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Film Review: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) is the third and final entry in the latest trilogy of the Star Wars franchise, and wraps up the Skywalker saga. Returning to direct after The Force Awakens is J.J. Abrams, and the entire cast returns including Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver and Oscar Isaac. With the announcement of the return of Palpatine (played by Ian McDiarmid), it is up to the crew including Rey (Ridley), Finn (Boyega) and Poe (Isaac) to once again face the First Order and confront Palpatine and Kylo Ren (Driver) one last time.

Whilst I enjoyed all of the main cast here, there are two that stand out to me in this particular film. Oscar Isaac is given a lot more to do in this film as Poe and he clearly has the most distinct characterisation inside of the series. He is a lot of fun and I really enjoyed getting to explore his background in this film. However, this series has clearly been Kylo Ren’s series and Adam Driver here solidifies him as one of the best actors of the decade for me. Whilst I do not like every decision made about his character path, it is bold and Driver sells every single scene he appears in.

This film, truly for the first time since the original trilogy, captures the spirit of Star Wars and the idea of quests and friendship. Whilst some of the previous films may have been more interesting on a story level or technically stronger in terms of the filmmaking, this film had a true connection between the three main characters that go back to the original three characters in the original series. The nostalgia used in this film is done with good balance, not only linking this series into the entirety of the Skywalker saga but also creating a sensation I have missed from the franchise in a while.

The action sequences featured here may end up being some of the best I have seen from any Star Wars property. There is loads of action placed in between the 2.5-hour runtime and yet it never feels weighed down with the action. The action is also some of the best use of filmmaking here, with the cinematography, CGI work and sound editing all spot on to help fully realise the vision, particularly with the battle between Kylo Ren and Rey at the waterfall sequence.

Technically though, this is easily one of the weaker Star Wars films and that is down to the narrative that has built up from the entire series. The big problem with having several directors working on one continuous story is that it feels like Abrams has reversed some of the bold choices and characters that Rian Johnson made in The Last Jedi. This film feels very safe, and actually almost formulaic with several sequences feeling like they were just pulled out of and twisted from Avengers: Endgame earlier this year, creating a robotic Disney structure that I am starting to tire of.
There are huge problems with the editing and narrative of the film, almost feeling too packed for a film of under three hours. The beginning is extremely editing heavy, cutting from three to four separate storylines and trying to patch them all together quite unsuccessfully in my opinion. I would have either them had time to make a fourth film in the series and tell the story with more time to fully explore it and have room to breathe, or simplify it a little bit and not try to tell so many stories at once because it all felt a little too much by the end of the film.
One of the big questions going into the film is how the Carrie Fisher sequences work. The studio decided to keep her scenes in by editing content recorded from the previous films to structure the scenes around this way, and for me, it just simply doesn’t work. The CGI used on these scenes for the background looks awful, the script feels like it is forced into a hole that it doesn’t fit in and I never bought her storyline due to the lack of script that could be used. I would have either preferred they cast someone else for the final film and touch it up with CGI or not even attempt this, because it completely took me out of the movie no matter how lovely the tribute it.

Whilst there are certain storylines and plot points that I did not like in this finale, and I still believe that this trilogy should have had one director to create a cohesive story for the entire series, this is still an entertaining time at the cinema. The things I love most about Star Wars, from the themes of friendship to the incredible world-building, all are utilised and expanded on here and done very well so. This may not be the strong finale we wanted, but it certainly isn’t as bad as some of the prequels, and this is far from the worst film in the franchise.


What did you make of The Rise of Skywalker? Did you like what J.J. Abrams brought to this film, or did this end the series on a sour note? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section and let’s have a discussion.

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