Review: ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ Tidily Meets Expectations

dfn_star_wars_the_rise_of_skywalker_ver4_300J.J. Abrams directs Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac, and more fan favorites in the concluding episode of an epic, nine-film series.

May the Force be with you. Or something like that.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
The film opens in theaters throughout Dallas and Fort Worth on Friday, December 20, 2019.

Bringing the Skywalker saga to a conclusion that will satisfy everyone with an interest in the Star Wars films is a fool’s errand.

Instead, writer/director J.J. Abrams and writer Chris Terrio have conjured up a wild adventure that pays honor to many segments of the series’ huge fan-base, while also allowing the filmmakers to follow their own instincts, no matter how distasteful or willfully unbelievable it might appear to other segments of the devoted fan-base.

As he has shown throughout his career, J.J. Abrams enjoys working with established properties, including Mission: Impossible and Star Trek, tweaking them to meet his own sense of wonder. To a certain extent, it’s similar to the career path followed by Steven Spielberg, who followed his own creative instincts and enjoyed tremendous popular success until his synchronicity with his audience began to diverge.

Abrams has been very active as a producer, and evidently a creative type of producer, one who is relied upon to put his own distinctive stamp upon a greater variety of television shows and movies. As a big screen filmmaker, Abrams has the relatively rare gift of guiding big-budget mainstream action-adventures that are eminently watchable and usually popular, if not always consistently logical or challenging.

And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, even though I find his films increasingly risible as the years pass, I grow older, and his narrative choices become increasingly perplexing.

He faces a task that might seem insurmountable in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, charged with tying up the loose ends he left dangling with Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), as well as those narrative threads that appeared most intriguing in Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017).

Abrams is not the same type of filmmaker as Johnson, and so the end result in Skywalker is safer and far less challenging than Johnson’s installment.

The characters that Abrams found less interesting in Last Jedi are jettisoned entirely or restricted to minimal screen time. Other are brought to the forefront, even though there are bigger fish to fry, since Skywalker is also expected to conclude all nine films in one, relatively tight package.

Running in excess of two hours, Skywalker still flies by in an agreeable manner. For the most part, conversations that stretch beyond a quick exchange of information are rare; there are just so, so many threads to tie up and action sequences to showcase!

Abrams is nothing is not an efficient filmmaker, and Skywalker manages to include (nearly) all the fan favorites that might be expected to appear, along with many other characters, voices, creatures, locations, props, and bits of business that I am positive I missed upon first viewing.

Daisy Ridley continues to stand out, a beacon of strength and determination that has only become more appealing over the three films in which she has starred. John Boyega is a bit more steady than comic this time around, but that’s fine too.

Happily, Oscar Isaac has more screen time in this installment and his agile, likable presence is definitely welcome. Adam Driver demonstrates his dramatic strength with even greater complexity. The photography, designs, costumes, and effects all look like they’re worth their weight in currency, and all the hundreds of below-the-line crew members deserve their credit.

Summing up: J.J. Abrams bookends the final Star Wars trilogy with a concluding episode that should please longtime fans.

For more information about the film, visit the official site.