NOTE: This review does not contain major spoilers, but please read at your own risk.
In the words of one Luke Skywalker, this is not going to go the way you think. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker has the seemingly impossible task of wrapping up not only the sequel trilogy, but the entire nine-film Skywalker Saga – hopefully in a way that will be satisfying to millions of fans worldwide. Upon first viewing (and believe me, I plan to see this movie at least several more times), this is a goal it more than delivers on – with an action-packed installment that walks the line between the light and dark, delivers plenty of surprises, answers questions, and pays homage to the best of what’s come before.
Skywalker opens with the Resistance doing their best to bolster their forces and intel in the face of an imminent final showdown with the First Order, while Rey works to complete her Jedi training under General Leia. Meanwhile, Supreme Leader Kylo Ren is in search of the source of an inexplicable message from Emperor Palpatine (yep, he’s back!), who may be a threat to his power – or the key to control of the galaxy. Aside from a MacGuffin-heavy first half, what ensues from there is an exciting story that pairs our favorites in new and beloved dynamics, takes us to new worlds, and references the past films in the Saga in ways teased from the trailers (Lando!) and some delightfully unexpected others.
It’s tough to talk about what specifically I loved without delving into spoiler territory, but there is a lot of good stuff here. What interested me most were some of the core themes: the exploration of the balance between light and dark, destiny versus choice, and the power of friendship and community. Even though some of the twists weren’t in my aspirational head-canon for how this saga would end (surprise, surprise), they felt justified and beautifully done.
While there are excellent character moments for all of your faves – from returning faces to new ones – allow me to take a moment to talk about Rey and Kylo Ren. We’ve seen them fight before – against each other and together – and explore their Force bond, and this film takes both of those elements to a new level. It is so thrilling to see these faces of the light and the dark at the height of their powers, walking the line, not sure if either will be enough to bring the other to their side – if they will be each other’s salvation or destruction. Their dynamic has always been incredibly compelling to me, and especially so in this movie. Reylos, you are not ready.
There is so, so much more to unpack from The Rise of Skywalker, but let’s be real: if you’re reading this review, you’re going to see the movie, so I don’t want to say too much here. I found it to be a thrilling, emotional, respectful conclusion to one of the most epic sagas of our time – and one that I can’t wait to watch again and again.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters this Friday, December 20.