Does it live up to the hype? Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker reviewed

The film is one of the year's most anticipated releases.

It is finally here.

One of the most anticipated films of the year – Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker – will arrive in UK cinemas on Thursday.

The PA news agency’s film critic, Damon Smith, was one of the lucky few to get an early glimpse of the movie ahead of its wider release.

Here’s what he thought of it.

Why is the film so highly anticipated?

The Rise Of Skywalker brings to an end the nine-part saga that began with the original Star Wars in 1977.

Millions of fans from around the world have waited years for the curtain to come down on one of cinema’s most beloved franchises.

However, scarred by the experience of Game Of Thrones’ controversial ending earlier this year, fans, including The Rise Of Skywalker actor Richard E Grant, believe a backlash is inevitable.

Who is starring in the film?

Daisy Ridley
British actress Daisy Ridley is one of the leading stars in Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker (Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

The Rise Of Skywalker boasts an impressive ensemble cast of old and new favourites.

It includes Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Anthony Daniels, Ian McDiarmid and Billy Dee Williams.

What is the plot?

Following the death of mentor Luke Skywalker (Hamill), Rey (Ridley) finds herself on a parallel journey of self-discovery to Kylo Ren (Driver), who has assumed the position of Supreme Leader of the First Order after the demise of Snoke.

Finn (Boyega), Chewbacca (Suotamo), X-Wing pilot Poe Dameron (Isaac) and C-3PO (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 (McDiarmid).

Does it live up to the hype?

JJ Abrams
JJ Abrams was the man Disney tasked with closing out the Star Wars saga (Chris Pizzello/AP)

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 is 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.

So there are plenty of moments for fans to savour?

Carrie Fisher
Star Wars producers used digital wizardry to fit Carrie Fisher into the final film in the saga (Ian West/PA)

Yes. There is one touching moment when Rey’s faith wavers, only for Leia to repair her frayed nerves by tenderly instructing: “Never be afraid of who you are.”

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.

If it is the last film in the saga, are fans going to be left with closure?

Mark Hamill
Mark Hamill first played the role of Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars (Ian West/PA)

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 is a final hurrah made by a fan for the fans.

Rating: 7.5/10

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access