Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Review: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Release date: December 20, 2019
Running time: 141 minutes
Starring: Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac, John Boyega

You don't need me to tell you whether or not you should watch Star Wars Episode IX, the Rise of Skywalker.  You either already have your ticket to opening night or you are not a fan of the series and won't see it.  But, on the off chance you haven't decided already, Star Wars Episode IX is an action packed movie that should please fans of the series and might just make Star Wars fans of those that aren't.

Episode IX reunites us with the main characters of the latest story arc, including young Jedi Rey (Ridley), Sith Kylo Ren (Driver), crack pilot Poe Dameron (Isaac), and storm trooper turned Resistance hero Finn (Boyega).  As with almost every movie in this new arc, the First Order is trying to destroy the last bastions of resistance, and the resistance are trying to stay one step ahead of them and find a way to turn the tide of the war.  However, this time they have a confident, yet conflicted Jedi in Rey to help fight against the First Order and the Dark Side.  And it is good that this cast is back because they really are a great core group.  Even Driver, with his more emotional Sith character is welcome in this film as he really gets to showcase his acting.  And with this being the third movie in the story arc, these characters have grown and progress from where they were in Episode VII and VIII.  It was great seeing them start off the film much more confident and capable than we have seen in the previous two movies.    

As you would expect from a Star Wars film, the effects and style are top notch.  There is a ton of CG but it is so well done that you don't even notice it.  It really helps to transport you into the intergalactic conflict of the light side versus the dark side when you don't have to worry about being pulled out of the experience.  And the sound is equally fantastic.  It has all the effects you have come to expect from the franchise and a few new ones thrown in to keep the movie fresh.  And speaking of things you would expect, the film has tons of call backs and references to previous Star Wars films and series, which is great to see in what should be the culmination of George Lucas's original plan for the series.  And just like in the previous films, in between (and during) the action there is plenty of humor to break up the direness of the main character's predicament. 

However, Star Wars is not a perfect movie.  The movie jumps around a ton at the start while it tries to reacquaint the audience with the main story threads from the last film, which causes the first part of the movie to feel disjointed and confusing.  And after this sporatic opening, the film's pace is off and can drag at times during its over two hour duration.  And, as with many previous Star Wars films, the plot itself is a little too convenient and linear, with the characters going to exactly where they need to at that time to advance the story along its critical path.  And it is good that the main character's were so strong in this film, as some of the characters that were brought back for fan service miss their mark, both in acting and in impact.  And, probably the biggest indictment of the film, at the culmination of the story I wasn't excited to see the next phase of the movies.  I know I will see it but it feels like the story wraps everything up but doesn't leave you pumped for where the franchise will go next.  

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker finds balance in the force, advancing the story of the current arc while providing plenty of fan service for fans of the franchise.  It has the same great core group of characters, amazing effects and sound, and satisfyingly concludes this chapter in the Star Wars saga.  May the force be with you.  

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