Review: STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER Fulfills J.J. Abrams’ Vision (For Better Or Worse)

FIRST IMPRESSION

STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER brings J.J. Abrams' vision full circle, though it overstuffs the story in the process. Yet, thanks to likable characters, strong chemistry, and John Williams' score, it's still a fun watch, for the most part.
Writing/Story
Direction
Cinematography
Acting
Score
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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the final film in the nine-episode saga, is out this weekend, and it’s sure to please all fans and result in zero vitriol online (a man can dream, can’t he?).

Episode IX is directed by J.J. Abrams, and written by Abrams and Chris Terrio (based on a story by the two plus Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly). It stars Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, and many more reprising their roles from this infamous series.

Where to even start with this review? Rise of Skywalker is going to be one of the biggest movies of the year, not only bringing this trilogy to a close, but capping off an epic over 40 years in the making. It’s not the best in the franchise (we can get that out of the way right now), but it’s not without its upsides either. Unfortunately, we’re living in a Talladega Nights world of criticism right now where fans expect perfection, and if you’re not the best, somehow that makes you the worst. But if you can accept that a movie can be both flawed and enjoyable, keep reading. We’ll start with what makes this flick work.

First off, Episode IX is the best showing of Rey, Finn, and Poe, and that’s because we’re finally seeing them how we should have seen them all along: together. Three movies into this trilogy and the “new trio” are at last together for a whole adventure, and it’s such a joy seeing them interact. Ridley, Boyega, and Isaac have tremendous chemistry with one another; it’s a shame we may not get to see them play together in this world again. Rise of Skywalker is full of great little character moments, not just from the core three, but for most of the main cast, and that’s something that does allow this episode to stand out. Star Wars is built on little character moments; this one is no exception. (And a special shoutout to Poe Dameron, who – after being sidelined for two movies – finally gets a chance to shine.)

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star wars rise of skywalker review episode ix

This is an adventure movie through-and-through, and it can be pretty fun at times. The action is big and sure to put a smile on your face, especially as that magnificent John Williams’ score booms all around you. The set design is rugged and interesting, and the cinematography will suck you in. This is definitely a Star Wars more in line with The Force Awakens than The Last Jedi in terms of “popcorniness” (which makes sense when you consider Abrams’ involvement).

Which brings us to the crux of The Rise of Skywalker. This is most definitely the fulfillment of J.J. Abrams’ vision for this trilogy. Loose ends are tied up, and questions are answered (even questions that you thought were already answered, though you may not have liked the answers). In a lot of ways, this is good. Episode IX is cathartic; this story feels complete.

However.

Rise of Skywalker is overstuffed and somewhat convoluted. There is so much put into this movie in order to tie up the story and put a nice bow on it that most of the story beats don’t have ample time to breath. Honestly, if this is the route Abrams wanted to go, perhaps he should have been given the reigns to this whole trilogy so that these ideas and plot threads could have been spread out better (and that’s coming from someone who really likes The Last Jedi and still thinks it’s the best of this trilogy). Had that been the case, perhaps this conclusion would have felt more earned and more fulfilling. As it stands, it feels like Abrams just crammed two movies worth of ideas into this one.

star wars rise of skywalker review episode ix

This is a Star Wars made to satisfy fans. It’s here to give you answers and connect this trilogy closer to the original. It’s full of fan service, some of it earned, some of it forced. It isn’t particularly bold, and in a lot of ways it feels like it steps over The Last Jedi (whether you liked it or not, it’s part of this trilogy; you can’t just walk around it). At the end of the day, it’s not the worst movie in the franchise, and it’s still fun to watch.

As alluded to earlier, the Star Wars fandom is in a weird place right now. There are real problems in the world, but for some reason certain people have decided to place all the importance on movies no one’s forcing them to watch. If you like Star Wars and you’ve been enjoying the sequel trilogy, you’ll probably find stuff to enjoy in The Rise of Skywalker. If you haven’t been enjoying the sequel trilogy, this one probably won’t change your mind. And if you hate the sequel trilogy because it doesn’t live up to the standard you created in your head, and you’ve spent the last four years raging online, lashing out at strangers and driving actors off social media, maybe reevaluate your priorities and seek help.

Now can we all get back to talking about how good The Mandalorian is? I wonder what adorable hijinks Baby Yoda will get up to this week.

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Anthony Composto
Editor-in-Chief for Monkeys Fighting Robots. A lifelong fan of Spider-Man and the Mets, Anthony loves an underdog story. He earned his B.A. in English because of his love for words, and his MBA because of his need for cash. He considers comics to be The Great American Art Form, and loves horror movies, indie dramas, action/thrillers, and everything in between.

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