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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker SPOILER-FREE Movie Review

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Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley in Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

It’s always fun to write reviews for Star Wars movies. Everyone always agrees, and it’s so much fun to be a part of this Star Wars fandom as we support each other and respect the opinions of others, and if you couldn’t guess, I’m completely kidding. It has been miserable to be a Star Wars fan for the past four years or so. I’ve never seen so many people become so hateful about something that involves space ships and laser swords. Nevertheless, here we are with the ninth movie of this saga, and I very cautiously still refer to myself as a Star Wars fan. I also want to stress that this review will be SPOILER-FREE. I would never want to ruin it for anyone who is excited about this story and these characters, so let’s talk about this movie without revealing its secrets.

Anthony Daniels, Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, and Daisy Ridley in Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is directed by J.J. Abrams and stars Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Kelly Marie Tran, and Ian McDiarmid. Rey, Poe, Finn, and the Resistance once again battle the First Order and their new supreme leader Kylo Ren.

Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley in Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

It’s supposedly the last movie of this saga, and I was really hoping to love this movie. After seeing it, I like it. I don’t love it, but I do like the movie. I think it’s full of great moments, and I have to tip my hat to J.J. Abrams because he had a monumental task with this film. I wasn’t involved in production, but I imagine Kathleen Kennedy told Abrams that she needed a movie that would bring the fans together, and I think he did his absolute best. I really liked a lot of what The Rise of Skywalker had to offer. This is probably the prettiest Star Wars movie ever made. It’s unbelievable how far we’ve come with visual effects and visual world-building, and The Rise of Skywalker is as good as it gets when it comes to using modern technology. There are some breathtakingly beautiful shots in this film, and I think Abrams does a great job to avoid overcomplicating his world design. He uses every single setting we’ve seen in the Star Wars universe, and it looks fantastic.

Anthony Daniels in Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

I also loved the action. It’s pretty much non-stop from beginning to end, and I thought Abrams did a fantastic job making the action feel visceral with real stakes and real reasons to fight. I don’t care about the general consensus regarding these characters. I love them, and I find them endlessly fascinating, so to see them with everything on the line in this film really worked for me. I thought it had the emotional and the visual payoff they called for and deserved, and I loved a lot of what this movie does for these characters in the grand scheme of their arcs. The performances are also fantastic. Obviously we have Oscar Isaac and Adam Driver who are awards-caliber actors, but we also have John Boyega, who oozes charisma, and Daisy Ridley, who has really found a way to bring emotional punches to this story. Rey’s struggle to find herself, Kylo Ren’s battle to understand his world view, Finn’s journey to find his place in the galaxy, and Poe’s fierce desire to do what he deems to be right are enthralling storylines to me, and the four actors capture the layers of those journeys. I think The Rise of Skywalker delivers a lot of worthy ends to character journeys and places perfect emotional punctuation on things we’ve been building to for more than 40 years.

Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, and Joonas Suotamo in Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

Where this movie falters is in its amount of content and in its structure. As I mentioned previously, I think Kathleen Kennedy asked J.J. Abrams for a movie that would please everyone. In turn, Abrams came back with enough movie for three movies. The Rise of Skywalker clocks in at about two hours and 20 minutes, but there’s enough content here for two movies and maybe even an entire trilogy. I mostly felt the weight of the movie in the first half, but I could feel Abrams struggling to balance everything the entire time I was watching. Between things he has to leave out, depth he isn’t able to give, and focus he doesn’t have time for, a lot of holes are left in this story, and where there aren’t holes, the film gets derailed quite easily. I would never be able to draw a straight line from beginning to end solely because it asks us to move and bend in so many different directions. It even has to throw us right into the middle of new storylines from the first three words of the crawl because of how much work it has to accomplish in one piece of this new trilogy. It leaves us moving side-to-side and up and down while also forfeiting some of the depth I wanted in a few relationships and conflicts.

Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley in Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

I also didn’t love a few of the decisions made with the characters for a multitude of reasons. I won’t go too deep into them as to avoid spoilers, but some of them either don’t line up, don’t make sense to me, feel forced for the purpose of pleasing fans, or end up as just plain dissatisfying. One character plays such an important role but feels like such an afterthought when we actually break down the character’s purpose and actions. I also don’t love a few story beats that result from decisions of characters. The Rebels and the Resistance have always required a little bit of luck to win, but it felt as though every single beat in this story relied on 1% chances and odds worse than a blackjack table at the casino planet in The Last Jedi. I’m fine with the suspension of disbelief, and our characters do face conflict, but the movie rushes itself into being unable to explain exactly how some of these situations are able to be overcome.

Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, and Daisy Ridley in Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

Overall, I enjoyed this movie. I love that it moves quickly with great Star Wars action and characters I’m genuinely interested and invested in. I even love a lot of the payoffs it offers for their arcs, and I think Abrams did a fantastic job of blending nostalgia and new ideas to give us a Star Wars movie that feels like what we love while also taking risks. The movie looks great, the visuals and sound are the gold standard for what modern technology can do, and it delivers so many great emotional payoffs. That said, this movie feels very rushed, and Abrams tried to accomplish so much more than he ever could have in the time he had. I don’t expect Star Wars to ever leave a trilogy structure, but this story needed more time. There is so much content here, and you can feel that giant content mass and volume holding this movie back from greatness. Maybe with a bit better structure and more focused, concise ideas, we could have had a great Star Wars movie destined to be the next classic, but this one is more of a good end to a trilogy I very much enjoyed. Despite my issues with the film, I’m sure sad that it’s over, and I’m going to miss these characters. I really do hope this is a trilogy we look back on with a little bit more love than it currently gets. I think it deserves it. I’m going to give Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker a 6/10.

Daisy Ridley in Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

Will you be seeing Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker? Comment down in the comment section to let me know! As always, thank you, and keep listening to 88.7 The Pulse!

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Justin Lyons

Hey, it's Justin Lyons! I am the Chief Film Critic for The Pulse. Have any questions for me? Please feel free to email me at [email protected]
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