Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker 'a final hurrah made by a fan for the fans'
Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac prepare for battle in Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker. Damon Smith feels the Force is strong with this one...
AT THE age of nine, I became a willing disciple of George Lucas’s epic, sprawling and occasionally frustrating sci-fi saga. That summer, I sat expectantly between my parents in the circle of our local Odeon, a Kia-Ora fruit drink clasped in one hand and a mint Matchmaker melting slowly in the other in lieu of a lightsaber, nervously awaiting Sunday service at the church of the moving image. The title of the afternoon’s sermon: Return Of The Jedi.
Thanks to VHS, I had obsessively studied Lucas’s old testament – A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back – and still felt ripples of shell shock from the disclosure of Luke Skywalker’s parentage. Lights dimmed and a familiar opening scrawl transported me to a galaxy far, far away ... accompanied by a sonic blast of John Williams’s thrilling orchestral score. For a little over two hours, reality vanished and the pure, primal pleasure of crowd-pleasing cinema coursed through my veins.
The same electrical thrum of euphoric shared experience crackles during key scenes of the ninth and concluding chapter, The Rise Of Skywalker, which promises a fitting resolution to 42 years of fantastical beasties and breathless dog fights on board the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy.
Director JJ Abrams preached to the converted in 2015 with The Force Awakens, and here he provides generations of expectant Padawans and Sith apprentices with the nostalgia-saturated swansong they crave. It’s not always the most elegant film-making. The opening 20 minutes are extremely clunky, plot gears grinding furiously with a dewy-eyed denouement in mind.
However, when planets align, Abrams delivers rousing action sequences, including one of the series’ most visually stunning lightsaber duels, and he engineers a fitting farewell to the late Carrie Fisher using unreleased footage.
Following the death of mentor Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Rey (Daisy Ridley) finds herself on a parallel journey of self-discovery to Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), who has assumed the position of Supreme Leader of the First Order after the demise of Snoke.
Finn (John Boyega), Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), X-Wing pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) accompany Rey on her daredevil mission, while General Leia Organa (Fisher) presides over the entrenched Resistance.
Meanwhile, a shift in the Force propagates rumours about the return of Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid).
When Rey’s faith wavers, Leia repairs frayed nerves.
“Never be afraid of who you are,” she tenderly instructs. Co-written by Chris Terrio, Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise Of Skywalker shoehorns every conceivable reason for audiences to whoop, cheer and – yes – surrender to steady trickles of saltwater into 142 minutes.
Loose plot threads are tied neatly and heartstrings plucked as friendships and gently simmering romances threaten to become collateral damage of a bloodthirsty war against the First Order.
Some of the plotting is convoluted and a long-awaited battle royale follows the Avengers: Endgame template for an adrenaline-pumping emotional crescendo but Abrams presides over a happy union of old and new with obvious reverence and affection.
It’s a final hurrah made by a fan for the fans.
STAR WARS EPISODE IX: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER (12A, 142 mins) Sci-Fi/Action/Adventure. Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Anthony Daniels, Oscar Isaac, Anthony Daniels, Domhnall Gleeson, Richard E Grant, Joonas Suotamo, Ian McDiarmid. Director: JJ Abrams.
Released: December 19