I have very mixed feelings following The Rise of Skywalker, the concluding chapter of not just another trilogy of Star Wars movies but also the conclusion of the Skywalker saga. Starting this trilogy, I was comforted by the familiarity presented in The Force Awakens and I felt that movie got the balance right between it’s handling of the past and the introduction of new characters, scenarios and threats. But, I’m one of those people that was ultimately disappointed by The Last Jedi. Not the kind that fanboy rages about Star Wars and my entire childhood being ruined, as there are actually a lot of things I liked about it, but I do feel it deviated too much from some of the direction introduced in the previous movie and the movies prior to that. So I went into The Rise of Skywalker not quite as excited as I’ve been previously, but still cautiously optimistic following a trailer which managed to give me goosebumps pretty much every time I saw it.
As a final chapter, The Rise of Skywalker has a lot resting on it’s shoulders. Concluding, and wrapping things up, while not completely ignoring the ideas put forth in The Last Jedi, JJ Abrams is however clearly more interested in revisiting some of his own ideas from The Force Awakens. But I felt that maybe he was relying a little too much on that familiarity aspect at times, as he tries to please everyone.
In The Rise of Skywalker, the resistance are still outnumbered by the First Order and Kylo Ren is now Supreme Leader. Meanwhile, Rey is training with Leia, becoming more confident and powerful, while Finn, Poe and Chewie are out in the Millennium Falcon gathering intel from spies. But an old threat from the past has returned, as a message goes out across the galaxy from an unknown region – Emperor Palpatine is warning of revenge, supported by a powerful fleet of ships.
To go into much more detail would involve spoilers, but lets just say that the first half of the movie involves a search to find something which is going to help them find something else, which is going to lead to the location of the emperor. The quest takes us from location to location, with the odd rescue along the way and the occasional new character popping up. Rey and Ren still have a bond which means that they can manipulate and battle each other from anywhere in the galaxy as Ren and his knights seek out Rey and her team in order to destroy them. There’s a lot going on in that first half, and it all felt a bit messy. It’s fair to say, I was very bored by this first half.
Around that half way mark though, the journey takes us to a world in the Endor system, where the remains of the second Death Star lies out at sea, among towering waves. It’s there that an epic battle between Rey and Ren takes place, which you no doubt will have seen snippets of in the trailers or marketing material. Waves crash around them and the visuals, the choreography, the score, it all came together and really kick started the second half off for me. I still can’t quite put my finger on it, but from that point on I felt a real shift (in the force?) and I began to really enjoy the rest of the movie, right up until the huge, inevitable and breathtaking final battle.
As mentioned earlier, there are certainly a lot of characters to take care of in this movie, including plenty of newcomers, all fighting for attention and screen-time. Some of the seemingly important characters introduced to us previously in this trilogy feel a bit lost at times, while we do still manage to find time for a very welcome return by Landon Calrissian. Rey and Ren are both outstanding once again and a special mention goes out to Richard E Grant, who I thought was brilliant as head of the First Order fleet, Allegiant General Pride. Scenes involving Carrie Fisher are beautifully handled, but I felt that the fan service went a little bit too far with some of the scenes involving Luke Skywalker.
The level of craftsmanship and design that goes into a Star Wars movie is always incredible and The Rise of Skywalker is no exception, elevated by a powerful John Williams score and some amazing visuals. I’m really not sure what I was expecting from this final chapter but, despite it all coming good for me in the end, I do feel slightly disappointed overall by the wildly differing halves of the movie. Still, there’s nothing quite like seeing a new Star Wars movie on the big screen at Christmas time!