Spoiler-free Review: “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”

Olivia Berry and Katie de Waard

“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” bumbles across Tatooine in a thrilling, rusty cruiser: the less you worry about the haphazard plot, the more you enjoy the twin sunsets.

Director J.J. Abrams returns to wrap up the nine-episode space saga — and rewrite most of director Rian Johnson’s “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” a film that received opinions as divided as the United States government. In the third installment of the sequel trilogy, the main trio finally take their destiny’s reigns in a last effort to conquer the dark Sith. After watching Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac) romp around the universe individually, “The Rise of Skywalker” forces the group into the same frame to face off against Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and the First Order. However, whispers talk of a greater evil’s reappearance, and the trio take it upon themselves to end the Sith’s injustice once and for all.

Each character embraces their greatest qualities. Rey, doomed to forever ride the fence between the light and dark, excavates her own path to become one with the Force. Finn corrals his uncooperative friends into unifying; most of the time. Poe ditches the cocky gallivanter costume he paraded around in during the previous film to become the charismatic leader others would pick for group work. And, as usual, Adam Driver’s exhilarating portrayal of Kylo Ren solidifies the film. Through well-timed character arcs, audiences are less inclined to wring the characters’ necks as they were in previous episodes. 

“Star Wars” isn’t exactly known for consistent and realistic plot points. Luke Skywalker single-handedly destroys the entire Death Star in “Episode IV: A New Hope” with a one-in-a-million shot in his tiny X-wing. However, “Rise of Skywalker” pushes the limitations of believability beyond even those expectations. Twist after twist tangles the audience into an indecipherable knot. Abrams tries too hard to defy predictions, only succeeding at unnecessarily confounding fans. 

The saving grace of this film, however, definitely lies in the fight scenes. Each lightsaber clash and underdog shootout carries raw emotional intensity. All it takes is faith in the Force, which performs Disney-level magic tricks now, to keep the crowd on the edge of its seat. And from the classic, striking light displays to the gorgeous, big-budget backdrops, each battle feels powerful — larger than life in a way that other action movies often forget or disregard. Rey and Kylo Ren somehow amp-up the thrill, capturing the spark, timing and intensity from the final showdown in “The Last Jedi.”

Crackling with belligerent flashing lights and mildly gory violence, “Rise of Skywalker” suitably entertains more mature families. The PG-13 film spans 142 minutes, a long time for younger viewers. Crammed with hastily tied loose ends, this isn’t a story best told through recaps and critics’ reviews. As the suns set on this “Star Wars” generation, fans ought to find time to watch the movie regardless of previous opinions.