The Millennium Falcon takes its farewell flight.

Movies

The Fan-Friendly Rise of Skywalker Plays It Safe in Star Wars Finale

J.J. Abrams' Episode IX perhaps can be forgiven for an overindulgence in inside jokes and self-referential nuggets in what amounts to a cinematic curtain call.

It’s finally over. For those who’ve followed the Star Wars mythology from the beginning, The Rise of Skywalker carries a bittersweet resonance along with its requisite thrills.

There will be more spinoffs and byproducts, of course, but this ninth installment in the iconic 42-year-old franchise is the concluding chapter in George Lucas’ original space-opera vision — and marks a final goodbye for some of the stars and characters that have endured for more than a generation.

As directed by J.J. Abrams (The Force Awakens), the film is very aware of that role, and perhaps can be forgiven for an overindulgence in inside jokes and self-referential nuggets in what amounts to a cinematic curtain call.

In some ways, The Rise of Skywalker feels like a concert from a classic band. It’s great to see them again, and they still sound great playing their greatest hits, yet it’s just not the same as it was back in the day. They’re basically cashing in at this point.

The story centers around the same characters who led the prior two films. Essentially inheriting the role of Luke Skywalker with the blessing of General Leia (the late Carrie Fisher), Jedi heroine Rey (Daisy Ridley) continues her quest for self-discovery. As secrets are revealed about her past, Rey questions her role in the epic battle for galactic control between her scrappy Resistance and the evil First Order.

Rebel loyalist Finn (John Boyega) and ace pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) — along with familiar faces such as Chewbacca and her droids — remain by Rey’s side during her adventure, which involves an inevitable showdown with conflicted nemesis Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Plus, she must deal with a reawakened Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), who sees an opportunity to use his malevolent powers to wipe out the Jedis once and for all.

The risk-averse screenplay by Abrams and Chris Terrio (Argo) bogs down in pedestrian dialogue and simplistic storytelling, but that generally falls in line with its predecessors. The filmmakers never stray too far from their narrative comfort zone while managing to conjure a reasonable quotient of good-versus-evil excitement.

This fast-paced sequel effectively ties up loose ends while sparking a handful of clever twists and surprises. A pint-sized alien mechanic named Babu Frik steals the show among the newcomers.

Mostly, the film successfully modulates the comedic and melodramatic elements with some dazzling action sequences, such as a couple of high-stakes lightsaber duels and daring interplanetary escapes.

There’s some superior technical craftsmanship on display, too, from the costumes and creature designs, to the visual effects, to the majestic score by John Williams (who even has a cameo).

As a legacy-conscious finale, The Rise of Skywalker, captures the crowd-pleasing spirit of the Star Wars canon with an emphasis on nostalgia. For many moviegoers, that will make this closing saga in a galaxy far, far away hit very close to home.

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