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Review: Star Wars – The Rise Of Skywalker
3 stars, die hard fans can add a 4th
The Star Wars franchise is as critic-proof as the Marvel franchise. These Disney juggernauts show no signs of slowing, the question is, where are they going? To the bank most likely, for years to come.
It’s hard to believe Trivia Alert! the original Star Wars (1977) was a long shot, made by 20th Century Fox with profits from The Omen (1976). Fans, myself included, flocked to theaters on opening day. We’d been raised on television showings of The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951), The Thing (1951), War Of The Worlds (1953), Them! (1954), Ray Harryhausen’s movies, the Godzilla series and Star Trek. We Star Trek fans flooded theaters, for weeks. A franchise was born. Science fiction started to earn some respectability. We’ve stayed ever since, through sequels, prequels, and spinoffs. Now comes the final chapter Spoiler Alert! a fun, breezy, satisfying, if unoriginal film. This picture is, in essence, a remake of Return Of The Jedi (1983). The opening crawl announces the return of Emperor Palpatine! That’s right, the guy we saw tossed down a shaft into an explosion on a death star that was later blown up isn’t dead! As Monty Python would say, “He’s not quite dead!” Personally, I think the Emperor, and the actor in his robe, Ian McDiarmid, are magnificent. Trivia Alert! I’ve thought highly of McDiarmid all the way back to Dragonslayer (1981) when his gutsy Brother Jacobus advised Vermithrax (said dragon) to “Get thee down!” in his best impression of Saint George. It goes without saying the dragon had the last word but I digress.
Emperor Palpatine is back, with almost no explanation, as I recall he said “I was never really dead.” I call on repeat viewers to correct me. Bringing Palpatine back, with so little back story is unfair to the legions of fans who adore this series. For comparison, consider the return of Spock in Star Trek 3, The Search For Spock. Director J.J. Abrams takes a short cut that Leonard Nimoy would never have approved of. Beyond this glitch, the story follows a familiar pattern. The Emperor has a shiny new planet killing weapon and he’s going to turn Rey Skywalker over to the dark side.
Okay, enough plot, we go to see the new stars, who are now admirably stalwart, as are the aging legends. We go for state-of the-art effects, John Williams’ iconic music and a laugh or two. Carrie Fisher returns, through unused footage that works remarkably well. Her scenes have real emotional depth. Mark Hamill is underused, we’re left wanting more. Luke’s connection to Rey was one of the strengths in this series, this was an opportunity Abrams should have seized. Adam Driver gives his best performance as Kylo Ren, Abrams brings this character full circle in a satisfying manner. Daisy Ridley is superb as Rey, the role could have devolved into a cartoon, she brings grit to the part. There are some surprises, some superb set pieces and quite a few tender moments. The supporting cast is outstanding. When watching this, you’ll get the feeling you’ve been there before, but for one last time, it’s worth the ride.