I must admit that I was far too lenient in my reviews of the two previous episodes in the Star Wars saga - The Force Awakens (2015) and The Last Jedi (2017). Maybe I was just excited to see new Star Wars movies with the original cast. However, neither film has stayed with me, as the new characters are rather dull and there's too much rehashed plot from the original movies. Mostly, though, killing off my childhood heroes really rankled me.
Now, Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker has many of the same problems as Force Awakens and Last Jedi, but it actually feels closer to a real Star Wars movie than the previous two. Don't believe the early internet whispering that Rise of Skywalker is an unmitigated disaster. It's not.
So, negating the conclusion of Darth Vader's story in Return of the Jedi (1983), evil Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) is still around in Rise of Skywalker and it is up to heroes Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac) to find and destroy him. Villain and brat Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is also in pursuit of Palpatine for his own nefarious purposes. What Rise of Skywalker gets right is that it keeps the three lead characters together for much of the film instead of separating them into thankless subplots.
Force Awakens director JJ Abrams returns to helm this one and had his work cut out for him. First, he had to reconfigure Leia's storyline because of the untimely death of actress Carrie Fisher. Unused footage of Fisher from Force Awakens was used, and it sort of works even though Leia's appearance is little more than a cameo. Speaking of cameos, beloved characters Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) get very little screen time. Christ, even R2-D2 gets the shaft.
The second issue for Abrams is fixing all that director Rian Johnson broke while subverting Star Wars just for the sake of it with The Last Jedi. Abrams' course corrections mostly work.
The Rise of Skywalker recycles many ideas from the original trilogy
and there are too many call backs to those films, but it is serviceable, if