Since the Battle of Crait, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) has sought to increase his control over the galaxy. All the while Rey (Daisy Ridley) has continued her Jedi training and the Resistance have struggled to maintain a foothold. But when a new threat emerges, the rebels are faced with a race against time to save the galaxy from the Sith and a new Galactic Empire.
JJ Abrams' conclusion to one of the biggest movie franchises in history certainly tries to live up to the word "epic". There is a lot going on here - enough for two movies in fact - and because of that it's all a bit rushed. The movie's pace steams along at something akin to light speed. Rarely letting up - even for the much needed exposition - The Rise of Skywalker jumps from one intense moment to the next. As feared, it is a little JJ does Return of the Jedi. Beyond that, he and writer Chris Terrio have just tried to do too much with one movie. This includes providing a conclusion to all nine movies, and some retconning of what occurred in The Last Jedi. Everything about it feels messy, and you come away with the realisation that for better or worse, the previous trilogies benefitted from George Lucas' singular vision.
By returning JJ Abrams to the helm, there was inevitably going to be some attempt to fix/alter what Rian Johnson did in order to return the trilogy to what Abrams originally intended. Unfortunately, it leaves the sequel trilogy looking like it was patched together, rather than the almost seamless, flowing narrative it should be. Something the return of Palpatine doesn't help. Certain revelations surrounding the long thought dead Sith Lord come across as a bit of a cheap fix. A weak attempt to tie everything together. They also lead to - of all things - a tribute/parody/rip-off of...Alien: Resurrection! I bet you never thought you'd see that in a Star Wars movie!
And the problems don't end there. Kelly Marie Tran's 'Rose Tico' is criminally underserved. After being one of the most interesting new characters in The Last Jedi, she is reduced to little more than a cameo here. The excuse they gave in reaction to the out cry, how Tran's scenes were all with the late Carrie Fisher and weren't up to scratch, that felt a little weak too. Like they came up with it after the fact. Then there's the title, it's a great title, a little ambiguous but that creates intrigue. However, upon watching the movie you realise it doesn't really apply to the story. After months of speculation as to the meaning of the title, it isn't explained until the final scene - which also happens to be one of the worst scenes in the movie. For one thing, nothing that occurs in those final moments really makes any sense, and it's as if they had this great title, but couldn't make it quite fit the story.
That said, there are a lot of good things about The Rise of Skywalker. There's a lot of exciting action set-pieces, and as you'd expect the visuals are stunning. All of the performances are fantastic, with some interesting new characters like Jannah (Naomi Ackie), Zori Bliss (Keri Russell) and Babu Frik (Shirley Henderson). Not to mention the returning characters; it's great to see Billy Dee Williams back as Lando Calrissian, and C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) gets a decent role for the first time in the sequel trilogy. The lead trio (Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac) finally get to go on a mission together, which leads to a lot of banter and some action-packed hijinks. And the arc shared by Rey and Kylo Ren takes some interesting turns, although a new twist involving their connection through the force felt a little convenient - not to mention ridiculous. But most important of all, it is a loving tribute to the late, great Carrie Fisher.
The Rise of Skywalker may have some fun moments and a lot of action, but the writers have definitely tried to do too much with one movie. This leaves the final chapter in the Skywalker saga feeling more than a little rushed. It may be the end of this epic saga, but it's not the end we deserved.
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