This review is spoiler-free.
It has finally happened, the Skywalker Saga is over!
Going into any new Star Wars movie, I always feel a mixture of excitement and apprehension. I love Star Wars, so much that it’s probably unhealthy. But the second that music hits and that yellow text begins to crawl I feel nothing but child-like wonder. I get suckered in every time and as I left the cinema, I was an emotional mess. If you are looking for a review that is going to feed your anti-Disney Star Wars agenda, you can close your browser right now. This isn’t the review you are looking for! The fact of the matter is, my overall experience of The Rise of Skywalker is an overwhelmingly positive one!
Usually, I sandwich the reviews, with the negatives in the middle, but as the negatives, and there are some, are very specific, it is difficult to talk about them without revealing too much. The things I didn’t enjoy all stem from character decisions and plot points that I didn’t like, some from a personal perspective and others from a logical point of view. The film falls victim to its run time, the pacing is relentless as it tries to cram two movies worth of story into one. The film should have been longer, sometimes it needed to take a moment to reflect on the consequences of the previous scene. But it didn’t, occasionally the film did not give you that time to fully absorb the moment and reflect. I also feel that some of the new characters did not get enough chance to establish themselves, again due to the break-neck speed of the movie. Newcomers Zorri Bliss (Kerri Russell) and Jannah (Naomi Ackie) could have been utilised so much more. The same goes for Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) who is, frustratingly, relegated to the background. But, with Disney+ and other media, they have plenty of opportunities to expand these characters further if they wish. A ‘boots-on-the-ground’ Resistance TV show would be perfect! Other than that, there is little else to discuss, because, on the whole, it is a very enjoyable and fitting end to the saga.
Episode 9 was supposed to be Leia’s movie, and while she is not in it as much as she was going to be, they have done a great job fitting her into the movie. At no point does it ever feel jarring or out of place. Another face from the original trilogy is Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams), who is used to great effect throughout the film. Sticking with the original characters, shout out to Anthony Daniels, who has never been so heavily involved in a live-action Star Wars movie! He was outstanding! Speaking of outstanding, let’s talk about the cast because there is not a bad performance in the entire movie! For me, the stand out was Adam Driver, whose Kylo Ren has been one of the new trilogy’s most valuable asset. This was his movie as much as Rey’s, and there is much more to discuss in the Spoiler-Review with him! As for the trio of Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn) and Oscar Isaac (Poe), this is collectively and individually their strongest outing. Poe is finally given much more screentime and Finn’s character is given more focus and direction. As for Rey, her journey in this film, while predictable, was entertaining from start to finish. Again, I didn’t enjoy every aspect of these characters from a writing perspective, but preference aside, I can see what they tried to achieve.
In terms of new characters, I have already mentioned the positive additions of Zorri and Janna, but for me, the best new character was General Pryde (Richard E. Grant). I love General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), but Pryde is a complete contrast, whose menace is felt throughout the movie! The film was also packed with some great character appearances, so keep your eyes peeled! (I literally yelled out one point).
With a solid cast and, for the most part, a solid script, it boils down to the look and feel of the movie. The film was visually stunning and just oozed that Star Wars feel, probably more so than it’s ever done in the new trilogy. This movie felt like it was taking direct from shows like Star Wars: Rebels – in the way in which it introduced new words and concepts to you. Ok, so some of these elements were not explained properly, but again there is room to pick up on these things in any follow-up media. The music and visuals complemented each other throughout and really helped to enrich the viewing experience further.
So what about the lightsaber fights? Well, The Rise of Skywalker easily features one of the best lightsaber duels we’ve ever had. Again, I can’t go into detail, but if you’ve watched any trailer, you’ll know which one I mean. This was a different type of lightsaber fight, this wasn’t about the precision of the original movies or the over-the-top flippy nature of the prequels, this was raw power. It was breathtaking to watch! As were all the action sequences to be fair! To match the fast pacing of the movie, the film is unrelenting when it comes to its action spectacles.
So, will this movie satisfy cinema-goers? On the whole, to the casual fan yes it will! While it relies heavily on fan service, there is something for everyone in this movie. Will it ‘unite the fandom’? Absolutely not, and not because of the movie, but because of the Star Wars community itself, while great at times, is also very tribal. I can easily see those who hated The Last Jedi enjoying this and vice-versa. Whether you accept it or not, there is a genuine agenda against the new trilogy of movies, so some people will never be happy regardless of the output. But for me, this movie worked and worked well. There were times when it felt like I was a kid again, sat in my room playing with my Star Wars action figures and making my own stories and adventures up. That is what this film achieves, it creates enjoyment and wonder, even if not all the time it makes a lot of sense. But that’s ok because everyone is free to experience Star Wars how they wish. Let no one else tell you how you should feel about this movie or any movie. On the fence about seeing it? I implore you to give it a chance. This movie made me laugh, cry and gasp. It entertained me, it frustrated me but most of all it gave me everything that I wanted to see.
Much like The Last Jedi, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker will divide opinion, but at its core is an incredible cast and a thoroughly entertaining movie. While the film struggles to cram everything in successfully, alongside making some questionable story choices, it is a fitting end to nine movies, spanning over 40 years of storytelling. This film has some of the highest highs, with a few lows, but it is all part of the journey and while the Skywalker saga is over, I look forward to seeing where the new movies will take us!
Let us know your SPOILER-FREE thoughts in the comments below!