Director: J.J. Abrams
Cast: Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver , Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Anthony Daniels , Naomi Ackie, Domhnall Gleeson, Richard E. Grant, Lupita Nyong’o, Keri Russell, Joonas Suotamo, Kelly Marie Tran, with Ian McDiarmid and Billy Dee William
Runtime: 2 hrs 22 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Violence)
Released By: Walt Disney
Official Website: http://www.starwars.com
Opening Day: 19 December 2019
Synopsis: Lucasfilm and director J.J. Abrams join forces once again t o take viewers on an epic journey to a galaxy far, far away with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the riveting conclusion of the seminal Skywalker saga, where new legends will be born and the final battle for freedom is yet to come.
42 years is a long time for any franchise, even with nine films, but that is what ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ represents, i.e. the culmination of the Skywalker saga in the Star Wars canon since George Lucas created one of the most defining elements in contemporary pop culture. Had it not been for the countless legions of loyal fans over the years, we would probably not be witnessing a blockbuster event like this now; and we say this because it therefore makes perfect sense that director JJ Abrams and his co-writer Chris Terrio would aim to give the fans a satisfyingly rousing finale with this episode, even to the extent of course-correcting where ‘The Last Jedi’ had gone.
Indeed, it should not be a secret that the last instalment was disliked by a good number of fans for being out of step with the spirit and form of the series, no matter the bold choices which its writer-director Rian Johnson had decided to take. It is inevitable, if you belong in that demographic, to feel vindicated by the narrative choices which Abrams has taken here; but while it may seem as if you’d have to love either movie and not both, we’d say that we’d liked ‘The Last Jedi’ for its ambition, and enjoyed this latest that, while staying in familiar territory as the earlier two trilogies, is undoubtedly a thoroughly entertaining popcorn flick.
If you’ve seen the trailers, it should come as no spoiler that Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) has returned; in fact, the signature opening crawl establishes that he has assembled a vast fleet of warships, each with his own planet-wiping cannon, to kill Rey (Daisy Ridley) and wipe out the Resistance. Palpatine recruits the leader of the First Order, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), to lead the advance, and together with General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) and Allegiant General Pryde (Richard E Grant), Kylo begins a cat-and-mouse game with the key members of the Resistance – namely, Rey, Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac), Chewie (Joonas Suotamo) and C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) – who are themselves hunting for Palpatine.
Without giving much more away, let’s just say that Kylo and Rey remain locked in a psychological battle-of-wits which, as we’ve seen in ‘The Last Jedi’, plays out both literally and figuratively. Oh yes, if there is something which Abrams has preserved from the last movie, it is how the yin-yang pair manage to not just communicate telepathically but also engage in light-sabre battles remotely. Kylo’s relentless pursuit to lure Rey over to the Dark Side is related to Rey’s own origins (whose revelation fans will be pleased with) as well as his own grand ambition, but their push-pull dynamic is easily the most emotionally compelling aspect of this movie.
It should therefore be no surprise that their duels are the highlights of the non-stop action here – in particular, that which you is teased in the trailers atop the ruins of the Death Star is probably the most thrilling set-piece; not only is the mise en scène visually breath-taking, the sheer commitment of both Ridley and Driver to their respective roles makes the stakes even more keenly felt. And while we’re on the action, we might add that Abrams keeps it going at light speed, putting his characters through one breathless chase after another.
That it doesn’t feel exhausting throughout the two-and-a-quarter hours is credit to Abrams, who stages the action with thrilling aplomb, be it ‘light-skipping’ from planet to planet, or evading Storm Troopers with jet packs in the desert, or even launching a ground offensive atop a Dreadnaught. It does however require more than one MacGuffin to say the very least, especially in the first hour when the object of interest is a certain glass tetrahedron, but the pacing moves at such a brisk clip that you’d quite surely be caught up in the momentum.
In between the scramble are plenty of fan-service moments, including the (brief) re-appearances of Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and General Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams). General Leia Organo (Carrie Fisher) also plays a more significant role here than we’d had expected, and given how her appearance is possible due to both technology and recycling unused footage from the previous two movies, is no less than ingenious. Even if some of the other tributes aren’t as elegant, you’d still feel sentimental seeing the entire legion of memorable ‘Star Wars’ characters in this concluding send-off.
To fans who disagreed with the direction which Johnson took in ‘The Last Jedi’, ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ will surely feel like a vindication. Like we’ve said, we’re prepared to embrace both, and in the case of the latter, to recognise and embrace that it is intended to be a rousing final chapter that fans can feel proud of. Despite its flaws, Abrams is nothing if not professional, and there is pure euphoric energy in this fast-paced, eventful and occasionally even surprising entry. As long as you’re prepared for this to be a familiar but nonetheless exhilarating retread, you’ll enjoy this last hurrah for everything it tries to do and ultimately gets right.
(As satisfying a send-off as fans would have wanted, 'The Rise of Skywalker' is a familiar but nonetheless exhilarating retread of the best that the 'Star Wars' franchise had stood for)
Review by Gabriel Chong