Film reviews: is Star Wars’ The Rise of Skywalker worth the wait?

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In Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the surviving Resistance faces the First Order once more as Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega) and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac)’s journey continues. With the power and knowledge of generations behind them, the final battle commences. 

And so it’s here, the end of the saga. War-of-the-Roses-in-space is drawing to a close (probably), and the excitement and Twitter rage is palpable.

For context, I’m a Star Wars fan. I grew up watching and re-watching the original three episodes, but I don’t treat them as a religion – for me it’s more of a pick-and-mix. I repeatedly go back to my favourites, sample a few others, but try to avoid the stale foam bananas that have been manhandled by multiple snot-laced fingers (and contain irritants such as Jar Jar Binks).

The previous films in this final trilogy, The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, have joined episodes IV, V and VI in my bag of favourites, and they’re right at the top. JJ Abrams, aka Space Man 2.0, kicked off the reboot brilliantly, Rian Johnson brought a deep emotional pull to the middle (that wasn’t everyone’s bag, but it was most definitely mine), and now Abrams is back in the cockpit to steer the epic 42-years-in-the-making finale home.

Movie still from Star Wars Rise of the skywalker cast
The gang are all back together

The Rise of Skywalker picks up right where The Last Jedi left us. The gang – Rey, Finn, Poe, Chewie and Princess Leia – are all back together, along with the remnants of the Resistance, and jetting off aboard the Millennium Falcon on a galaxy-hopping treasure hunt quicker than your eyes can adjust to seeing a composite Carrie Fisher. Over on the Dark Side, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is up to something dastardly that he’s sure to feel conflicted over and General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson on excellent hammy form) is pursing his lips. So far, so familiar.

The issue is, it’s all a bit rushed and clunky for the end of a trilogy of trilogies. The first hour feels like a room of producers with conflicting ideas, time constraints and scissor sizes got together and made a collage. It all leaves you with a bit of a ‘huh?’ feeling.

The sections of the film featuring Princess Leia are both strange and sad. It’s hard to separate the storyline from the knowledge of how those scenes were created: from archival footage of her work in the previous two films before her tragic death.

But it’s not all as bad as the irate ‘Alans’ of Twitter would have you believe – we’re not dealing with Game Of Thrones season eight levels of ball-dropping – and by the time the film settles down and gets to the question- answering portion (and several very sweet droids are on the scene) the rough start is mostly forgiven.

Chewbacca and Rey in star wars rise of skywalker
Daisy Ridley carrying the series' feminist legacy as Rey

What really holds the film together – and has held the entire trilogy together – is the strange, tense and sometimes erotic (?!) connection between Rey and Kylo Ren, as well as the legacy of family; the ones we’re born into and the ones we choose for ourselves. Adam Driver is a presence to be reckoned with, switching between menacing spectre, violent petulance and tender vulnerability all in the space of a scene.

Daisy Ridley continues to be awesome as Rey. In a universe that’s so male-dominated, she is the carrier of Princess Leia’s feminist legacy and her fight scenes are spectacular. John Boyega’s Finn is once again full of charm, and he bounces off Poe (Oscar Isaac), holding the slightly wobblier sections of the film together through sheer force of personality. In fact, once again, all three leads are strong and charismatic – it’s just some of the side characters who deliver lines more woodenly than Groot. 

There’s a lot of fun to be had with this film, even if it’s not the strongest note to end on. The hype is always difficult to live up to, and although it may be suffering from The Godfather Part III syndrome, there’s a chaotic spectacle to be enjoyed – and some moments adorable enough to give Baby Yoda a run for his money.

Images: Universal

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Emily Gargan

Emily Gargan is one of Stylist’s resident film critics. She has a deep love for Pedro Almodóvar, Winona Ryder, felt-tip pens, and dogs named after food.

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