Hollywood’s leading creative mind in cinematic science fiction, J.J. Abrams (‘Star Trek into Darkness’, ‘Super 8’), returns to the ‘Star Wars Sequel Trilogy’ he began in 2015 in the ‘The Force Awakens’, through directing and co-writing ‘The Rise of Skywalker’, one of this year’s biggest blockbusters. Marking the ninth and final instalment to the ‘Skywalker Saga’, ‘TROS’ continues on from the disappointing ‘The Last Jedi’, in an effort to redeem this new trilogy from its path to the dark-side and provide closure to millions of Star Wars fanatics.
Screenplay written by Abrams and Chris Terrio, the film depicts ‘The First Order’ as they continue to wage galactic war on the ‘The Resistance’ and the wider supporters of the ‘New Republic’. Following the catastrophic destruction of the ‘Hosnian System’ (home to the New Republic’s capital) from the strike of Starkiller Base (‘Episode 7’), The Resistance weakened and threatened by more loss desperately seeks to find an advantage in the war to avoid another last stand as depicted in ‘Episode 8’. Through utilising performances shot in the two previous movies, TROS wonderfully lives-on the memory of Carrie Fisher, who sadly passed away three years before this final film, by including her General Leia Organa character to remain the heart and soul of The Resistance and embodiment of ‘good’ in the galaxy.
Returning with General Organa are this trilogy’s core three heroes Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega) and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), along with series favourites Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), R2-D2, BB-8, as well as surprise additions. Likewise, Adam Driver reprises his role as the conflicted dark-side wielder Kylo Ren, supported by his evil counterparts General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) and the return of the saga’s greatest villain, Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid). Ridley, Isaac and Driver in particular showcase their talent throughout various moments in the film, creating compelling leads whom the audience can easily relate to and care for. Similar to The Last Jedi however, their performances are weighed down by two-dimensional supporting characters and a narrative that suffers from pacing issues amongst many other factors.
The Rise of Skywalker’s plot, unfortunately, is a mess that rushes to finish the trilogy. The first third of the film is reflective of this, being the strongest act in the near two-and-a-half-hour runtime. The audience is introduced to a solid direction for the narrative, that the ‘Sith’ are hid in the ‘Outer-Rim’ and that a quest involving the core three heroes, as well as ‘Chewie’, ‘Threepio’ and BB-8, is needed to find an ancient item that will lead to ridding the galaxy of this evil and possibly end the war. However, the film quickly loses this initial momentum, becoming stuck in the second act balancing spectacle with answering lore and character subjects that were set-up in the previous films. These narrative devices, left to this film by either The Last Jedi’s ignorant stance on addressing them (or accidently created by its woeful writing), dramatically impact the film, arguably for the worse.
The film’s final act then is left in an awkward state, tasked with the enormous job of wrapping the trilogy and entire Star Wars Saga together, opting for a hurried gigantic space set-piece and a classic good-versus-evil intimate confrontation. Although the second and third act struggle to cohesively answer numerous plot points, the film’s conclusion is nothing short of epic. This is in large credit to composer John Williams who beautifully recaptures the sounds of the saga in his final Star Wars score, contributing enchantment to the film through amazing sounding battles and elevating the emotionally resonant moments between characters.
Closing as the final cinematic episode in the Skywalker Saga, Star Wars: Episode 9 – The Rise of Skywalker is a film that ultimately falls under the pressures of the Sequel Trilogy. Although a gorgeous and exciting experience that delivers a tremendous volume of fan service, one cannot help but wonder what this film could have been if it maintained the simple pacing and premise of the first act.
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