Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

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The last installment of the Skywalker saga tries to one-up the previous films by loading it with references – kind of what Avengers End Game did – to previous installments, notably Return of the Jedi.

So what we ended up with is a film overloaded with cameos and appearances that don’t make much sense in-universe (Han Solo, am looking at you), but do in a larger context.  But because of the way TROS is trying to cram a lot of those references in one movie, film kind of feels rushed and sometimes incoherent, making it a less satisfying deal than The Last Jedi or The Force Awakens.

Film starts with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) stumbling upon a Sith wayfinder which essentially reveals that Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid, returning) survived the events in Return of the Jedi, and has ordered a hit on Rey (Daisy Ridley), currently being trained by General Leia Organa on the ways of the force (using unused footage of Carrie Fisher from TFA).

Meanwhile, Rey’s comrades Finn (John Boyega) and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) are able to retrieve information from a First Order spy that Palpatine is returning.  Rey, using some text from Luke Skywalker’s notes, discovers that they need to recover a space McGuffin that could or could not lead to more information about Palpatine.  Thing is, said McGuffin is inscribed with the Black Speech of Mordor, I mean, Sith, one of the few languages that the space polyglot C3PO is forbidden to interpret (something that Poe lampshades, bless him). 

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Here with me yet? Essentially, that was the set-up for the nth not-so-cute meet-cute between Rey and Kylo Ren whose respective impressive lineages could be the key in the crushing of the Resistance and the rise of the Army of Sauron, I mean, the First Order under the pale clammy hands of the Emperor who is not quite dead. 

Film’s frenetic pace could be headache-inducing, but Dan Mindel’s lensing captures the lush visuals of all the fictional worlds enough to stop you from reaching for that bottle of Tylenol.  For the most part, J.J. Abram’s direction – with enough of John William’s iconic score to punctuate the drama in appropriate scenes – smoothens the rough edges of an uneven script, with deft transition from set piece to set piece.

One memorable scene has Kylo Ren and Rey battling it out (with lightsabers, of course!) on top of the ruins of the second Death Star IN THE MIDDLE OF A FREAKING OCEAN! WITH GIANT WAVES! Because apparently, snowy forests are not that dramatic anymore, and that fiery set piece has already been done in a previous installment, so Abrams must have thought it wise to use another element other than fire and ice as backdrop.

But it’s really Driver’s and Ridley’s acting that carries the film, and rightly so.  Film makes sure that focus would be on the two actors, so less screen time is given to the first generation heroes who were either dead, dying, or coming back as Jedi Casper.

Film also offers something for the 80’s nerds – Billy Dee Williams coming back as Lando Calrissian on board the Millennium Falcon! Wicket! Voice!Yoda, Voice! Obi Wan! Luke’s X-Wing! – so TROS is, in the end, a win. Not the strongest film in the Star Wars franchise, but not the worst either (that would still be IMHO The Phantom Menace).

All in all, a satisfying yet flawed end to the Skywalker trilogy.

It has enough action scenes to please the younger audience, and enough Easter eggs and continuity nods for audiences weaned on 80s nostalgia.

Three out of five stars.

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