Review – Hoo-Rey, the Saga Ends! (“Star Wars IX: The Rise of Skywalker”)

This is it. The final film of the Star Wars saga that started back in 1977. Yeah. Sure. Right. Now that Disney owns the rights to… well, everything, I’m sure that isn’t exactly true. We’ve already had a Han Solo solo origin story and Rogue One, not to mention the Disney+ Mandalorian series, so I’m sure there’s more to come!

*SPOILERS AHEAD*


*
Picking up a year after the events of The Last Jedi, we find that things have not gone well for Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), Finn (John Boyega), Rey (Daisy Ridley), General Leia Organa (the late Carrie Fisher) and the rest of what’s left of the Resistance. And why should they be? They got their butts handed to them on Crait and now are looking for others to join them in defeating the First Order. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is in charge now, after he killed his master, Supreme Leader Snoke, but he’s become rage-obsessed with finding the last remaining Sith Lord, Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), who’s apparently still alive (barely) after all these decades. Using a rare Sith ‘wayfinder’ device to find him, Palpatine wants Kylo to turn Rey to the Dark Side.

Rey, meanwhile, has grown exponentially stronger in the Force, and senses the same evil presence. She needs to find Palatine as well, but her travels will take quite the toll on her, as she traverses the galaxy with her friends in order to find another wayfinder, the only thing that can lead them to the hidden planet of Exogol where the Sith Lord is. Packing up the Millennium Falcon, Rey, Finn, Poe, and Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) they head to Pasaana and find Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) and find a vital clue: an ancient Sith dagger and an old smugglers ship they can escape on when the First Order attacks.

While the gang is getting closer to retrieving that wayfinder doohickey, Rey is having some major problems with Kylo. He keeps ‘Force appearing” to Rey just to piss her off so she’ll turn to the Dark Side, even revealing her REAL parental lineage to her! I won’t tell you WHO it is, but it’s a shocker! These two engage in one light saber battle after another and it looks like Rey’s good side has the upper hand, so to speak. But don’t rule out the bad guys, as Palpatine wants to win at any costs, even giving the First Order a massive fleet of brand new Star Destroyer ships, each one mounted with a planet-killer cannon! Uh-oh!!

Can the Resistance wipe out the First Order in time? Will Rey succumb to the Dark Side? Will Kylo stop wearing that silly new helmet of his? And what about C3PO and that iffy memory of his? Trust me, there’s a whole lotta story to unpack and I just skimmed the surface as far as this review is concerned, but trust me when I tell you there are plenty of Easter eggs and callbacks to prior movies, a fast-paced and meaty screenplay by director J.J. Abrams (Star Trek) & Chris Terrio (Justice League), and some surprise faces that will make you smile. Unlike the previous disjointed movie (master code-breaker? Puhleeze!), this one has a center core character that splinters outward that effects everyone, and that’s Rey.

This is really Ridley’s movie, as she drives the film forward with her fierce and seething determination; her moments with Driver are just terrific. Abrams knows what the audience wants and especially the Star Wars fans, and he delivers, and this time with NO lens flares! He also managed to insert the late, great Carrie Fisher into the movie beautifully without little CG trickery. Nice touch. There are no stupid “Canto Bight” side-stories as he kept the suspense going until the end, even though the climax did include an obvious deus ex machina. Top-notch SPFX, as always, with Abrams whiz-bang lightning fast direction leading the charge.

The usual cast are all here and all having a great time together: Boyega and Isaac as the fun-loving buddy-buddy team, Chewbacca and C3PO bickering & arguing, and new faces like Keri Russell’s Zorri Bliss and Resistance fighter Jannah (Naomi Ackie). Look for some humorous moments thrown in with Abrams quick one-liners and incredible action sequences that range from outrunning sand-speeders to several Kylo/Rey duels. As promised, this movie does tie everything up and ends the Star Wars saga as we know it… but wait! I feel a disturbance in the Force! As if millions of fanboys all over the world suddenly cried out saying, “We want MORE!”.

And the Mouse did grin…

The Return of the Jedi (1983)


*
Part three of the original Star Wars saga, this ‘ended’ the trilogy, but only for a few years until creator George Lucas decided to come back and ruin the franchise with three more episodes. But I digress… in this finale, our heroes face their greatest challenge: Ewoks! Seriously, what the heck was Lucas thinking?

After Han Solo (Harrison Ford) was sealed in carbonite, he was given to the evil crime lord, Jabba the Hutt on Tatooine, but have no fear! Jedi master, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), attempts a rescue, but is thwarted by that great big slug. Fortunately, Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) in disguise comes to the rescue and frees Han, but is captured. Nuts! Now, all of them (Han, Chewbacca, Leia, and Luke) are sent to the desert to die by being fed to the Sarlacc. Ugh! But thanks to R2-D2 and an undercover Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams), they manage to get a light-saber to Luke and badda-bing! They all escape unharmed. Yaay!

As Luke takes off to Dagobah to talk to Yoda, the Rebel Alliance finds out that the Empire is constructing another Death Star!! Geez! These guys just don’t give up! The globe in the sky is protected by an energy shield on the planet Endor below, and Han leads a strike team to destroy that ground shield generator while a squadron of starfighters try and destroy the Death Star… again. Luke returns to the mission after having found out from Force ghost Obi-Wan (Alec Guiness) that Leia is actually his sister! Holy smokes! To buy more time, Luke goes on board the Death Star to confront this dad, Darth Vader (voiced by James Earl Jones), and “feels the conflict within him”. Can he turn his dad from the Dark Side? Not if the Emperor (Ian McDiarmid) can help it!

Let the games begin: while Leia & Han struggle on Endor trying to take out that shield generator (guarded by Stormtroopers, BTW) and getting unexpected help from those teddy bear furballs, the Ewoks, the Emperor is taunting Luke, trying to turn him to the Dark Side by showing him the Rebel fleet being annihilated. Then there’s that cool duel between dad & son that ends with the Emperor being thrown down a reactor shaft by Vader and to his certain death (?). Oh, and then there’s C3PO being mistaken as a god by the Ewoks. Yeah, that happens.

Written by Lucas and Lawrence Kasdan, this movie made SO much money, it was unheard of. It also was famous for a title change! Originally titled Revenge of the Jedi, the title was later changed by Lucas because “the Jedi don’t take revenge”. But it was too late; many posters and merchandising stuff already were out on the market. I should know, I have one! It also marks the curious fact that Harrison Ford wanted out of his contract, asking that his character be ‘killed off heroically’, but that never happened. Re-released in 1997 as a “special edition”, Lucas fiddled with it and added several new CGI alien band members, a different song in Jabba’s throne room, and a ‘beak’ to the Sarlacc. Sheeesh!

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