JJ Abrams is back at the helm for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and this final installment in the latest trilogy is an emotional and action-packed ride that will make your head spin, but not always in a good way.
There is plenty of joy to be found in this offering, much of it when Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega) are joined by Poe (Oscar Isaac) and Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) on far-flung adventures across the galaxy. It’s such a treat to see these beloved characters together at last. (Though even then, Rey is often off searching her feelings.)
Ridley and Adam Driver are once again absolutely electrifying when on screen together. The chemistry and conflict between Rey and Kylo is a sight to behold, especially when they fight so impressively and so fuelled by raw emotion.
Among this ensemble, it is Ridley who leads here, shining brightly as Rey and more than holding her own at the film’s heart. Rey is the one learning to follow her instincts and the one who has to make the decision that will affect so many around her and it’s intriguing to watch not fully knowing which way she will go.
Visually, The Rise of Skywalker is relentless in its pursuit of spectacle. Shifting between different landscapes and set pieces, the film is rich with colour and wonder. One sequence, in particular, is an energetic delight for the senses. Sadly, this largely delectable palette is ruined by large sections of the film being so reliant on strobe lighting. It’s distracting and unnecessary and takes you out of the moment.
The screenplay, co-written by Abrams and Chris Terrio, needed to bring a lot of strands together and juggle a lot of subplot. And though the screenplay certainly manages to get through a lot, it also comes off a little disjointed and lacking in focus. The tone shifts from light-hearted humour and silliness to raw emotional intensity quite a bit and it doesn’t always land well.
The result is that no clear leader is there, as Rey would say, to take their place in all this. So it’s hard to know who you’re with for this journey. It also means that characters like Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), who had been firmly established previously as someone of importance to our core team, are left with very little to do while new characters are introduced who don’t, despite the actors’ best efforts, have the time necessary to make us care about them.
The Rise of Skywalker may be a touch disjointed but there’s still a lot to love. There are many surprises and treats for audiences and moments of fan service that are sure to have fans cheering with delight. The droids continue to steal the show and there are some moments of absolute perfection to be found within. Though some plot points might be seen as being too predictable or easy, the overall feel of the film is that of a celebration of this incredible world that was built so long ago and, of course, the iconic people who made it so beloved.
The Rise of Skywalker is an exhilarating and emotional end to the saga, full of action, delight and visual splendour. It’s just a shame it couldn’t have been reached with a slightly smoother landing.
The Rise of Skywalker is on general release from the 20th of December.