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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Dan's Review: "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" a fitting end to a great saga

Dec 18, 2019 01:18PM ● By Dan Metcalf

Daisy Ridley in Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker - © 2019 Disney.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Disney)

Rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action.

Starring Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Anthony Daniels, Naomi Ackie, Domhnall Gleeson, Richard E. Grant, Lupita Nyong'o, Keri Russell, Joonas Suotamo, Kelly Marie Tran, Ian McDiarmid, Billy Dee Williams, Dominic Monaghan, Billie Lourd, Jimmy Vee, and Greg Grunberg, Jeff Garlin.

Written by J. J. Abrams, Chris Terrio, Derek Connolly, and Colin Trevorrow.

Directed by J. J. Abrams.



Anyone who knows me also knows what a fan I am of Star Wars. The original film released in 1977 is perhaps the reason I love film so much, since it sparked my imagination when I was only 13 years old. Perhaps my fanhood clouds my objectivity for film criticism of the franchise, even though I can barely stomach the “prequels” with their plodding scripts, silly, cartoonish characters and less-than-par acting performances (mostly due to the behavior and hubris of series creator George Lucas). Even though I find fault with the quality of some films in the franchise, I remain invested in the saga, appreciating the arc of characters and the fantasy mythology of “The Force.” The final installment of the Skywalker saga comes to a close with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker this holiday season. 

Before launching into a (spoiler-free) review, it’s important to address the Bantha in the room. As you may have heard, Carrie Fisher, who portrays General Leia Organa since 1977 passed away in 2016, just a few days after wrapping principal photography for The Last Jedi. Writer/Producer/Director J.J. Abrams’ workaround is to utilize unused footage of Fisher shot during The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, by way of some special effects and cutaway dialogue. It mostly works, even though you can tell that her image is sometimes superimposed over alternate scenery. Since her character plays a lesser role in the new film, it’s a minor distraction.

Our story picks up with The Resistance trying to make contact with an unknown spy within the First Order, a remnant of the Empire under the command of Supreme Leader and Sith Lord Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Leia continues to lead the Resistance, with the help of Poe (Oscar Isaac), Finn (Joh Boyega), and Rey (Daisy Ridley), a young woman training as a Jedi. Kylo Ren has been summoned to the source of a voice from the past that resonates throughout the galaxy, urging him to seek more power from the Dark Side. Rey, Finn, Poe, C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), and Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) are sent on a mission to find a “Sith seeker” rune that will lead them to the same source that summoned Kylo. The two parties run into each other as the race toward the voice continues, which includes a major lightsaber battle between Rey and Kylo among the ruins of the Death Star that was destroyed in the final scenes of Return of the Jedi (1983). Their encounter leads to a final confrontation involving a huge new army labeled “the Final Order” and the Resistance near a mysterious Sith planet.  

That’s a pretty brief description of a movie with a 2 hour and 22-minute running time, not to mention a film with lot of moving parts and several cameo appearances from other characters in the Star Wars universe, past and present. Those peripheral characters include a spirit Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams), and a few other surprises (and one really major uncredited cameo). Without going into too much detail, it would be safe to assume that any and every character you know from the Star Wars universe, including the prequels, is fair game as the Skywalker saga comes to a close (you can find solace that Jar-Jar Binks is NOT one of them).

Being a die-hard fan of the series (while admitting that it isn’t perfect, especially when factoring in the prequel fiasco and other “Lucas-isms”), I admit that I’m not as objective as I could be in evaluating The Rise of Skywalker. That said, I freely admit that I loved the movie, as it provides plenty of action, humor, deep thought and nostalgia for anyone who fell in love with that “Galaxy Far, Far, Away” so many years ago. The movie does provide closure for the main characters, especially the original trio of Luke, Leia, and Han – while adhering to the spirit of George Lucas’ original thesis that the spiritual nature of things like love, family, nature, justice, liberty, and friendship are always more powerful than technology and evil people who wield it to gain and preserve coercive power over humanity. Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver’s performances as characters united by the influence of evil in their families’ stories is poignant and touching, making a perfect connection between the Star Wars of the past and beautiful conclusion.

Even so, there are many who will find fault with technicalities within The Rise of Skywalker, and perhaps rightfully so. If recent trends are any indication of how polarizing the new Star Wars films have become, I’m sure there are even more who will bristle that things don’t turn out the way they wanted or align with their beliefs about the Star Wars universe, nitpicking at technicalities related to what is canon and what is not, disagreement in casting or inclusion of characters they don’t like (not named Jar-Jar). To them, I say, “R-E-L-A-X,” it’s only a movie and a fun one at that.

May the Force be with you…always.

"Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" Trailer