Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

‘The dead speak!’ declares the opening scroll of the ninth and last movie of the original Skywalker saga, our heroes set to investigate a mysterious broadcast from Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid). Rey (Daisy Ridley) is experiencing visions of her parents while being telepathically challenged by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), determined to have her join him on the dark side while he himself is haunted by the voices of the dark forces which preceded him in “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.”

Laura's Review: C+

Cowriter (with "Argo's" Chris Terrio)/director J.J. Abrams ("Super 8," "Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens") injected new life into the saga four years ago by introducing a new set of characters in an organic production that was, essentially, a remake of Episode IV. Rian Johnson upped the ante in “The Last Jedi” by expanding the franchise lore in unexpected ways. So it is a great disappointment that Abrams returns to wrap things up with a slapdash rehash that plows a well worn path, only one setting offering anything new to really marvel at. One wishes Johnson had kept his “Knives Out” on ice and given us a finale with more to sink our teeth into.

Once again, the rebels led by General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher in poorly integrated archival footage) must defeat forces of evil now seemingly led by a rejuvenated Palpatine using Ren as his proxy. I’m not even going to bother getting into myriad plot details, all of which circle around to the same old anyway, right down to Ewoks. Suffice to say unnecessary exposition delivered with the pummeling speed of a tennis ball machine, colliding logic, lack of consequence for momentous setbacks and a sense of inevitability, of having seen this all done before and better, make J.J. Abrams' capper to the original saga a disappointment. I haven't checked my watch this much throughout this holiday movie season.

There is some amount of intrigue in finally learning Rey’s ancestry and Driver adds real emotion to their back-and-forth romance cum rivalry (his introduction, the lone survivor on a snowy, forest battlefield, recalls Coppola’s “Dracula”). The film’s highlight takes place on the wreck of the Death Star amidst churning seas, veteran “Star Wars” composer John Williams setting the stage with an eerie recall to Vader’s theme as Rey finds what she’s looking for only to engage in a lightsaber duel with Ren. Keri Russell’s new character Zorii Bliss, an ex of Poe Dameron’s (Oscar Isaac), is a cheeky and welcome new addition, but Jannah (Naomi Ackie, 2016's "Lady Macbeth"), like Finn (John Boyega) a former Stormtrooper, isn’t given enough to do after delivering an intriguing back story. Leia’s resurrection via old footage manipulated into new is as artificial as a franchise hologram, sightlines and perspectives often off, her expression never changing, but fear not as other members of the old gang all make appearances, most notably Billy Dee Williams’ Lando Calrissian. Old droids (Anthony Daniels’ C3PO and Jimmy Vee’s R2-D2) and new (Brian Herring’s BB-8) are joined by D-O, dubbed ‘Conehead’ by Dameron.

The film’s climactic battle and its aftermath are nothing new, a quick same sex kiss little more than PC talking point, but a return to an iconic landscape is, admittedly, touching. Still, with “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” Abrams always errs by reassuring far too quickly that everything will be OK.

Robin's Review: DNS