Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (3 stars)

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley impress in a rather too formulaic finale

42 years after George Lucas's ambitious A New Hope hit screens and become a cultural phenomenon, JJ Abrams wraps up a new generation's space opera with something of a whimper. If The Force Awakens offered state-of-the-art thrills and the potential for a new kind of hero to emerge, and Rian Johnson's The Last Jedi threatened to burn it all down and start afresh, then The Rise of Skywalker digs it all up again in order to pay disappointing fan service.

Revealed at the outset, Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) has been lying in wait, building an army to take down the Jedi and the Rebellion. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is still furiously fiddling with Darth Vader's crinkly helmet and Rey (Daisy Ridley) has been harnessing her skills under the guidance of General Leia (Carrie Fisher). Rey is struggling but Leia advises her to 'Never be afraid of who you are.' It's something which the concluding part to this trilogy sadly forgets, as it continually undermines the previous film's narrative.

Poe (Oscar Isaac), Finn (John Boyega), C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), BB-8 and Chewie (Joonas Suotamo) join Rey on an adventure that plays out as a story of friendship and bears some similarities to The Goonies. Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) is frustratingly left behind with little to say or do. New faces include Jannah (a fantastic Naomi Ackie) who is gifted with an intriguing storyline, one which plays into Finn's narrative about the working-class leading a revolution. Richard E Grant has fun as a malevolent general and many of the new creatures and characters the gang meet along the way are endearingly drawn. Keri Russell also appears as Zorii Bliss, who is essentially there to flirt with Poe.

The film is at its strongest when focusing on the internal and external battle of Rey and Ren. Their scenes are imbued with sweaty peril, gripping sabre duels and memorable visual pomp. The enigmatic acting duo of Driver and Ridley thoroughly draw you into their fight against one another and the dark side, and they generate magnetic chemistry.

The charismatic cast keep you invested even if the film relies on musty nostalgia and blockbuster formula as weathered and grey as Palpatine's complexion to fuel it on a spluttering journey. The Rise of Skywalker offers emotional payoff as it bids a sweet farewell to the late Carrie Fisher and her original crew, but still fails to present a particularly satisfying conclusion. In the end, it feels like a film that has completely lost its nerve.

General release from Thu 19 Dec.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

  • 3 stars
  • 2019
  • US
  • 2h 22min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: JJ Abrams
  • Cast: Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Anthony Daniels, Naomi Ackie, Domhnall Gleeson, Richard E. Grant, Lupita Nyong'o, Keri Russell, Joonas Suotamo, Kelly Marie Tran, Ian McDiarmid, Billy Dee Williams
  • UK release: 19 December 2019

Emperor Palpatine (McDiarmid) is back and building an army, so Rey (Ridley), Poe (Isaac), Finn (Boyega) and the gang go up against him and Kylo Ren (Driver). The internal and external battle of Ridley and Driver is the strongest element, with magnetic chemistry, but elsewhere it’s disappointing fan service, a film that…