THIS IS A SPOILER-FREE REVIEW.
Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker, is a big and messy conclusion to the sprawling Skywalker saga. It’s also undeniably fun and occasionally moving, making it a fitting ending to the story it purports to conclude.
As Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac), and others race against time to defeat the First Order once and for all, Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) hurtle towards a final confrontation that will change the galaxy forever.
Writer/director JJ Abrams returns after directing The Force Awakens. While he doesn’t outright negate or disrespect The Last Jedi, Rian Johnson’s divisive middle chapter, the movie does strain to re-contextualize certain aspects or revelations of that movie. There’s a lot of ground to cover narratively, and you can feel Abrams and co-writer Chris Terrio (Oscar winner for Argo) struggling to keep so many plates afloat.
It’s a Star Wars movie. Nitpicks and grievances come with the territory. But when The Rise of Skywalker hits its stride, it recalls some of the best that Star Wars has ever offered. Thrilling chases through lightspeed, lightsaber duels in terrifying alien environments, quirky side characters that make large impressions with little screen time, and ultimately, an enormous final showdown between good and evil.
Perhaps it was a fool’s errand to ask anyone to make a “final” Skywalker Star Wars episode, primarily because of its core fan base’s increasingly moving target of what it’s looking for. But all things considered, The Rise of Skywalker is mostly fine. There’s something for everyone, even though in its eagerness to please, it might not be what’s good for the franchise.
Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley are the highlights, anchoring this trilogy with great performances. Boyega, Isaac, and Carrie Fisher (via digitally reworked outtakes of scenes she filmed for The Force Awakens, to surprisingly seamless effect) are all solid in support. Billy Dee Williams slips right back into the role of Lando like he never stopped playing it. I won’t spoil any cameos, but one is particularly unexpected and quite moving.
John Williams’ score is his weakest, simply rehashing old themes, but it’s still good music and used very effectively in the movie. Visual effects are great, production design and costumes are excellent, cinematography is bright and colorful, and editing is arguably too brisk.