by Rob DiCristino
Spoilers ahead? I honestly don’t know. Probably!
“That’s how they win. They make us think we’re alone,” says Kerri Russell’s Zorri Bliss. The underworld badass is trying to convince her old flame, Poe Dameron (Oscar Issac), not to give up, not to give into the overwhelming power of the nigh-unstoppable First Order. And she’s right: the characters in The Rise of Skywalker succeed by sticking together. Keeping it simple. Playing to their strengths. After the layered, challenging, and self-examining Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, it seems J.J. Abrams and company were resolved to walk the same path: No surprises. No new ideas. Nothing that might cause discord among the Star Wars faithful. In crafting a satisfying ending to arguably the most loved and enduring cinematic franchise of all time, Disney decided to play the hits, and to play them loud. There is absolutely nothing original or experimental about The Rise of Skywalker. It goes exactly the way you think it will. Whether or not that’s an asset or a detriment is entirely up to you.
Though it rides on rails familiar to even the most casual Star Wars fan, it has to be said that the first hour of The Rise of Skywalker is an exceedingly slick and unrelenting attack on our senses. Characters run and yell and chase and shoot and blast through hyperspace so fast for so long that you would be forgiven for forgetting to breathe. It’s fun! Finn and Poe trade barbs! C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) makes obtuse statements! Rey does Jedi backflips and sort of flirts with Poe! A re-helmeted Kylo Ren drives his angry lightsaber through friend and foe alike! In true Abrams fashion, the film feels determined not to let us think about any one thing for too long. “How did this get there?” “Why don’t they try this, instead?” “What about this thing, over here?” Doesn’t matter! We’re moving on! None of that naval-gazing, cerebral Last Jedi shit here, folks, we promise! If Abrams’ The Force Awakens was a carbon-copy of the original Star Wars, consider The Rise of Skywalker his riff on Return of the Jedi. Again, Return of the Jedi is good, and that may be exactly what you want from a Star Wars movie! That’s completely fine.