Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Review: “Rise of Skywalker” Wraps Up 42 Years, 11 Movies Neatly and With Tears Including Surprises, Cameos, and Easter Eggs


I can’t tell you too much about “Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker” because I don’t want to spoil the many wonderful surprises, twists, and turns. But after seeing it on Tuesday night, I guarantee you will not be disappointed. Any mistakes that have been made along the way have been dealt with in a way that that should make everyone happy. We’re not looking for edgy filmmaking here. This is about signing off in a satisfying style. Director JJ Abrams has accomplished this difficult mission.

Forty two years have passed since Luke, Leia, and Han joined forces to save the universe in what eventually was called “A New Hope.” I just call it “Star Wars.” The next two movies– “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi” are my “Star Wars” films. The next three were interesting but not great, sort of homework. I loved “Rogue One” and really liked the Han Solo movie despite its deficiencies.

The last two installments, “The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi” I thought were nice ways to catch up with the original trilogy, even if I objected to certain “deaths.”

But like I say, JJ Abrams has righted the ship and brought it in for a soft landing. And one spoiler I can’t give away– let’s say I predicted it some time ago. You can guess what it is if you’ve followed this saga. It’s a lovely grace note.

Back to the story at hand: We’ve all wanted Rey to be Leia and Han’s kid, or Luke’s daughter. But Ben Solo aka Kylo Ren, already told us her parents were “nobodies.” If we wanted a little romantic frisson between Rey and Ren, then she couldn’t be his sister or cousin. Let’s be real.

So we do learn Rey’s background in the final installment, and I think it was a clever idea. Director JJ Abrams has worked hard to wrap up all the loose ends fans were interested in. This results in cameos and tears. Certain instabilities had to be addressed, too, like how much fake Carrie Fisher they could use realistically. Leia’s exit, not a spoiler, is used to great purpose. Everyone can be in agreement on that point.

Abrams and co. don’t force it, and they don’t rewrite history to make their ending. (Rian Johnson did a fine job on “The Last Jedi,” and that’s that.) Abrams has to stuff a lot into two hours and 22 minutes, so the screenplay is efficient while still retaining humor and light moments. There’s also more than enough action to satisfy the most fidgety fan boy.

The actors are all at the top of their game. Certainly Oscar Isaac came into this already with a big movie career, he leaves with the most recognizable resume. I adore Daisy Ridley, and hope hope hope she will have a career beyond “Star Wars.” Ditto John Boyega. And that guy, Adam whathisname? Driver? He’ll do okay for himself if he doesn’t have any more public hissy fits. He’s quite a talent.

A few thoughts: Anthony Daniels’ C3PO really shines in the finale. Of course, we miss Kenny Baker as R2D2, but Jimmy Vee has got him in hand. Joonas Suotamo has been a stellar stand-in for Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca. Kudos to Abrams for giving all of these characters plenty of space to say their goodbyes with grace and dignity.

Maybe on Monday, after box office records are broken, we can discuss some of the spoilers. By then, a lot of people will have seen this movie, some twice or three times. I know I will see it again because that first time you’re so anxious to catch all the Easter eggs and little details. Don’t let anyone tell you “Rise of Skywalker” isn’t a good movie. It’s a wonderful movie that does the impossible: it sums up our mutual magical mystery ride with laughs, drama, and tears. That’s all we could ask for.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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