Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – epic and emotional

Director J.J. Abrams delivers an epic, emotional and thrilling end to a memorable cinematic space saga with STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER.

It’s taken 42 years to reach the end of George Lucas’s cinematic space saga but virtuoso director J.J. Abrams has delivered a memorable finale with STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER. What a journey! I’m still in shock as this story has taken up most of my life, having seen STAR WARS (renamed Episode IV / A New Hope on its 1981 re-release) on its original UK cinema release way back in January 1978. It has been truly one of the most winning and exciting pieces of fantasy storytelling that people from any generation can enjoy set in “a galaxy, far, far away”.

Chewbacca, BB-8, D-0, C-3P0, Rey, Poe and Finn in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Chewbacca, BB-8, D-0, C-3P0, Rey, Poe and Finn get ready to fight to the end

And now we’ve reached its end. Or the end of this particular Skywalker saga, as Disney is already planning a new tranche of stories from this expanded universe, which has so far included Rogue One and Solo on the big screen and The Mandalorian on tv. Although Lucas is no longer at the helm of the final three films in the nine movie series, his worlds, characters and spirit have been brilliantly realised by Abrams with Episode VII – The Force Awakens and Rian Johnson with Episode VIII – The Last Jedi. Now it’s Abrams once again (after the departure of original director Colin Trevorrow) who directs this finale, Episode IX – THE RISE OF SKYWALKER, collaborating with the Oscar-winning writer Chris Terrio on the script.

In the run-up to the movie’s release and ever since the release of the dynamite teaser, speculation has been rife as to what this episode would give us. Will it deliver an epic, emotional and thrilling finale? Will we find out who Rey’s parents are? Can the conflicted Kylo Ren be turned from the dark side and emerge once again as Ben Solo? And how will the film deal with the loss of the iconic Carrie Fisher, as Leia was originally planned to have a leading role in Episode IX – just as Han Solo had done in VII and Luke Skywalker in VIII?

Well… yes, yes, can’t say and very well in that order. But just as I hadn’t divulged any spoilers in my previous reviews for The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, I won’t be doing anything differently this time. I will say that I absolutely loved STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER, it’s a terrific movie and cannot wait to see it again. I think, even on one viewing, it may be my favourite film of the recent trilogy. What I can also say is…

Rey and Kylo Ren prepare for their final confrontation in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Rey and Kylo Ren prepare for their final confrontation

We see the return of the lovable rogue Lando Calrissian (played to a tee by Billy Dee Williams) and the supremely malevolent Emperor Palpatine (a matchless Ian McDiarmid). We also get a host of new characters, from a person from Poe’s past called Zorii Bliss (Abrams alumni Keri Russell) to a deeply shadowy Imperial General (Richard E. Grant); from a brave warrior called Jannah (newcomer Naomi Ackie) to adorable new droid D-0 and ditto an alien called Babu Frick.

What I was most looking forward to in this final film was the development (and potential resolution) of the relationship between Rey and Kylo Ren. In this regard, Abrams and Terrio hit a blinder and the performances of Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver are simply magnificent. I thought one of the strongest elements in The Last Jedi were the scenes that had them telepathically (or “force”) connected and this is continued here as they make uncomfortable and also empowering discoveries about their pasts which then determine their respective futures. Ridley delivers her most spirited portrayal of this trilogy’s terrific heroine here and she is captivating whenever she’s on-screen. As for Driver, anyone who reads this blog should know he’s one of my favourite actors and his performance here is at turns powerful, ruthless and tender. Their extraordinary lightsabre battle on a part of the ruined Death Star from Return of the Jedi (!) in the middle of a raging sea, which I’ve used as this post’s featured image, is phenomenal and worth the price of admission alone. A-mazing.

I can’t sign off this post without mentioning Fisher of course, whose handful of scenes are all moving and even poetic in their simplicity. Oscar Isaac gets an even bigger role in the story and his interactions with Keri Russell are ace, and John Boyega plays off Kelly Marie Tran’s returning plucky Rose Tico and the connection he feels with Jannah very nicely indeed. Finally, it’s bravo for Abrams for providing us with an action-packed and intensely moving climax to a saga that I’ll never forget. Now, off you go and see it.