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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker offers adventurous, thematic entertainment.

For anyone living in a galaxy far, far away, I’m happy to announce that Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker has arrived in Earth’s cinemas. No spoilers appear in this review, there’s so much else to highlight in the George Lucas initiated, iconic Star Wars adventures as the Resistance once more courageously faces off against the First Order.

Understandably, director/co-writer J.J. Abrams reports intense apprehension taking on this monumental task, the ninth chapter and the last in the latest trilogy. At the helm, Abrams and the hundreds who contributed their artistic and technical talent to this much-anticipated endeavor present a worthy addition, possibly conclusion, to the saga. As always, the flawless editing flashes through the breathtaking action sequences with zing and flair, animating skirmishes while enjoyably increasing most fans’ blood pressure.

Cinematographer Dan Mindel elegantly alternates literally and symbolically bright scenes with darkly ominous ones. John Williams’ so familiar score still summons excitement. And the story bobs and weaves through expected and some unexpected moments. For us fans, there are, as there must be, stormtroopers who still can’t shoot worth a darn, lightsaber duels that defy all logic (as we would want), and imaginative new and familiar animals and characters. A metaphorically important glass tetrahedron figures in along with the critically important, evil Emperor Palpatine, Sith lords, and, of course, Kylo Ren, Rey, Poe, Finn, Chewbacca, C-3PO, BB-8, R2-D2, and more. Kudos to Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, and Adam Driver for solid, superb performances.

In addition to just having fun with the ride, embedded in the pervasive mayhem and conflict, what I respond to in all the Star Wars films is strong thematic content, including mythological references and thoughtful (yes, thoughtful) reflection. Relationships with family and friends, dignity, what’s worth committing to, reconsidering values and choices: all these themes question the essential identity of each individual. In a galaxy far away, we should feel comfortable with such examination in a charged, high-spirited environment. Let’s hope we return to Earth a better person for ourselves and our world.

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Diane Carson

Diane Carson, Ph.D., Professor Emerita, has reviewed films for over 25 years and has covered the Cannes, Telluride, Toronto, Palm Springs, and Sundance festivals. She writes for KDHX, 88.1 FM. St. Louis’ community radio. One of the founders of the St. Louis International Film Festival, she continues to serve on juries. A past president of the University Film and Video Association, she taught film studies and production at St. Louis Community College and at Webster University. Her new book, written with two colleagues, is “Appetites and Anxieties: Food, Film, and the Politics of Representation,” Wayne State U. Press, 2014.