Star Wars closes out its newest trilogy and the entire Skywalker saga, delivering an enjoyable adventure with loads of nostalgia.
We enter the story not long after Last Jedi left off as the Resistance rallies on a jungle planet. Rey, under Leia’s guidance, grows stronger in the Force despite lingering uncertainties about her identity. The brooding Kylo Ren returns, this time with a red-streaked helmet and the Knights of Ren in tow. He redoubles his efforts to turn Rey to the Dark Side, but their struggle is suddenly overshadowed by a new threat. Or rather, an old one—we’ve seen this villain before. Rey takes the Millenium Falcon in search of him and comes face-to-face with a Final Order that could destroy the galaxy.
The movie is a fun ride in the theater despite some disjointedness. After passing the reins to Rian Johnson for Last Jedi, director J. J. Abrams spins Star Wars back in a different direction. The previous film sent the Jedi library up in smoke, but this new installment sees characters rely heavily on the books, techniques, and weapons of the past in order to control the present. The main antagonist seems to have been devised by Abrams on very short notice.
That being said, Rise of Skywalker has significant ground to cover. Rey transforms from a fresh-faced young idealist into a more complex character who wrestles with her own dark side. Finn finds himself more attuned to the Force’s pull. And Poe’s (admittedly meagre) backstory is revealed. In the course of tying up loose ends, Star Wars provides missing narratives that we should have had a long time ago.
The movie has numerous high points. Visually, it’s stunning: Disney’s animators give us scarlet nebulae, ice planets, and plenty of yawning gulfs. Ren’s black-cloaked bodyguard is memorable. A major duel takes place waterside, showcasing the choreography among crashing waves. The acting is also strong, with Driver and Ridley brilliantly portraying the Force-fueled tension between their characters.
Rise of Skywalker has the unique burden of closing out a saga that began 43 years ago. For the most part, it does so loyally. The choice of villain and several notable cameos honor older films. John Williams’ final soundtrack for Star Wars often references earlier melodies, forming a fitting backdrop to the film’s nostalgia. Rise of Skywalker is darker than anything we’ve seen from the franchise in a while, and this lends some seriousness to it. If it’s time to close the door on the Skywalker family’s story, let it be against a foe who is worthy of them.
At its heart, the movie rings true. It’s about courage, ingenuity, and perseverance in the face of impossible odds. It’s about hope and camaraderie, themes that the original trilogy embraced. Audiences don’t come to Star Wars expecting perfectly-orchestrated models of cinema. Instead they come to laugh, and remember, and maybe see a bit of themselves in a galaxy far, far away. In the end, Rise of Skywalker offers all of those things. Should we ask for more?
Mary Caroline Whims is a junior majoring in English.