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Movie Review: 'Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker'

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

"Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker" is the third film in the third trilogy of a little saga you may have heard of. A long time ago, George Lucas had a plan for nine Star Wars movies. And J.J. Abrams, who directed "The Force Awakens," has now been tasked with bringing to a conclusion what's been dubbed the Skywalker saga.

So how did it all come out? NPR film critic Bob Mondello has this review.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHN WILLIAMS' "STAR WARS (MAIN TITLE)")

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Earlier this week, I overheard a guy in the NPR elevator saying whenever a new Star Wars movie opens, I try to see it twice on the first day. It's a lot to process. As a theoretically jaded movie critic, my first response was to chuckle. But in mid-eyeroll (ph), I remembered leaving a first-day matinee of the original "Star Wars" in 1977 and getting right back in line to buy tickets for the midnight show. It was a lot to process, as is "The Rise Of Skywalker."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As stormtrooper) We've spotted the fugitives.

MONDELLO: Director J.J. Abrams doesn't just have to end the third trilogy that he started with "The Force Awakens" a few years back, he also has to tie up a lot of loose ends, genuflect before the six movies in the first two trilogies, name-check, voice-check and face-check a whole lot of characters, and somehow still make us feel we're seeing things we haven't seen - a new Stormtrooper tactic, for instance.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER")

ANTHONY DANIELS: (As C-3PO) They fly now.

JOHN BOYEGA: (As Finn) They fly now?

OSCAR ISAAC: (As Poe Dameron) They fly now.

MONDELLO: As that exchange suggests, repetition and reinforcement are the director's stock in trade. Where the most recent "Star Wars," Rian Johnson's "The Last Jedi," pleased critics and annoyed super fans by suggesting some mildly new directions the series might head off in...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER")

ISAAC: (As Poe Dameron) Which way?

BOYEGA: (As Finn) No idea. Follow me.

MONDELLO: ...Abrams pulls everything back in this one. He's here to pay homage to what's gone before and takes that task seriously.

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IAN MCDIARMID: (As Palpatine) I have been every voice...

ANDY SERKIS: (As character) ...You have ever heard...

JAMES EARL JONES: (As character) ...Inside your head.

MCDIARMID: (As Palpatine, laughing).

MONDELLO: Not doing anything that's going to give fans palpitations, as it were, there is plenty of the usual action - space cruisers exploding or falling majestically, lots of lightsaber rattling. And to vary the pacing, there's also the sage advice from elders for which "Star Wars" is known.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER")

MARK HAMILL: (As Luke Skywalker) We've passed on all we know. A thousand generations live in you now. But this is your fight.

MONDELLO: Though the new kids - earnest Finn, smart alec Poe, and forceful Rey - have taken up the fight, guidance from their predecessors has consistently powered this trilogy. Just as Han was central to "The Force Awakens" and Luke to "The Last Jedi," "The Rise Of Skywalker" was intended as Princess Leia's swan song. And by employing previously unused footage of the late Carrie Fisher, Abrams has found a way to give her an emotional sendoff.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER")

HAMILL: (As Luke Skywalker) The force will be with you.

CARRIE FISHER: (As Leia Organa) Always.

MONDELLO: And with us all, presumably. The Skywalker saga may be ending, but "Star Wars" spin-offs won't be. And Abrams offers a sort of guidebook here for things that never get old - cute droids, for instance, of which there's a newbie, the fortitude of rebel fighters...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER")

DAISY RIDLEY: (As Rey) You three stay there.

DANIELS: (As C-3PO) Happening.

MONDELLO: ...And the impressive housekeeping on the bad guys' warships. Say what you will about the Sith, they employ some serious clean freaks - floors that gleam no matter how many Stormtroopers bite the - well, there's no dust for them to bite.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER")

MONDELLO: Meanwhile, "The Rise Of Skywalker" is a chance for fans to revel in what was, what has been, in fact, for 42 years. It doesn't do anything new or even terribly distinctive, but maybe it didn't have to. It just had to be good enough to stick the landing. And it does that.

I'm Bob Mondello.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHN WILLIAMS' "STAR WARS (MAIN TITLE)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.