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Family Movie Review: Star Wars IX: The Rise of Skywalker (PG-13)

‘Star Wars IX: The Rise of Skywalker’ wraps up the latest trilogy in a mostly anticlimactic way.

Kernel Rating: 2.5 out of 5

MPAA Rating: PG-13           Length: 141 minutes

Age Appropriate For: 12+. The final installment of the modern ‘Star Wars’ trilogy includes many of the same elements as the preceding two films, with lightsaber duels, space battles, hand-to-hand combat, people shot with guns, and crashed and exploding spaceships. An entire world is exploded; a villain is shown crumbling and disintegrating; skeletons and wounded space monsters, including a gigantic snake, are shown. Many characters, including fan favorites, die. Some flirting between a couple of characters with an alluded-to romantic backstory; two characters kiss; some insults and brusque language.

By Roxana Hadadi

The unique and new direction that “The Last Jedi,” the second film in the modern “Star Wars” trilogy, is totally undone in “The Rise of Skywalker,” the final installment of this particular saga. Intermittently exciting but mostly quite anticlimactic, “The Rise of Skywalker” walks back many of the revelations and story points of “The Last Jedi,” making for a film that feels ultimately quite incomplete.

StarWarsTheRiseOfSkywalker1 ChesapeakeFamilyMovieReviewDirector J.J. Abrams returns for “The Rise of Skywalker,” and in this third film has crafted a story that almost totally ignores “The Last Jedi”; in fact, “The Rise of Skywalker” seems most like a direct sequel to Abrams’s “The Force Awakens,” which was the first film in this trilogy. What that means from a storytelling perspective is a continued focus on the icons and imagery of the original “Star Wars” films—Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon, Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber—and a recycling of certain plot lines and narratives from those films too. There is so much nostalgia here that “The Rise of Skywalker” will feel comfortable, but not compelling, and in fact delivers a message that might limit or stifle young fans’ imaginations and understanding of who this universe is for.

“The Rise of Skywalker” begins one year after the events of “The Last Jedi”: Rey (Daisy Ridley) remains in training with Leia (the late Carrie Fisher), intensifying and honing her connection with the Force. Poe (Oscar Isaac) and Finn (John Boyega) are running missions for the Resistance. And in an incredibly unexpected move, the voice of Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), who was presumed to be dead after the events of “Return of the Jedi,” is being heard throughout the galaxy.

Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), formerly Ben Solo, travels to the hidden Sith planet where Palpatine is and receives his orders: to kill Rey, ending the Jedi line, and assume his place as the new head of the Final Order. Meanwhile, Rey, Poe, and Finn team up to find the location of the Sith planet, and with Chewbacca, C-3PO, and BB-8, they begin their journey. “The Rise of Skywalker” then follows the characters on their diverging paths, which includes Rey realizing she must face her past herself, Kylo questioning his own commitment to imperial rule, and Poe and Finn encountering figures from their lives before they joined the Resistance.

A sizable amount of the narrative of “The Rise of Skywalker” is spent specifically undoing what happened in “The Last Jedi,” and the result is a film that lacks forward momentum because there is so much backward gazing: Kylo recrafting the helmet he smashed, Rey thinking about the importance of her parents, Poe thrusting headfirst into another dangerous battle in which the Resistance is outnumbered. Although there are beautiful new locations throughout, including a stormy sea planet on which a portion of the Death Star crashed, the film also jumps from place to place so quickly that the pacing is never quite right. The chemistry between Finn, Poe, and Rey remains lovely, but the intense bond between Rey and Kylo is ill-served by the rewriting of their relationship to undo “The Last Jedi,” and it’s disappointing to see characters like Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) utterly shoved aside.

That’s not to say that “The Rise of Skywalker” is all disappointing. It allows itself to have some fun with character banter, and a few new characters, like the mini-sized Babu Frik, should be quick fan favorites. But overall, the anticlimactic “Rise of Skywalker” relies too much on storylines from three decades ago instead of truly feeling like a fitting end to both “The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi.”

Interested in a previously released film? Read our reviews of films already showing in your local theater.   

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