STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER – Review by Susan Granger

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On May 25, 1977, John Williams’ propulsive score introduced George Lucas’ sci-fi fantasy, featuring Luke (Mark Hamill), Leia (Carrie Fisher), Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Darth Vader (James Earl Jones), Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), Yoda and the indispensable droids: C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and R2-D2.

While the Star Wars concept continues in various spin-offs, that era has concluded. After George Lucas sold the franchise to Disney in 2012, J.J. Abrams has masterminded the final three ‘origin story’ episodes, introducing desert scavenger-turned-Jedi Rey (Daisy Ridley) and First Order Supreme Leader Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) – a.k.a. Ben Solo – under Sith Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid).

This installment begins a year after The Last Jedi. And while the First Order has quashed the Resistance, Stormtrooper-turned-Resistance fighter Finn (John Boyega) and spice-smuggling ace pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) have been sent by General Leia Organa (the late Carrie Fisher) to search the galaxy for potential allies.

Obviously, J.J. Abrams’ greatest challenge was seamlessly integrating previously unused Carrie Fisher out-takes from Episode VII, The Force Awakens,”dumping the “ghosting” technique that revived Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin in Rogue One.

Abrams introduces Keri Russell as slinky Zorii Bliss, almost unrecognizable under a large brass-and-red helmet, along with Naomi Ackle as a bow-and-arrow wielding warrior astride an equine called an Orbak. And there’s a glimpse of Fisher’s real-life daughter Billie Lourd as a Resistance lieutenant.

Working with co-writer Chris Terrio, Abrams also pays homage to Billy Dee Williams as roguish pirate Lando Calrissian and other nostalgic surprises that I won’t ruin for you. While the convoluted, vaguely coherent plot’s a little vague, cinematographer Dan Mindel chronicles several dazzling battles and tense, lightsaber clashes.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is a sprawling, satisfying 7, as familiar memories of flying on the Millennium Falcon continue. And – at least at Disneyworld – The Force will always be with you.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.