4.5 out of 5
The end of an era is upon us. The Skywalker Saga comes to a close, and as everyone rushes to the theaters this weekend to see how it all goes down, I couldn’t help but feel a bit sad that a part of my life is coming to an end. It started in 1977, when I was two-years-old, and my parents went to a drive-in to see what this “Star Wars” nonsense was all about. My mom told me that they took me thinking I’d fall asleep in the car, and instead, I sat on the armrest of the bench-front seat and watched the movie from start to finish — barely moving. I still remember it all these years later. I can still see how it looked through the front windshield — even though I was only 2. Now the heroes and story I fell in love with is concluding — so forgive me if perhaps I was a bit melancholy (as well as excited) to walk into the theater to see what JJ Abrams and company had come up with.
So much has been written about the new trilogy — both good and bad (and downright mean) — and I won’t bore you with rehashing all of that here. I will only say that I’ve enjoyed the movies, and feel as though much of the criticism they’ve received is just part of the way our society is nowadays. No one ever seems satisfied, and everyone feels the need to tear things down. As I write this, The Rise of Skywalker is being ripped up online and everywhere else for doing exactly the opposite of what The Last Jedi attempted to do. For two years, JJ Abrams and Disney listened to what everyone was so mad about with that film, and attempted in this film to correct those perceived wrongs. And now — everyone is mad about that. Whatever.
The Rise of Skywalker is a good movie. Period. End of story. Many of the critics — both professional and people online — simply regurgitate what other people are saying. They don’t want to say something different from the “cool” kids. Well, they’re wrong. This movie isn’t perfect — none ever are. As George Lucas once said, “You never finish a film — you just let it go,” or something like that. Anyway, I left the theater with a few questions that I’m disappointed won’t ever be answered. I also felt bummed out that some things which seemed like they’d be bigger parts of the movie were answered with just a line or two from someone in passing (I’m looking at you Emperor Palpatine and Supreme Leader Snoke). But even with those frustrations the movie was awesome.
Let’s just go with the look and sound of the film. The new worlds, characters (old and new), soundtrack and overarching visuals are pure Star Wars. Just like he did with The Force Awakens, Abrams brings the feel of the original three movies crashing through the screen. He does a wonderful job of mixing old themes and characters with the new. You just can’t help but get goosebumps when Billy Dee Williams’ and Ian McDiarmid’s voices are first heard; and Finn and Poe are this generation’s answer to the camaraderie that Han Solo and Luke Skywalker enjoyed. Heck, even ol’ C-3PO stole a few scenes in the movie — as he has done so many times in the past.
As with all of the Star Wars movies — there are several plot lines going on all at once, and perhaps that’s where this movie misses a step or two. There is so much going on in the first 45 minutes that if I were at home — I would have grabbed the remote and played a few scenes back a few times — just to make sure I completely understood what was happening. I’m still not fully sure I get how Emperor Palpatine is back, or how the whole Snoke thing got wrapped up — but that’s okay, because you don’t really have time to consider it — otherwise you’ll miss what happens next. You just have to put those questions aside for a while, and enjoy what’s playing out in front of you. Once the film finds its rhythm though, it really soars.
The acting in the movie — not always a strong suit in the Star Wars anthology — is on point all the way through. Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver have the meatiest roles, and they put everything they’ve got into every scene. There is palpable tension between them. You can feel them tugging at each other’s loyalties, and their lightsaber battles are something to behold — audibly, visibly, and physically. The secondary characters are really good as well — as again — Finn and Poe provide some genuine laughs and a few new characters make some fun entries into the story. Then you get to the original characters: Leia, Emperor Palpatine, and Lando Calrissian — they all cause waves of nostalgia to splash over you. Even though they’re a bit older and different in appearance — the characters they first introduced us to 42 years ago still feel natural and right.
Go to the movie and watch with the same eyes you watched the first movies with. Don’t go there to be a movie critic. Go as a kid, ready to root on the Rebel Alliance and fear what the Empire and Dark Side of the Force might do if they win, and you will leave feeling like a kid. Do you know what’s going to happen? Sort of — yes. Are there a few holes in the story? I suppose so. But when the final credits appear on the screen — if you truly are a fan of Star Wars — you will feel satisfied. The film is big, fast and is a fitting end to a story from a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is now playing and is Rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action.