Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker (Cert 12A)

US (2019) Dir. J.J. Abrams

Well, all good things must come to an end. What began as an ambitious idea from an upstart film director to pay homage to the cliffhanger serials of his youth that nobody believed in became a global phenomenon that changed cinema forever. 42 years later, it is time to bring the Star Wars saga to a close.

Set a year after the events of The Last Jedi Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) has acquired a Sith Wayfinder to locate the mysterious Supreme Emperor, tracking him down to the remote planet of Exogol and discovering – SPOILER ALERT – it is in fact a badly ravaged and impaired Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid). With a fleet of star destroyers ready to create a new galactic Empire called the Final Order, Palpatine encourages Kylo to bring Rey (Daisy Ridley) to him.

Rey is continuing her Jedi training under General Leia (Carrie Fisher) as the Resistance base when word arrives that Palpatine has resurfaced and to find him, they too need a Sith Wayfinder. Along with Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), Finn (John Boyega), C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and BB-8, Rey follows a series of leads from the Jedi texts of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to obtain a Sith Wayfinder, but Kylo is never far behind.

Obviously, the plot is more involved than that with 131 minutes to fill but that is the launching pad for what is purported to be the final instalment of the linear storyline which began with A New Hope in 1977. The previous films in this third trilogy, The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi continued the story by blending the old with the new, using the established characters from the original trilogy to bridge the gap in introducing the new cast.

In Rey, we don’t just have Luke Skywalker version 2 but someone who is an enigma of her own and all is finally revealed here, filling in the blanks from the two previous films with some unexpected results. Despite parallels in their stories, and that of Kylo Ren and Darth Vader, the twists in the details are enough to make them succeed and remain compelling on their own merits.

Because this is the last film in the trilogy, the story has a valedictorian feel to it from the start, delineated by the re-emergence of Palpatine to close the circle he opened as seen in the prequels. Kylo Ren’s lust for power may not have totally ebbed by this point, he is still a remorseless egomaniac, but he wants Rey by his side as he achieves this – but is it because he sees her as more of a threat than a powerful ally?

Poe, Finn, and the others are still fighting for freedom from the First Order tyranny, and it is established they are now working as a solid unit, albeit with the odd personality clash, echoing the Han-Leia-Luke dynamic from before. Most interesting is how they hint at a possible romantic frisson between Poe, Finn, and Rey but never concede to following through on them, eschewing at least one tired trope.

On that front it is disappointing that Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), is barely featured after playing a big part in The Last Jedi and especially as she seemed to be sweet on Finn. I don’t know if this was in response to Tran being bullied of social media during the idiotic fan backlash towards TLJ, but Rose is reduced to a background character, on screen for maybe five minutes in total, a shame as the character had some much potential.

Elsewhere, Kylo has a new commanding officer in Allegiant General Pryde (Richard E. Grant), out-ranking General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) and is even nastier. Other new faces include two kick-ass women who could have been a decent additions to the team had they been introduced earlier, Zorri Bliss (Keri Russell), an ex-criminal fried of Poe’s, and Jannah (Naomi Ackie), another former stormtrooper with a conscience.

Due to the search for the Sith Wayfinder, the early part of the story follows a quest type structure, taking our heroes to various planets as they follows leads and seek resolutions to problems. whilst Kylo is able to track Rey down at every turn, another face from the past shows up to lend a hand, bolstering one of the central messages of the film, that there is help everywhere and never give up hope.

This does bring up one anomaly that is never explained, and that is how the telepathic connection between Rey and Kylo also means they can have a tangible “virtual reality” light sabre duel despite being worlds apart one minute only for it to become an illusion the next. I know the answer is “because the Force” but this was one stretch I couldn’t quite parse.

Action scenes comes thick and fast, be it with laser blasters, lightsabres, or in space as a woefully outnumbered rebel fleet tries to take on an entire armada of Star Destroyers, but not at the cost of any emotional investment, with some cruel teasing of the deaths to the cast only to swerve us later, and be warned, there are a LOT of swerves in this film too.

One death however, was inevitable as Carrie Fisher passed away before filming began, but she is featured via unused footage from TLJ with permission from her daughter Billie Lourd (who also has a small role) and brother Todd Fisher. There are a few moments where the edits are little abrupt and clunky but under the circumstances, it is not worth complaining about.

It seems a lot of people are determined to be unsatisfied with The Last Skywalker mainly after the TLJ furore but I say stuff ‘em! This is as bombastic, emotional, and rip-roaring a way to end the Star Wars saga as we’re going to get. Ignore the haters, this is a blast from start to finish.

May the Force be with you always.

 

Rating – **** ½

Man In Black

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