Walking on Familiar Skies

Two things primarily define Star Wars: Family and fascism. Rise of Skywalker involves both liberally, and it should.

Maybe to a detriment but maybe not, Rise of Skywalker rarely takes a time out to surprise. The motions of Star Wars were defined long before this; Rise of Skywalker coalesces it all. Spaceship battles, lightsaber duels, light and dark, galactic hide & seek – to formula, and that’s where this finale plays.

Undoubtedly, this script appears to “fix” what many found broken by The Last Jedi. At times, that’s grossly literal too. Other elements are outright discarded. Opening scenes cut with such rapidity in a haste to drop the less popular choices, Rise of Skywalker’s first 10-minutes look like a montage. However, Last Jedi’s theme of letting the past go becomes Rise of Skywalker’s core.

Rise of Skywalker is safe. That’s the dominant disability

What matters is the rebellion, more a family now in their tinier numbers than anywhere previous. They push back against The First Order, the fight leading to a literal cult around their leader. Scenes on an oppressed planet find citizens living in fear of this galactic force. First Order forces raid their homes nightly. They expect it, merely hoping they knock on a different door. While the Empire blew up planets – and so did the First Order – this is a potent interpretation of totalitarian rule because it’s less spectacle, more grounded, and strangely, more viscous. The suffering is longer.

It is to no amazement good triumphs. Rather, it’s how good triumphs, recalling Star Wars of old, inter-cutting ground and space akin to Return of the Jedi (almost exactly at one point). That’s fine, because the hook – predictable as the victory may be – makes hatred kill itself. It’s bright and showy, of course, yet powerfully composed as to bring Star Wars’ motif to an appropriate close. History happens in cycles. Rise of Skywalker brings that to an absolute truth.

In-between come the laughs. Rise of Skywalker isn’t shy with its humor. Rather, utterly successful with it. Cameos invade too, including Billy Dee Williams who comprises around two minutes of the runtime with his presence. Like Force Awakens, the nostalgia is undeniably strong with this one. By doing so, the touches filter down. The First Order’s grand conquering plan has an improbably obvious weak point, which rebels lay out in a briefing akin to most Star Wars entries. The implementation though is less offensive, and at times less obvious. Traversal through returning locales feels necessary, even if this sticks solely to the original trilogy. Better not to acknowledge George Lucas’ prequels unless imperative.

Through Rey (Daisy Ridley) the series found its energy. Here, her arc is suitable to this trilogy’s needs. She’s sensational. So too are the practical effects that bridge technologies, mingling with digital in ways that progress both methods. One animated character turns completely practical in this sequel, revealing how far animatronics have come. That feels at home too, another wrap-around point for Star Wars to do the “full circle” thing with.

Rise of Skywalker is safe. That’s the dominant disability, shared by both J.J. Abrams-directed films. Now, with Rise of Skywalker’s revelations, that safety earns a logical narrative purpose. There is an explanation. It comes down to tyrants and how they always start the same, act the same, and end the same (hopefully). They manipulate. Some follow. Some don’t. The families, those that fight back? They win the day. Together. That’s Star Wars, and Rise of the Skywalker.

Star Wars: Rise of the Skywalker
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While familiar, safe, and even predictable in its method, Rise of Skywalker does what’s needed to close a saga concerned with totalitarians and the families who fight back.

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4 (2 votes)

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