(Left to right): Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), BB-8, D-O, Rey (Daisy Ridley), Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and Finn (John Boyega) in ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.’
Photo courtesy: Lucasfilm Ltd.

Title: ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’

Director: J.J. Abrams

Starring: Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, Richard E. Grant, Lupita Nyong’o, Keri Russell and Billy Dee Williams

Few warriors have the power to spark a life-changing revolution that spans the universe and unifies several generations. But the new action-adventure movie, ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,’ further proves that its prolific protagonists can heroically and naturally do just that, as they end the third trilogy of the epic space-opera franchise.

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures is releasing the Lucasfilm Ltd. production today in U.S. theaters. The follow-up was helmed by returning series filmmaker, J.J. Abrams, who previously directed ‘The Force Awakens.’ Along with with Chris Terrio, the helmer also co-wrote the screenplay, and served as a producer on, ‘The Rise of Skywalker.’

‘The Force Awakens’ follows Rey (Daisy Ridley) and her Resistance team as they set out to locate the wayfinder crystal that will lead them to Exogol. Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) is surprisingly still alive and in charge of the hidden land of the Siths, where he’s determined to gain control of the galaxy.

With the help of several of her allies, including Poe (Oscar Isaac), Finn (John Boyega), Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), Rey must fight back against her internal urge to be seduced to the dark side by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), and subsequently fall prey to Palpatine. As she seeks advice and guidance from Leia (Carrie Fisher), Rey relies on her Jedi training to not only find confidence in herself, but also do whatever it takes to stop the First Order and Palpatine from dismantling the Resistance.

Overall, Abrams crafted an electrifying visual and emotional aesthetic that rekindles the unity that viewers have long felt together in the franchise. That solidarity inspires them to never stop pursuing their dreams and believe in the greater good, no matter what obstacles may stand in their way.

While George Lucas’ opening ‘Star Wars’ trilogy successfully pushed visual boundaries in the film world when it was first released in the late 1970s and early ’80s, Abrams’ final entry in the franchise’s original feature series further pushes the barriers of character development. In ‘The Rise of Skywalker,’ Driver proves in his captivating and enthralling performance that a seemingly ghastly villain may actually hold the key to the protagonists’ success. But most noteworthy is the fact that Ridley further cemented her place as a memorable female hero, in the vein of Sigourney Weaver as Ripley in another hit sci-fi franchise, ‘Alien.’

Carrying in the footsteps of the late, great Fisher in her career-defining role of Leia, ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ completely and satisfactorily hands the reigns over to Ridley. In an equally charismatic and humbling way, the English actress proves her star power, both in the context of the story and as a performer who needs to be taken seriously. She stunningly champions one of the biggest sci-fi franchises in the history of film, which truly embraces the leadership of women.

What began as a visually stunning and captivating space-race fantasy and action saga with the original ‘Star Wars’ trilogy has enthrallingly morphed into a female empowerment voyage. With ‘The Rise of Skywalker,’ Abrams crafted an invigorating visual and emotional aesthetic that rekindles the unity that viewers have long felt together in the beloved franchise. Supported by the stellar representation of Ridley’s determination to continue her journey of protecting the galaxy, the ninth installment of one of the most successful franchises in Hollywood history offers a satisfying conclusion to an emotional and heartfelt journey.

Technical: A+

Acting: A-

Story: B+

Overall: A-

Movie Review Details
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'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker'
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By Karen Benardello

As a graduate of LIU Post with a B.F.A in Journalism, Print and Electronic, Karen Benardello serves as ShockYa's Senior Movies & Television Editor. Her duties include interviewing filmmakers and musicians, and scribing movie, television and music reviews and news articles. As a New York City-area based journalist, she's a member of the guilds, New York Film Critics Online and the Women Film Critics Circle.

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