Has there ever been a movie with as much weight on its cinematic shoulders as Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker? The film, directed by J.J. Abrams, has to wrap up a nine-movie saga four decades in the making, reward scores of beloved characters with a satisfying ending, and bring balance to the Force to millions of fans who are extremely tied to the world’s most respected space opera.
The problem is everyone has the same list. This means the one thing The Rise of Skywalker doesn’t have is the power to surprise. I’ll lay off on the spoilers.
A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, a new evil threatens or rather, an old evil returns from beyond the grave.
The villainous Kylo Ren, now Supreme Leader of the First Order, goes in search of this ancient threat. In hot pursuit is our favorite group of heroes: Finn, Poe, Rey, and Chewbacca, with their trusty droid buddies, fussy C3-PO, the beeping R2-D2, and ballsy ball-shaped BB-8.
Things are quickly off and running with a quest that takes our heroes to different planets, running speeder chases and searching dusty tombs for clues leading them to the saga showdown. There’s plenty of running and gunning and wacky aliens. And the awesome action takes place on cool Star Wars planets, from a world wrapped up with raging tsunamis to full-on horror mode, complete with mysterious shadows and cool lightning shots.
But there’s something off from the beginning. The new/old evil is introduced in the opening text crawl, but its arrival is just too big and too weird to be thrown out there in plain text. If instead, we’d seen this evil appear and then seen the horrified reaction of the characters, it would have had more impact. As is, the sense of realization is not that great, as the film has fast-forwarded past the important bit.
On the surface, it’s all there: the showdowns, the space battles, the original characters making an awesome final presence. Stuff happens that’s agreeable or disagreeable spectacular and agreeable or disagreeable kind of cool. Yet it’s empty. It’s perhaps fitting that the film leads to the empty, echoing shell of the Death Star. For a movie that moves so fast, The Rise of Skywalker still manages to end the film at a good ending point.