By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)

After forty-two years, nine movies, and lots of toys and merchandise, the Star Wars/Skywalker saga has supposedly come to an end. This new “sequel” trilogy has had a rather turbulent journey with fans and critics alike. Both parties seem to agree on the criticisms with its first entry, J.J. Abrams’ The Force Awakens, but seem to enjoy its more redeeming qualities. However, reactions to Rian Johnson’s follow up, The Last Jedi, are as divisive as two opposing political parties fighting over a very controversial public issue. Despite critical acclaim, and mostly due to the vitriol by a lot of Star Wars fans, Star Wars producers decided to play it rather safely and task Abrams once again to conclude the trilogy.

The trouble is that the pressure to appease fandom often limits creativity and imagination. This is the problem with The Rise of Skywalker. Screenwriter Chris Terio and writer/director J.J. Abrams take a rather formulaic approach to the Skywalker conclusion that lacks the strong storytelling and artistic integrity that Johnson brought to The Last Jedi. Also, due to the pressures of the saga’s fan base, the filmmakers messily retcon some of the bold choices made by Johnson in the last movie. The end result is still enjoyable and moderately emotional, but lacking the dynamic vision that would make it an instant classic.

Skywalker picks up one year after the events of The Last Jedi. The Resistance, still under the leadership of General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), has managed to establish a safer base of operations away from the clutches of the First Order. However, an old, unexpected threat returns in the form of former emperor Sheev Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) who offers Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and his First Order the additional fire power and resources to destroy the rebels once and for all. Meanwhile, as Rey (Daisy Ridley) Finn (John Boyega), and Poe (Oscar Isaac) further investigate into the reports of Palpatine’s return and hope to stop this villainous consolidation from coming to fruition.

Though I definitely have my complaints about this movie, I still managed to enjoy it overall. Though Abrams plays it safely with the story, he still delivers some thrilling action sequences and battles. The humor also works well as it is carefully sprinkled throughout the movie. Abrams and Terio also succeed with some emotional beats that are obviously in the name of fan service, but still hit all the right notes on a larger scope. Still, I can’t help, but wonder how Rian Johnson or another bold filmmaker would do had he or she had a greater amount of freedom with the material.

Still, considering that The Last Jedi created an uproar with a lot of fans, such an exciting thing never would have never happened. This is rather sad since this concluding installment should’ve been THE swan song of the Skywalker saga. The conclusion of the film/saga ends satisfactorily, but doesn’t go out on the highest note possible. As much as I like The Rise of Skywalker, I am disappointed that the movie doesn’t give the saga the proper send off it deserves.

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