Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) Movie Review (Spoiler Free)

You know, I remember the sheer excitement the world had when the trailer for The Force Awakens was released back in the warm weather of 2015, as well as the sheer excitement in the theatre when we clapped at the end right before Luke Skywalker was handed his light-saber from Rey. It was like the whole room was in sync for how much they felt the Star Wars legacy would now be continuing and dominating for ages to come. Four years and three additional films later, we now have the big conclusion, and I have to say I haven’t felt this much joy in a Star Wars production since that first film.

When we last saw the dwindling heroes trying to somehow stay alive in the face of relentless competition ready to kill, Luke Skywalker sacrificed himself to distract the First Order long enough to have the resistance slip off their trail. But after a chase which murdered about 80 percent of what was left, only enough rebels to fit on the Millenium Falcon survived. Yes, there are those in far away galaxies never too far away with their light speed cruisers who want the First Order gone, but they’ve all lost hope. Now it has been an undisclosed amount of time since the rebellion escaped, but they’ve planted base in a healthy-looking forest and are working on recovery. Rey is training with Leia on her Force power, whether that is zen meditation or deflecting a light saber shot within a millisecond, and it seems she’s more than ready. Hey, you don’t want to be near her if you have any criticism of her fighting.

Also, after Admiral Holdo sacrificed herself in a heroic suicide, she destroyed an astronomical amount of the First Order’s fighting cruisers. She basically destroyed a different type of Death Star, and the Force now has plausible reason for hope again. One day the Force gets a strange message claiming it is from a spy within the First Order, leaking that Kylo Ren has established a deal with a leader from the uncharted and only-known-by-legend planet Exegol. This leader has thousands of ships, each one having the power of a Star Destroyer. The army would be known as The Final Order, and the resistance just can’t go up against that. Everything they stood for would be wiped out. If they kill this emperor, the war could end, but they have to do it fast and the first thing they have to do is find out where this planet is. Rey has coordinates to a hint of the location of someone Luke knew who might know. So the time for training is over. It’s time for the final adventure – and brawl!

Everyone seems to have their own special opinion of which are the best and worst modern Star Wars movies. The Force Awakens is still my favourite one, a pure crafty adrenaline rush and an ode to any and all people who are or have been Star Wars fans. Rogue One was a brutal and realistic take on war, but I felt the characters were underdeveloped, the first act slow, and the climax a bit forced at times. (I still recommended it.) The Last Jedi was the first Star Wars chapter since the prequels that had fans completely polarized, but I still thought the movie was a work of art and never predictable. Solo was a little forgettable but an enjoyable look into the galaxy’s favourite sweet-talking gambler. And The Rise of Skywalker reminded us why we first fell in love with the idea of creating a next generation for the immortal world of Star Wars. 

I should probably get something out of the air quickly. Now, as I just mentioned, I am a fan of The Last Jedi. I did not care for director Rian Johnson’s fake-out of the first (or seventh) movie’s ending, and the fact Rey was separated from the group practically the whole film was annoying, but I enjoyed how different of a story angle it took from all the other Star Wars movies, and its feeling of the protagonists having their hope slowly and painfully diminished as they were running on fumes against the First Order’s chasing ships was chilling to the point of sadness, especially when Leia says mournfully, “The spark…is out”. It had the atmosphere of legitimate war, even better than Rogue One. With this last chapter, the team is all back together, and though they get separated every once in a while, the fight scenes of all of them working side by side makes the whole thing completely enjoyable. Rey, Po, Finn and Chewbacca sneaking aboard the First Order’s main ship just makes me nostalgic of the big rescue from A New Hope. 

I was worried a little bit that Kelly Marie Tran who plays Rose would be underutilized in this movie, and I was worried especially since I liked her so much in the last film. But not only is she utilized satisfactorily, but so is a major Star Wars character who hasn’t been around for almost four decades. Having him back and as energetic as ever is what sequels of old, historically significant movies are all about. I don’t know how Adam Driver has kept it up as Kylo Ren, being one of the most hated yet layered antagonists in modern film history. All throughout these movies, half of us wants him dead and the other to have a chance at redemption. His ferocity as an antagonist shown throughout the last two chapters was one of the main things I was excited about, to see how his story would cap, and the film’s ways of playing around with what we want out of him in this chapter include some of the film’s best moments.

So what else is there to gush about? There’s a significant spaceship Rey knows she has seen before, and I couldn’t get the mystery before she could, but the answer is downright genius. I appreciated the slight backstory into Po, as well as the fact it didn’t distract. The battles, whether that means on-foot chases or lightsaber battles are as fervent, fast and martial-arts-esque as ever, except this time with a lot more long-distance camera shots to emphasize how far away the targets are that someone has to shoot down, and a scene which looks into light-speed travel a different way that was so inventive and bouncy I actually laughed. And the climax brings a strong message while still reminding us of how sometimes reality slaps us in the face and no amount of propaganda can save a pilot’s life as he or she’s engulfed.

I really badly want to give this movie an A+, and there have been a few movies I’ve moved up to that grade due to time thinking about it. For now, what holds me back are a couple things. One is there’s a fake-out character death that tore me inside, and it probably will for you too, and though I was relieved to find out that character was fine, there could’ve been more time to let us mourn and believe in the death. Delays in the revelation are always more effective. There are some very exhausting flashing lights. The revealing of the spy was a little over-dramatic and rushed, like there was a scene cut to make the movie faster. (The spy part isn’t all bad, though: It’s thought-provoking for its politics, and up until then the film was set up to have us believe an overly obvious suspect was the spy, which would’ve been eye-rolling.)

Also, the film decides on a brand new antagonist angle that was kind of forced down our throats overly early, and I sensed some disagreement in the studio about a side-story from the last two movies that was backtracked and given one of the main spotlights in the film. But the good outnumbers the bad 9 and a half to 1, like the amount of good-guy ships in the climax compared to the bad, size irrelevant. There’s something a lead character wants to say that is left out, but the ambiguity of what will happen is not a fault for me, because it allows the audience to decide and imagine going forward, without insulting our desires by still showing us there’s a probability in a relationship happening.

Love it or hate it, to me, The Rise of Skywalker is a Star Wars roller-coaster that packs up the series with quite the bang. The ending scene just might be the best final shot I’ve ever seen, surpassing the end of The Force Awakens. I had a shocked look on my face with the real deal of delight and desire. What an epic way to end this chapter in the saga.

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