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  • Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker ⋆⋆⋆


Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker ⋆⋆⋆

OUT NOW! The saga ends not with a bang but with a benign pop, however, still worth the outing to catch this entertaining conclusion with a tried and tested formula. Spoiler-free review!

Image for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker ⋆⋆⋆

Photo courtesy of Disney. Catch Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker in Berlin cinemas now!


It hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing for the Star Wars saga these last few years. When Rian Johnson took over from J.J. Abrams in 2017, after the effective franchise reboot Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many were left with a bitter taste of midi-chlorians in their mouths. Indeed, Star Wars: The Last Jedi rubbed a lot of die-hard fans the wrong way, fans who were more than happy with Abram’s reverential – some might say overly slavish – approach to the saga. Many felt that Johnson took too many risks, and that his idiosyncratic left-turns – combined with the wonderful-but-too-bleak-for-some-devotees Rogue One and the nerf-herding mess that was Solo – lead Lucasfilm poohbah Kathleen Kennedy to re-hire Abrams for this “final” chapter. And now here we are…

It’s hard to write too much about Star Wars: Rise Of Skywalker without getting into spoiler territory. Suffice to say that Episode IX’s vaguest of set-ups sees Rey (Daisy Ridley) training to be a Jedi and finds Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) on an enthusiastic killing spree, determined to sith-kebab anyone who could threaten his position as newly-appointed “Supreme Leader Kylo Ren”. That’s all you’re getting plot-wise.

Two hours and 21 minutes later, the main feeling when leaving the press screening was – somewhat appropriately – one of conflict, an irresolute split between the light and the dark. Every element this episode knocks out of the intergalactic park is paired with backfiring clunkier beats and missed opportunities that counter some of the enjoyment. You end up with a saga ending not with a bang but with a benign pop. The chief niggle is that it’s hard not to see how the strings are being pulled. This episode really feels like a conscious and slightly cynical attempt to course-correct after The Last Jedi’s narrative twists. It’s on a mission to win back fans and goes about it by upping the nostalgia levels once more. Just as The Force Awakens mirrored A New Hope, The Rise Of Skywalker takes too many of its cues from The Return Of The Jedi. This play-it-safe tactic works to a point, but ultimately comes off as desperate, especially when paired with outright retcons that echo what the Bond franchise attempted with Spectre – a comparison only intensified by the borderline baffling return of Emperor Palpatine to this trilogy.

One image sums things up quite neatly: Kylo Ren kintsugi-ing the helmet he smashed to pieces in the previous episode. This serves as a not-so-subtle visual metaphor for what Abrams and his filmmaking team are doing: mending the pieces of what they assume is a fractured franchise, whilst casually flipping Johnson the bird. They’ve essentially reverted back to the dewy-eyed nostalgia and fan service that makes narrative resolutions feel far too familiar. To this nostalgia crutch can be added a lot of unearned payoffs, a lunatic amount of force healing used as narrative contrivance, more death fake-outs than you can shake an Ewok at, risk-averse bloodline explanations, and a really unnecessary screen kiss that ruins a perfectly good moment.

As stated earlier, there is plenty to admire too: it’s an epic, pacey adventure that looks fantastic and benefits from a strong cast, especially when it comes to the Oscar Isaac / John Boyega double-act. Speaking of which, mark my words: there will be statues erected to the glory of Oscar Isaac’s magnificent locks one day. Force-strong hairlines aside, if what you’re asking a Star Wars film to deliver is spectacle, The Rise Of Skywalker is a success in this respect. It’s a solidly entertaining conclusion to the nine-episode Skywalker saga that sticks to the tried-and-tested formula so as to delight as many as possible and not incur the ire of rabid fanboys. How high you rate it within the saga will depend on how forgiving you are when it comes to Hollywood’s tendency to lean back on collective nostalgia to avoid original ideas and just deliver what the audience expect. It’s satisfying in the moment, but upon reflection, can feel like your sentimentality has been exploited to saturation point.

Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker | Directed by J.J. Abrams (US, 2019), with Carrie Fisher, Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, Adam Driver. Starts Dec 18.

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