Wars and the influences behind it never escaped my mind so Abrams’ choice to get closer to a universal space fairytale tone works. Of course, there are still cool action set pieces and lightsaber battles. More new Force powers are added to the lexicon which may rub people the wrong way but it feels no different than seeing Marvel characters change to fit new adaptations.

Photo © Lucasfilm/Lucasfilm Ltd.

Episode IX is very much about moving on from the mistakes of past generations to make a new future. You’ll meet new characters but some of the relationships may upset parts of the fanbase who have shipped characters to their hearts’ content. I might be a bit too positive but, honestly, I haven’t enjoyed many of the previous movies (besides the anthology films Rogue One and Solo). None of the characters ever hit pay dirt for me until this movie. The actors finally feel comfortable in these characters’ skins and willing to walk away from them. 

We all know there are going to be more Star Wars movies but at this point the storylines are open. Maybe I can get my Ezra movie with Ahsoka to wrap up the Rebels arc or we get something else with the new characters introduced in Episode IX. The question is: Can ‘Star Wars’ fans and the creators really accept in their hearts that the franchise is now perpetually ongoing and not about the Skywalker family? I guess we’ll see.

 In The End: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is a good tentpole movie for the holiday season and a fun Star Wars movie that ends on a high.

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