Recommendation: Any Star Wars property is a gift. But The Rise of Skywalker leaves a confounding and bitter aftertaste which is unfortunate considering it‘a the final installment to a four decades-long saga. 5/10.

IMDB Synopsis: The surviving Resistance faces the First Order once more in the final chapter of the Skywalker saga.

The end is here. After nine Skywalker-centric films, Star Wars—the main storyline that the moviegoing public knows—is over. But what should have been a soaring achievement filled with nostalgic callbacks, dashing set pieces, and a fulfilling conclusion to the 42-year journey, ends up being a convoluted, fan-service-y mess of a movie. The Rise of Skywalker feels less like a beautiful way to tie up loose ends and story arcs from all three trilogies and more like a studio exec’s knee jerk reaction to the divisiveness and criticism surrounding Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. Which is unfortunate because Star Wars—a franchise beloved by millions that taught generations to looks to the stars and hope—deserved better.

The familiar is on screen. The Resistance (led by the late Carrie Fisher’s General Leia Organa) seeks ways to fight the First Order. The fascistic First Order led by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and General Pryde (Richard E. Grant) strive to dominate the galaxy through military might. Rey (Daisy Ridley), the precocious scavenger-turned-Jedi is putting in the sweat equity to become a Jedi master. And it’s no spoiler to say that Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) is back, too. Heavily foreshadowed in the trailers, the Sith Lord has been lying in the shadows, pulling the strings and (somehow) amassing a gigantic fleet, with each ship equipped with the planet-killing capability. It certainly looks like a Star Wars and has plot points like a Star Wars. But it’s not. It’s an exposition-heavy, head-scratching, rote exercise that doesn’t have a creative soul, let alone the heart of a Star Wars.

Packed to the brim, the film jets from planet to planet to planet, stuffing as much Star Wars-iness as possible into the last chapter. Throughout this jetpacking, the film lacks any real stakes, refusing to make any decision that leads to real consequence. Additionally, TROS eschews characters from this trilogy—Rose and BB-8, most notably—to bring back favorites from the original for cheap cheers. And it retcons anything innovative and subversive from Ep. 8, chief among it Rey’s parentage, which is a direct shot (read: FU) at Rian Johnson.

This isn’t to say that the film is devoid of anything special. The Rey and Kylo relationship remains the most compelling part of this trilogy, and it’s brought to a heart-wrenching conclusion. The film should have spent more time with the duo, but what we get is mostly great. C-3PO plays a great comedic relief character (with a tear jerker of a scene in Act 2). And Billy Dee Williams reprising his role as Lando Calrissian is a fun sight to see. But there’s just too little heart and too little focus to make this a special entry into the canon.

This installment will be loved by many, and discarded by others, similar to Episode 8. It neatly (too neatly) brings closure with bookend symmetry to the saga that was started by George Lucas in 1977. Unfortunately, for a film that’s supposed to conclude the most successful IP of all time—a series that literally changed filmmaking and moviegoing—TROS doesn’t quite measure up to the task.

MVP: Kylo Ren is the MVP as a man torn in two, illuminating the conflict inside as the saga comes to a head.

Highlights: The lightsaber battle on the water moon of Kef Bir is stunning. Rey-Lo is still the compelling force in the series. The final shot is a beautiful callback to where it all started.

Director: JJ Abrams

Studio: Disney // Original release date: December 19, 2019