Review: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker ends a 40 year story with a shrug

There's a disturbance in the force and it's called The Rise of Skywalker.

After over 40 rollercoaster years, it's a troubling and sad day of reckoning to have to admit that - even for me, a Star Wars Lifer - I can't see past the flaws to love this final chapter in the Skywalker saga. 

Am I finally suffering from a galaxy far, far away fatigue, when I thought that day would never ever come?

Or is it that JJ Abrams was asked to make a movie to service the fans' every desire, rather than making the movie he wanted to see himself?

The toxic, very vocal underbelly of the Star Wars fandom shrieking like outraged little girls at Rian Johnson and The Last Jedi really did make me giggle. But it's that very shrieking and the fact Lucasfilm listened that I blame for this Rise of Skywalker.

Step by step, box tick by box tick, button-push by button-push, Abrams tried so very very diligently to course-correct all the things those noxious Porg-hating neanderthals cried foul over; and what a total bummer that is.

With this first viewing under my belt, my expectations are dialled down a little and I've had some time to unpack and begin to process the multitudinous plot reconfigurations and exposition. I suspect this finale will warm my heart a little more on repeat viewings and I know there will be plenty of those.

But my first and overriding feeling as I sat watching the final credits roll can only be described as a shrug. A SHRUG.

While I know thus far, disappointment seeps from my every sentence, I do promise you there are plenty of good things to bear witness to here.

Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) are two of them. This talented pair delivers gutsy, driven performances with a gripping, intense storyline to sink your teeth into.

While Snoke's throne room light saber fight in The Last Jedi remains my favourite of this final trilogy, there are two excellent saber sessions here which I found very pleasing. 

The return of Lando (Billy Dee Williams) and seeing him behind the wheel of the Falcon again with Chewie at his side was a moment I loved. Meatier screen time for R2 and C-3P0 was also definitely a highlight.

Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac) sparring had a natural and engaging energy to it and I thoroughly enjoyed them.

There are other nourishing tidbits to savour, but of course to reveal them would spoil the fun, and the last thing I want to do is dial back your fun factor.

For that very same reason I won't dive into this incredibly convoluted plot in any detail, but know that key to everything is the heartbeat of this entire franchise; the showdown between the dark and the light sides of the force. Here that means a face-off between the First Order's Supreme Leader Kylo Ren and Rey. The resistance was decimated by the end of The Last Jedi, General Organa (Carrie Fisher) still leads them, against the odds, in their last ditch mission to restore peace to the galaxy. 

Kate Rodger's Newshub Film3 review of Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker.
Kylo Ren and Rey face off in The Rise of Skywalker. Photo credit: Lucasfilm

It's the first half of the film which suffers the most from the breakneck speed of the overstuffed narrative, the many strands unravelling too quickly to fully connect with some big ticket reveals and moments.

The second half is far more cohesive and for many fans the emotional pay-off delivered will be just what they needed.

Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker had a big job. For a goodly portion of the Star Wars fans that job has been done, they will be satisfied.

Like so many, my love for this franchise will remain undiminished, even if this Skywalker finale wasn't the film I'd been looking for.

Three-and-a-half stars.

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