REVIEW: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker - strong performances but lacking in depth or originality

PUBLISHED: 11:26 20 January 2020 | UPDATED: 10:43 28 January 2020

Star Wars The Rise of Skywalker

Star Wars The Rise of Skywalker

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The inexplicable return of Emperor Palpatine has stunned the surviving members of the resistance, who under the stewardship of General Leia Organa (The late Carrie Fisher) must now deal with this ominous new threat, as well as facing off against the evil First order.

JJ Abrams returns to the world of Star Wars for this final instalment in the recent Disney trilogy. A film billed as the conclusion to the decade spanning Skywalker saga.

The inexplicable return of Emperor Palpatine has stunned the surviving members of the resistance, who under the stewardship of General Leia Organa (The late Carrie Fisher) must now deal with this ominous new threat, as well as facing off aga- inst the evil First order.

After kicking off the Star Wars revival himself with 2015's solid The Force Awakens, Abrams handed the baton over to Rian Johnson for 2017's divisive follow up The Last Jedi. Then when Jurassic World's Colin Trevorrow was abruptly fired from this third film, Abrams was recruited to return and complete the trilogy he started.

Regrettably, the hallmarks of that hasty change of direction are clear to see throughout the film, as Abrams dispenses with any radical new direction teased by Johnson in the The Last Jedi, in favour of a much more tried and tested method. This approach has some nostalgic charm but lacks originality and ends up feeling very much like Star Wars: The Greatest Hits.

On the plus side the film is never boring. The visuals are spectacular and the film is choc full of frenetic dogfights and light saber battles.

However the frantic pace is a little overwhelming and never allows the film time to breathe.

The film's strength comes from the performances of Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver, and the engaging relationship between their characters.

Ridley shines as Rey, a role she has grown steadily into over the three films, while Adam Driver is once again the stand out performer as the conflicted Kylo Ren, head and shoulders the shining light of the trilogy.

Newcomer Richard E Grant is also very well cast and entertainingly menacing as the First Order's General Pryde. A character who adds a level of threat not seen in the preceding films.

The script, apparently written by Abrams and Chris Terio, although previous director Trevorrow and his collaborator Derek Connolly also get a writing credit, lacks the courage of its convictions and feels very much like a story written by committee in order to please as many fans as possible. Whenever it delivers something bold or surprising, it's quickly undone in the very next scene.

As misjudged as The Last Jedi was, that film could never be accused of lacking bravery, yet The Rise of Skywalker sticks with the safe option every time.

Sadly, it is quite apparent that the studio never had a clear plan in mind when it begun this trilogy and the result is three films with vastly differing tones and styles that don't fit together into a cohesive narrative.

As a stand alone film, The Rise of Skywalker is a fast and frenetic journey through Star Wars lore which delivers on spectacle but is ultimately lacking in any depth or originality.

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