When a long-storied franchise nears the finish line, it’s almost inevitable that the filmmakers will stumble over themselves to cram ten pounds of stuff into a five-pound bag, trying to not only please audiences and complete the tale but to also do justice to the installments that have come before. The result invariably is an end product feels like a slam-dash, haphazard mess that raises more questions than it answers.

If any franchise was in clear danger of doing that, it was Star Wars. Launched 42 years ago on a shoestring budget and a dream, it’s been an all-over-the-place ride for fans, who, not coincidentally, are among the most fervid in all of movie-dom. Now the original franchise has finally come to an end with co-writer and director J.J. Abrams’ Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker. (Have no fear—director Rian Johnson is already at work on his own standalone Star Wars trilogy, allowing those fervid fans can keep their fervidity up.)

With plenty of nostalgia-heavy paeans packed into the film’s 2:22 runtime, the series reaches a solid conclusion, catering a-plenty to said fans. And though there are many who will find fault and/or launch profanity-laden screeds on fansites in the coming days, it won’t be because of a single, fatal flaw. Skywalker is a good movie. And it’s a good ending.

There’s no doubt that Abrams, who took over in the wake of director Colin Trevorrow’s departure, knew what he was signing up for. Making amends for his disastrous first foray into the universe (2015’s The Force Awakens—a lazy, note-for-note ripoff of creator George Lucas’ original Star Wars), Abrams here gives us a decent story with plenty of surprises, the welcome return of several friendly (and not-so-friendly) faces, and enough snazzy visual effects to soothe even the fanniest fanboy.

Due to theaters being shellacked with signs urging a moratorium on spoilers (a favorite portrays stormtroopers as the Three Wise Monkeys with the caption, “See no spoilers. Hear no spoilers. Speak no spoilers.”), I won’t share anything about the plot here, save to say that Emperor Palpatine is somehow back (as we learned in the trailer), forcing Jedi-in-training Rey (Daisy Ridley) and her gang to try to find him and finish him off. As for the rest of it, someone still has a bad feeling about something, the troopers still can’t shoot the broad side of a barn from six inches away, and we all know you still can’t trust droids.

Still, Skywalker manages to wrap up the bigger Star Wars picture with a rock-solid, fun as hell final chapter. The big-picture questions get answered (yes, we finally learn Rey’s last name), and thankfully we’re spared any last-minute, deus-ex-machina cliffhangers. Sure, there are more than a few hanging chads—last week DenofGeek posted “9 Questions The Rise of Skywalker Needs to Answer”, and only one of them actually was—but no matter. Over the course of nine films (totaling 20 and a half hours), we’re bound to get some things that go unresolved.

In the end, it’s pretty simple. Empire is still the Best. The Phantom Menace is still the worst. And The Rise of Skywalker is more than a few rungs this side of average. She’s got it where it counts.


4/5 stars