Star Wars Star Wars Episode IX
The Rise of Skywalker

Review by Rich Cline | 4/5

The Rise of Skywalker
dir JJ Abrams
scr Chris Terrio, JJ Abrams
prd Kathleen Kennedy, JJ Abrams, Michelle Rejwan
with Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Anthony Daniels, Joonas Suotamo, Ian McDiarmid, Billy Dee Williams, Domhnall Gleeson, Richard E Grant, Naomi Ackie, Keri Russell, Lupita Nyong'o, Kelly Marie Tran
release US/UK 20.Dec.19
19/US Lucasfilm 2h21

driver fisher hamill

39th Shadows Awards
Adam Driver

See also:
episode vii: the force awakens episode viii: the last jedi

ridley, isaac, boyega with friends
After 42 years, the nine-film saga comes to its conclusion. Even if JJ Abrams has steered the final trilogy away from George Lucas' original vision, the film is both satisfying and concocted to wrap up every loose thread. Abrams carefully sets up each payoff, darting rapidly between plot points and rarely allowing more powerful beats to land. But there are some gorgeous thematic touches, and the cast finds emotional resonance.
Supreme Leader Kylo (Driver) discovers Palpatine (McDiarmid) has been resurrected using dark Sith magic and plans to exterminate the rebellion with his Final Order. His main obstacle is Jedi trainee Rey (Ridley), fighting back with General Leia (Fisher). Fellow rebels Finn and Poe (Boyega and Isaac), plus Chewie and Threepio (Suotamo and Daniels), head off to locate Palpatine's lair, leading to a variety of battles and narrow escapes at the hands of First Order leaders Hux and Pryde (Gleeson and Grant). They also get help from friends old (Williams) and new (Russell and Ackie).
The film has a surprisingly dark and violent tone that's thankfully lightened by offhanded banter, mainly between Finn and Poe. The sober atmosphere hints at some of the big revelations that are peppered throughout the script (one throwaway reveal is a refreshing touch). Abrams also has fun deploying new tech (hyperspace skipping?) and exploring previously unseen planets, including one that looks like Burning Man for squid people. Thankfully, he also continues to use tactile effects that rarely feel digital.

The twisty storyline offers several beefy moments. Driver digs especially deep in a demanding role that requires big action, storming rage and some much darker textures. And Ridley also takes a vivid internal journey. It's wonderful to see Fisher get some screen time, as well as Hamill (in strong spectral scenes) and other familiar faces and voices. Boyega and Isaac get to deepen their roles a bit, although their bromance remains understated. And while Tran is oddly sidelined, Ackie and Russell get fresh side roles.

Abrams directs action scenes to skilfully convey character and story elements. For example, Kylo isn't fighting Rey, he's goading her. Fans will enjoy continuous echoes from throughout the saga, while the script continues the deeper themes of redemption and sacrifice. It also connects with present-day audiences in how the First Order's primary strategy is to make opponents feel alone. The film may feel so carefully sculpted that it lacks a sense of spontaneity or earthy honesty. But its final scenes are beautifully played.

cert 12 themes, violence 17.Dec.19

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© 2019 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall