Movie Review: ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ Is An Emotional Rollercoaster

Every ‘Star Wars’ fan has a story about what connects him or her to the force. In other words, what it was that made them fall in love with ‘Star Wars’ in the first place. For me, it’s almost like I was born into it. My mother and father were actually in an opening night showing of ‘Return of the Jedi’ when she went into labor with me. That’s right, I was born the day ‘Return if the Jedi’ came out. A fact I find to be pretty cool.

The first time I watched ‘Star Wars’ was actually sitting in my fathers lap watching ‘The Empire Strikes Back’. Which is easily one of my earliest memories. I remember watching my father write an article about ‘Star Wars’ in the Dallas Morning News. It was about how disappointed he was that they were tearing down the old Northpark theater because he wouldn’t get to see Episode I on the best theater in town. And I vividly remember being a brand new soldier at Ft. Bragg and getting the very last seat in  ‘Revenge of the Sith’. Which was dead center, by the way.

When I see a new ‘Star Wars’ film, I am not just bringing the history of the films with me, but my own history as well. There is no two ways around it. Which might explain why the latest ‘Star Wars’, the final film in the 42 year saga of the Skywalker family, was such an emotional rollercoaster for me. Characters seemingly pass to the force, lose something precious, change sides, and just about every fun or stressful thing that you can think of. Honestly, if there’s any problem I have with the film (outside one fanboy wish that almost came true), it’s that I wish it had slowed down a bit to let certain moments breath. ‘Avengers: Endgame’ taught us very clearly that you can take your time closing out your characters, if you earn it.

Still, that’s a fairly small gripe for a movie that is filled to the brim with powerful, memorable, emotional, and exciting moments from beginning to end. It looks great! It sounds amazing! And the actors have come fully into these roles. This is especially the case for Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver as Rey and Kylo Ren. They do a lot of heavy lifting here, from an emotional and physical standpoint. This is because they are forced to convey an inner conflict of conscience in this film and  delicately balance the emotions they convey from this conflict. It’s not an easy task, but they both pull it off.

The rest of the cast is uniformly excellent. Carrie Fisher delivers a fitting final performance and is truly given a beautiful farewell. Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac) get a lot more screen time together this time around and Rey actually joins them on most of their journey. Which is a fun change of pace. Then there are a plethora of new characters. None of them get enough screen time to register deeply, but they all work. The real stand outs are the new droid (D-0) and a little mechanic named Babu Frik. I can imagine a whole TV series with the brilliant droids and muppet creatures in this new world.

Hopefully they will go that route, but for now it is all about what is necessary, and what is necessary is to close out a saga that is 42 years old. This means filling in plot holes, connecting the new to the old, and making it officially over. And for J. J. Abrams, this clearly means righting all the supposed wrongs of ‘The Last Jedi’ (my favorite of the trilogy). In fairness, he does clearly continue a number of plot threads that Rian Johnson started in that film and is generally respectful of what came before.

Yet, it’s impossible not to notice that he is clearly ignoring very ballsy decisions that Johnson made in order to service whiny fanboys. Now, some of the reason for this is because he had the opportunity to finish narrative threads he started in ‘The Force Awakens’ and that is completely understandable. Other things are being done in order to appease a certain audience that doesn’t necessarily deserve to be pandered to. However, I must make it clear, if I had not read all the comments from fans and filmmakers, I would not have any issue with the way the plot concludes and likely would not care about this pandering. In other words, Abrams does a fine job of integrating all this fan service into the story.

So, in the end, what we get is a story that flows quickly from one scene to the next. It’s consistently fun, and has a very epic conclusion. You will get all the answers you were looking for. And this film does wrap the whole thing up for the Skywalker family. In fact, I would argue that the final scene in this film is about as good as it could have been. Some may disagree, but the number one thing this film needed to do was end it all in a satisfying way. Which is exactly what this movie does. It might not be as good as the last few films, but it’s a fitting ending for wonderful characters.

Nathan Ligon

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