Honestly, I never thought this day would come. In 1983 there were rumours in the playground that George Lucas had nine chapters of Star Wars planned, but it seemed made up. None of us would have have predicted that a fourth Star Wars film would be released 16 years later, and none of us could possibly have foreseen that another 12 years after the disappointing prequels wrapped up, the third trilogy would kick off. It’s been more than 42 years in the making, which is essentially my whole life, but at long last Star Wars’ ninth chapter has finally arrived.
Picking up more or less where The Last Jedi left off, Rise of Skywalker immediately confirms that Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) is back and hasn’t lost one bit of his galaxy-dominating ambition. With a whole fleet of Star Destroyers at his command and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) at his side, the Emperor’s goal is to destroy the Resistance’s rebels once and for all. It’s up to Rey (Daisy Ridley), Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), and Finn (John Boyega) to lead the Resistance into battle against the Emperor and finally foil his dark plans, with the help of many old friends along the way.
By any objective measure, Rise of Skywalker is probably the weakest film of the final trilogy. Clearly spawned from a checklist of items that needed to be addressed, Rise of Skywalker is exactly the sum of its parts. Fortunately, its parts are very well-crafted and they fit together to close out the Star Wars ennealogy as well as this fanboy could have hoped. Some of J.J. Abrams’ choices are not entirely satisfying on their own, but combined, they provide some closure, some redemption, and a whole lot of Return of the Jedi flavour. The choice to borrow so liberally from RotJ, in particular, grants a satisfying symmetry to the whole affair.
An argument can be (and has been) made that Rise of Skywalker plays it too safe. No doubt that is a conscious choice by Abrams and an understandable reaction to the (unfair) hate The Last Jedi received for trying to take these films to new places. The choice to emulate the final (and weakest) movie of the original trilogy is one such safe choice, and overall, I agree that Rise of Skywalker plays it safe at every turn. But isn’t that beside the point?
Rise of Skywalker takes us to where we’ve been and in revisiting these familiar places gives us a final showdown between good and evil where the fate of the galaxy is at stake, where lightsabers and force lightning flash while a small rebel fleet takes on impossible odds, where working together for the right cause offsets a shortage in numbers, and where good always finds a way to win. That is the only way the Star Wars saga could have ended, and that’s exactly what Rise of Skywalker delivers.