SYNOPSIS: No one’s ever really gone… Rey’s journey continues and the Skywalker saga concludes in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, coming December 2019.

In 1977, I walked out of a theater with a feeling of elation I had rarely experienced. I had just seen Star Wars: A New Hope, and it was unlike anything I’d seen before. It was mysteriously sub-titled Episode IV. The average movie-goer of the time didn’t realize that this film would usher in an epic story that would culminate in the film I saw yesterday, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the ninth and final installment of the Star Wars epic.

I entered the theater with mixed emotions: curiosity about the highly-guarded plot, nostalgia, sadness at the end of the saga that has spanned most of my life. For me, the story always begins with Episode IV. I try not to think about the “first” 3 episodes because I really didn’t like them. Who starts an epic tale with the 3 middle episodes? Well, George Lucas did. So millions of action figures, LEGO Millennium Falcons, and toy lightsabers later, we come to the end.

The Rise of Skywalker sees the final confrontation between what’s left of The Resistance and The First Order. It’s always been about the struggle between good and evil, light and dark. It’s the classic myth of the hero’s journey, overcoming self-doubt and danger to achieve victory over a formidable foe. Although there have been a number of heroes in this long story, in the end there is only one.

Daisy Ridley returns as Rey, heiress to the Jedi tradition and fearless resistance fighter. Just as her character has grown in power, she has grown in her portrayal. Still searching for the truth about her parents, she approaches her greatest foe, Kylo Ren, Supreme Leader of The First Order, with determination, fury, but also uncertainty.

Adam Driver brings depth to a villain who’s really a contradiction. His loyalty to the Dark Side is tempered by his own feelings for Rey who wants nothing more than to kill him, and his own self-doubts about his chosen path.

So will the battle between Ren and Rey be the end-all? You’ve seen several scenes in the trailers of the two fighting desperately. You’ll just have to see the film to find out!

Alongside Rey are her two faithful companions, Finn (John Boyega), and Poe (Oscar Isaac). Together, they mirror the original three: Leia, Luke, and Han. Like Leia, Rey is determined, strong, unrelenting. Finn, like young Luke, is earnest and impetuous – slowly learning to trust himself. Poe, like Han, is a bit of a rascal, but with the heart of a hero. Both are appealing actors who bring very sympathetic characters to the table.

Anthony Daniels returns as C-3PO, the sardonic droid. He’s the only actor to appear in all 9 films. In an interview, he said that he was grateful to have lived long enough to see the end of the story.

One who didn’t live long enough, Carrie Fisher as Leia, appears in archived film authorized by her daughter, Billie Lourd who plays a small role (Lt. Connix), and her brother Todd Fisher. Being such an integral part of the story, her scenes are both necessary and bittersweet.

Wonderfully nostalgic, Billy Dee Williams reprises his role as Lando Calrissian. He’s still a smooth talker, but he can also still fly the Millennium Falcon intrepidly. His co-pilot, Chewbacca, is played by Joonas Sustamo since the death of Peter Mayhew.

Spirits from the past — good and bad — haunt the narrative and draw the audience into the spellbinding range of the story as a whole. My favorite scenes occurred within the wreckage of the Death Star, partially submerged on the Ocean Moon of Kef Bar. There, amid shadows and whispers, it was easy to feel the presence of all who had fought to restore the balance and stability of the galaxy. Also present in the shadows, were the ghosts of all who tried to dominate and destroy.

The closely-guarded plot of the film will remain so with this review. Really, the less you know about it, the better.

There are a number of weak spots in the film, not the least of which is the pacing and flow of the narrative. Too many digressions often made it hard to follow. The special effects were exactly what you’d expect – nothing really new.

A couple of new characters played by big-name stars, Lupita Nyong’o as Maz and Keri Russel as Zorii, were completely extraneous and provided little to the story. Some didn’t like all the allusions to previous films, but I rather enjoyed them.

As for the fate of the Skywalker legacy, it all comes down to the decision of one, young woman. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is a must-see for all Star Wars fans. – Jo Hyde