A long time ago in a galaxy not so far away, a film by the name of Star Wars flew into theaters and became a cinematic legend. Star Wars would not only gain two sequels, but an additional trilogy as well which turned the series into a saga. In recent years, after a decade of being absent from the big screen, Star Wars would return with a brand new trilogy. The adventure began with nostalgic Episode VII, The Force Awakens, and continued with the unexpected Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. Now the story that started in 2015 comes to an end with Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker. Directed by JJ Abrams, The Rise of Skywalker is not just an ending for its respected trilogy, but it is also marked as the final chapter in The Skywalker Saga. It goes without saying that bringing a nine film saga to a conclusion would be a difficult venture in its own right; so needless to say there was much riding on Episode IX. Naturally I journeyed to see this grand finale for myself and, while its execution was surprising, The Rise of Skywalker managed to be a satisfying conclusion.
Episode IX centers on the continuing conflict between the Resistance and the First Order. The war comes to a head when Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac) journey across the galaxy to stop the final order crafted by the revived Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid); all the while dodging Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) who pursues the group in order to confront Rey. In many ways the plot of Rise of Skywalker lives up to its series’ name. From beginning to end the story was an exhilarating adventure that had me at the edge of my seat. Along with the plot’s thrilling nature was its ability to expand the lore of Star Wars in a way that did not deteriorate from the story at hand. The force was indeed strong with this story, but it was not without its issues. While the plot was exuberant, its quick pace prevented certain details from flourishing and made abrupt transitions between plot points. However, despite the plot’s sense of adventure and its quick structure, the strongest element behind this tale was its connection with its sibling films. While being a good story in its own right, the plot of Episode IX brought the elements of the sequel trilogy full circle and its emphasis of a greater story was well crafted in a way that even exceeded its predecessors. Needless to say, this story was a solid conclusion for its respected trilogy and managed to be a stellar finale for the saga by keeping true to the series’ most cherished concepts.
In The Force Awakens, moviegoers were introduced to the likes of Rey, Finn, Poe and Kylo Ren; and each of these characters have come a long way since their debuts. In the case of Episode IX, each characters’ development felt suited by rounding each of them out in an adequate fashion. While Rey, Finn and Poe were solid individuals what I found most impressive with this trio was their chemistry together as they come off as three companions who have known each other for years. Kylo Ren, on the other hand, did not have much development as his character has been fairly cemented at this point. However the areas where Kylo did progress was satisfactory and gave this fallen jedi a commendable arc. When it came to supporting characters the cast had no shortage of standout players. While new additions such as Zorii Bliss (Keri Russell) and Jannah (Naomi Ackie) had limited screen time, they certainly made each moment count-particularly Zorii.. Even the likes of Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) and Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong’o) managed to shine despite having minor roles in the story. Along with these characters were familiar faces such as Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) who were all just enjoyable as they were in the past. As for the Emperor, while he was not as atmospheric as I would have hoped, his vileness remained showing why Darth Sidious is the iconic villain that he is known to be. Along with Luke (Mark Hamill), Leia (Carrie Fisher) and a few surprises, the cast of Episode IX was as formidable and carried the mantle of Star Wars with as much admiration as the ensembles that came before it.
To no surprise the spectacle of Star Wars was in full effect in The Rise of Skywalker. The film’s visuals were on point and the design of both the sets and creatures was effective in its simplicity. The effects, and the cinematography as well, were a major factor for the likes of the action-which this movie had no shortage of. From chase sequences to space battles, the action was plentiful in quantity and creative in quality. One moment in particular was a lightsaber duel between Rey and Kylo Ren. Along with stellar choreography, the execution of this duel was stylish and brought something new to the series. Last and certainly not least was the music by John Williams which was a culmination of sorts for the series. While this factor made it difficult for new compositions to stand out, the soundtrack remained effective by keeping true to the adventurous melodies of Star Wars.
Like the chapters before it, The Rise of Skywalker is an adventure through and through. While it did have issues within its execution, the movie more than up for its shortcomings with exciting journey, good characters and fantastic spectacle. As finales go, Episode IX did not go as expected; although there were several ways to conclude this saga and all of them would have worked. That being said, the film lived up to many aspects that have made the series so memorable; and this was more than enough to bring the Skywalker Saga to a fitting end and cement Star Wars as one of the greatest film series of all time.