Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker


            It's a suitable ending.  In this, the ninth installment of the immensely popular sci-fi series, Director J.J. Abrams wraps up the saga nicely by re-introducing elements from previous editions.  If you're a big fan, you'll be thrilled with the creative continuity.   But this one is still “stand alone” enough to enjoy even if you haven't availed yourself to the whole epic.  And that's because the main character, Rey (Daisy Ridley) is someone you just want to root for, not just because she's plucky and determined, but because she's still trying to figure out who she is, even while being thrown into situations that challenge all her skills and resources.

            Even though the original creator of “Star Wars,” George Lucas, is no longer writing the scripts, the main ingredients are still evident.  “A long time ago, in a galaxy far away” is the kind of intro that can produce both high-tech gadgetry, like spaceships and laser blasters and interactive droids, but also revel in the foibles of feeble humanity.  So we have unrequited romance, awkward flirting, and lots of dysfunctional family dynamics.  Another consistent theme is the tension between galactic-sized warfare juxtaposed with very personal, individualized emotional struggles.  And the weaponry can be as big and brutish as a spaceship-based laser beam that can destroy whole planets, but also as hand-held and elegant as a sword-like light saber.

            But the most intriguing aspect is still the invisible Force, which can be utilized in a positive way, complete with a zen-like meditative aspect, where physical objects can be moved with mere mind control.  But, The Force also has a Dark Side, where a person can choose to utilize these skills in a way that taps into anger, and greed for power.  This continues to be the most elusive and also the most tantalizing concept in the “Star Wars” universe.  The main figure here, Rey, is aware that she has a considerable gift with The Force, but she's also cognizant of the lure of the Dark Side within her.  And while she tries to figure out why that is so, others around her are pulling her in different directions.  The ostensible bad guy, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), has an emotional connection with her that literally goes beyond words.

            What we don't see in this film is any semblance of a Jedi Council, or the Jedi as Musketeer-like protectors of the virtuous weak against the conscienceless powerful.  What we don't see here is any extensive training of teacher and pupil, either on the positive side of The Force or on the Dark Side.  While there still seems to be an organized rebellion against the Evil Empire (insert your metaphorical candidate here), in the end, it's not about joining the tiny resistance so much as it is figuring out where your loyalties reside, and who your friends are.  And maybe that's as sweepingly universal as it is uniquely individual.

            Yes, it's a suitable ending.  And now, can we please have the next installment soon?


Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association