FILM REVIEW – ‘STAR WARS IX: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER’ (2019)

Friday, December 20, 2019 marked the official theatrical release of Star Wars: Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker, the third and final film in the Star Wars “Sequel Trilogy” and final installment in the nine-act “Star Wars Saga” – or “Skywalker Saga,” as some have taken to calling it, and of course, unquestionably one of the most highly anticipated films of the year. Nerd Nation Magazine was in attendance on opening night, but due to the holiday break, publication of this article was delayed by one week so that our staff could enjoy time with their families during Christmas and Hanukkah.

NOTE: while every attempt has been made to keep this article SPOILER-FREE, this review will feature details revealed in both the trailers and previous films. If you haven’t seen the trailers for this film, haven’t seen previous films, or otherwise simply don’t want to take the risk of any sort of minor spoilers, please leave NOW… and come back after you’ve seen it, of course!

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Still here? Great! (or welcome back!) Let’s get right down to it!

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker picks up not too long after the events of The Last Jedi (which you can read the review of HERE). After a strange broadcast from the believed-long-dead Emperor Palpatine, First Order Supreme Leader Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) obtains a Sith wayfinder to point him to the mysterious hidden planet of Exegol, the ancient, ancestral home to the Sith Order to confront the Emperor, only to discover a sinister plot by the Sith known as “The Final Order.” Meanwhile, back at the Resistance, Rey (Daisy Ridley) is continuing her Jedi training under General Leia Organa (the late Carrie Fisher in her second posthumous film appearance through the use of unused footage from The Force Awakens) while Poe Dameron (Oscar Issac) and Finn (John Boyega) have received intel from a spy in the First Order that Palpatine is on Exegol, which Rey has already learned from Luke Skywalker’s notes about the Sith wayfinders. Leia sends the group along with Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo, replacing the late Peter Mayhew for the first time in the entire history of the series) to meet with an old ally to help them find this device and track down the Emperor.

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All the while, Kylo Ren, through his link with Rey via the Force, continues tracking her in an attempt to either turn her to the darkside, or destroy her. Will the group of heroes be able to find this wayfinder to confront Emperor Palpatine? Is this even really Emperor Palpatine at all? Will they finally be able to stop Kylo Ren and the First Order once and for all? Will all of this finally, actually wrap up the Star Wars Saga? Well, you’ll just have to go see it for yourselves and find out!

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Now, while there is a lot to like about this movie, there is also quite a bit to dislike, as well. Director J.J. Abrams spends a good half or so of this movie working to undo everything many fans hated about The Last Jedi, and really isn’t very subtle about it, either. There are several extra added subplots and minor characters introduced basically out of nowhere, that audiences are supposed to somehow connect with via a few shared memories with other characters – one of whom literally carrying just about the single most heavy-handed “Deus ex Machina” (look it up if you aren’t aware of what that is) we’ve seen in cinema this decade. As such, the overall plot really does suffer and requires more than a little suspension of disbelief to look past and enjoy.

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On the other hand, this movie does a very nice job of blending plenty of nostalgia for older fans to enjoy alongside the newer characters, and offers up plenty of lightsaber-swinging, blaster-shooting, fast-paced action full of all the space battles, good vs. evil duels, and tales of heroism that Star Wars has so long been known and loved for. The visual effects are exactly the caliber of excellence you’d expect from a Disney/Lucasfilm production, and of course… it’s nowhere near as bad as the prequels were!

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The Bottom Line:
Overall, Star Wars IX: The Rise of Skywalker is a fun, enjoyable movie that brings a fine enough end to the Star Wars Saga, but the overarching narrative very clearly wasn’t outlined all that well and too much of it was spent trying to correct the previous effort, rather than just moving forward with a good story. While it’s certainly better than the prequel trilogy, it is also absolutely not as good as the originals. Then again, if we’ve learned anything over the past few decades of this, nothing ever truly is. The law of diminishing returns exists for a reason, after all. Even still, it’s a fun movie with plenty to enjoy, and ultimately, that’s all that really matters. – 6.5/10

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-Dave Harlequin
Editor/Staff Writer: Nerd Nation Magazine

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