After more than 40 years and eight chapters of Star Wars, the Skywalker-saga comes to an end with episode IX. J.J. Abrams is back to direct this final chapter, after passing the torch to Rian Johnson in 2017, who divided the fandom with his ‘The Last Jedi‘. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is an epic conclusion to the saga, which will please many fans and brings back familiar faces, to join forces in the battle against former Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), who’s back from the dead.

The surviving Resistance faces the First Order, while Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) will stop at nothing and travels all over the galaxy to find Rey (Daisy Ridley), who’s only getting stronger and becomes an undisputed threat when slowly uncovering the truth behind her parents’ deaths, conflicted between good and evil.

J.J. Abrams (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) has a very distinctive style of directing, using his trademark flare in one too many scenes, though he knows like no other how to direct mind-blowing action sequences – such as a lightsaber collision in the middle of the ocean, with enormous waves crashing into the ruins of the destroyed Death Star. Tying loose ends of the final trilogy’s previous chapters, he services established Star Wars-fans and tugs at plenty of heartstrings, since all bets are off in the final instalment. Tears are never far off, when well known characters make a final appearance, while new and beloved characters say farewell, finally embracing their destiny.

What’s truly remarkable is how much the chemistry of this new generation of characters has developed over the course of three episodes. Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac and John Boyega‘s comedic timing and bantering on screen is focused and refined to perfection. While Carrie Fisher gets top billing, her Leia Organa has the smallest amount of screen time, after her passing right before filming commenced. The use of older footage of her doesn’t go unnoticed, when there’s clearly almost no dialogue that could’ve been used, and her character just stands in the distance without ever really interacting with anyone else.

The production design is amazing. The different planets and inventiveness of new worlds are awe-inspiring, from dangerously snowy alleyways reminiscent and breathing the style of ‘The Mandalorian‘, to desert landscapes, in which a colourful tribe celebrates an age-old tradition with joyful music, and magnificent animatronics and puppets are used for realistic effect. The visual effects of Lucasfilm are (as usual) out of this world, but big set pieces that remind you of other sagas, such as ‘The Lord of the Rings‘-trilogy, do look a bit “videogame-y”, when a budget this big – $200,000,000 to be precise – can provide better graphics and even real life sets to give a more polished look to very important and grandiose scenes. John Williams‘ score brings life and emotion to everything on screen, re-mastering and re-inventing previously used themes and blending them with new and iconic tunes, specific to his sound.

With Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the Skywalker-saga reaches for the stars, concluding a historic piece of storytelling, with its own highs and lows, for future generations to explore and embrace the legendary pop culture phenomenon that is “Star Wars“.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review – ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’

Reviewed at Event Cinemas, Sydney, Dec. 21, 2019. Australian Classification: M. Running time: 142 min.

PRODUCTION: A Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures release of a Bad Robot, Lucasfilm Ltd. production. Producers: Kathleen Kennedy, J.J. Abrams, Michelle Rejwan. Executive producers: Tommy Gormley, Callum Greene, Jason D. McGatlin.  

CREW: Director: J.J. Abrams. Screenplay: Chris Terrio, J.J. Abrams. Camera (color, widescreen): Dan Mindel. Editors: Maryann Brandon, Stefan Grube. Music: John Williams.

WITH: Carrie Fisher, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Mark Hamill, Billy Dee Williams, Ian McDiarmid, Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, Anthony Daniels, Jimmy Vee, David Chapman, Brian Herring, Joonas Suotamo, Domhnall Gleason, Richard E. Grant, Lupita Nyong’o, Naomi Ackie, Kelly Marie Tran, Keri Russell.  

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