Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is a brilliant tale of redemption, rebellion and resurrection, as the original Star Wars story cycle comes to a satisfying conclusion with this ninth installment.
Rise, which opens Friday, is a bit long at 2.22 hours, but director and co-writer J.J. Abrams creates a welcome Christmas package that wraps up decades of stories and dangling plotlines into a neat, family-friendly gift.
Does this mean the end of Star Wars film projects? Of course not. This billion dollar baby is a cash cow that Disney will never drop. Now that the original cycle that began 42 years ago has ended there are countless new stories with new characters (and new toys) that can emerge in movies, television shows, novels, and comics.
Star Wars fans will love the new film, if only because of the ephemeral return of characters like Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamil) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford). Perhaps the saddest return and farewell belongs to the late Carrie Fisher, reprising her role as Princess Leia, via archival footage. She is now the leader of the Resistance against the re-emerged threat of the presumed dead Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid.)
Most of the action is carried out by the mysterious last Jedi, Rey (Daisy Ridley) and her adversary and equal, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and aided by the usual rag-tag band of rebels, human and non-human. Among them is another familiar face, a more subdued Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams).
Beyond the fans of the previous films, The Rise of Skywalker will satisfy the novices just scratching the surface of the mythology. The movie is self-contained enough to appease even the moviegoer who somehow avoided seeing the previous films.
The basic plot involves fears that the Sith lord Emperor Palpatine, who sure looked like he was killed in 1983’s “Return of the Jedi,” is somehow back with a new plan to take over the universe, with an army called The Final Order. Leia dispatches her best fighters to thwart the plot through a series of unlikely missions which are heavy on incredible action sequences lightened up by witty banter. C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) is back as the obsequious protocol droid along with R2-D2 (Jimmy Vee) and BB-8 (Dave Chapman and Brian Herring) providing that light touch.
As good as the actors are, they are dwarfed by the real stars of the film, the cinematography and special effects. These create an amazing universe of alien, yet sometimes familiar, landscapes to house the action. John Williams’ soundtrack is lush and gorgeous, but always stays neatly in the background.
The movie is on its way to yet another well-deserved billion dollar box office take and will be on every Christmas to-do list.