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‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ ends not with a bang, but a ho-hum

WARNING: Spoilers for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Writer-director J. J. Abrams had an enormous task with “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.”

He had to answer all the questions and tie up all the loose ends left by the previous eight Star Wars films, while still delivering a new, fast-paced adventure movie that could thrill fans and newcomers alike.

Abrams succeeds in filling in most of the blanks; the story and character holes are dutifully addressed. But as satisfactory a three-trilogy wrap-up as it is, in terms of narrative, The Rise of Skywalker feels surprisingly slight as a movie experience.

As finales go, it has surprisingly little new to offer. It’s mostly a retread of very familiar Star Wars plot elements and action sequences. And that’s about it.

I realize that emotional resonance has never been the calling card of the franchise, but after all this time we’ve spent with all these characters, shouldn’t we feel something a little more powerful than a shrug?

We find out in the opening scroll of this ninth film that the evil Emperor Palpatine — who died many movies back — is mysteriously alive again and has secretly formed a new military to destroy the rebel alliance and the Jedi “once and for all.” ​

Our heroine Rey, the scavenger turned Jedi-in-training, reunites with Finn, the stormtrooper-turned-rebel, and Poe, the daredevil rebel fighter pilot, to try to stop Palpatine’s destructive plans for the galaxy.

Rey’s Jedi mentor Luke Skywalker may have passed on in the last film but he’s with her in spirit as she takes up arms. ​

“A thousand generations of Jedi live on now in you.”

A true multi-tasker, Rey also has multiple, personal confrontations with Kylo Ren, Darth Vader’s grandson, and leader of Palpatine’s First Order.

Ren persists in his quest to lure Rey to be by his side on the dark side, and she fears the temptation.

Their battles are mostly telepathic, thanks to some kind of mind-meld wavelength they’re both on, but eventually, and climatically, they face off in person.​

In this final war between the First Order and the Resistance, and ultimately between the Sith and the Jedi, our heroic trio of Rey, Finn, and Poe are joined by some very familiar faces like Chewbacca and C-3PO.

Even the original Lando Calrissian, 82-year-old Billy Dee Williams, comes back for one last ride, as does General Leia Organa, thanks to some unused and recycled footage of actress Carrie Fisher. Other prominent characters reappear as visions or memories as well. ​

This class-reunion vibe slows down the film’s momentum, but I’m sure fans will appreciate the space-trip down memory lane. In a scene in which C-3PO faces the possibility of a memory wipe, Poe catches him looking wistful.​

“What are you doing there, 3PO?”
“Taking one last look, sir… at my friends.”

That’s a nice scene, halfway through the movie, that should encapsulate what every Star Wars fan could be feeling, as The Rise of Skywalker ends: Pure and gratifying nostalgia, along with a bit of ​regret and a sense of loss that the entire enterprise is over.

​But poignancy is beyond the reach of The Rise of Skywalker.

Unlike the two-film finale of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame) which packed an emotional wallop amidst all the mayhem, Star Wars ends not with a bang, but a ho-hum. ​

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