Forty-two years in the making, the saga is now officially (or supposedly) coming to an end in “Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker.” After the release of “The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi,” Episode IX concludes the thrilling and nostalgic new trilogy in the Skywalker saga.
Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is conniving and villainous as ever, now the Supreme Leader of the evil First Order. He’s not alone, though, as Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), thought to be long dead after the events of “Return of the Jedi,” has mysteriously returned to join Ren in taking down the Resistance.
Speaking of which, the Resistance is led again by Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac), Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and General Leia Organa (the late Carrie Fisher). Also joining the Resistance in their fight against the First Order is old friend Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams).
The Resistance is undersized and outmatched, but they soon discover a crystal that traces back to Exogol, the hidden land of the Siths. Rey, determined to take down Palpatine and the Sith for good, embarks on a journey to Exogol to take down the head of the snake and defeat the First Order. Her friends insist on joining her, of course, and the band is back together again for the fight and battle of their lives.
The film doesn’t let you forget about Rey and Kylo, either. Rey is frustrated by the fact that no one seems to understand her, and frustrated even more that she doesn’t understand herself or know who she is. As for Kylo, his Vader-obsessed quest for power is stumbled again by his conscience buried inside his deeply conflicted soul.
Is it too late for Kylo Ren to come back from the dark side as Ben Solo? Will Rey succumb to the Emperor and the power of the dark side? Is Rey really a nobody, or is there a famous lineage in her family? These are the series of questions “Rise of Skywalker” addresses in a captivating and sometimes chaotic finale to the saga.
It’s not a spoiler to say director, JJ Abrams, set out to right the wrongs of the controversial “Last Jedi” in the previous installment. For better or worse, Abrams makes sure to satisfy as many die-hard fans as he can, and it’s mostly for the better.
Unlike “Last Jedi,” there aren’t too many scene-stealing moments for anyone other than Rey and Kylo. Ridley’s innocence and passion resonates once again in Rey, but it is Driver who amazes one last time as the troubled Ren — riddled with so much evil — but isn’t afraid to show off his vulnerable side when the time calls.
“Rise of Skywalker” will be discussed, argued and analyzed for a long, long time. While it’s far from a perfect film, and not every storyline or decision lines up just right throughout the course of the trilogy, it’s an exhilarating and engaging experience that doesn’t let up from the goosebumps of the opening crawl to the final scene.
Maybe this is it for the Skywalker saga, maybe it isn’t. If these nine films have taught us anything, it’s that no one’s ever really gone, and the force will be with us all. Always.