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George At 

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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

STAR WARS:THE RISE OF SKYWALKER almost felt like two movies to me, with the final hour FAR superior to the first.

Writer/Director JJ Abrams (The Force Awakens) is back at the helm for this final, 9th installment of the Star Wars story. I felt like he spent the first hour trying to wrap up what audiences hated about "The Last Jedi" and then move into the final hour of closure for long time fans.

There's no doubt he's piled on the action.

The film opens with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver, by far the best actor in this trilogy) driven to destroy any adversaries for his power, including the newly resurrected Emperor Palpatine, once again played well by Ian McDiarmid, who has owned the role since "Return of the Jedi" in 1983.

Meanwhile Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega) and Po (the reliably terrific Oscar Issac) are off on a quest for a Sith tracker device that will lead them to the Emperor...blah blah blah.

Honestly, I almost fell asleep a couple times the first hour as the plot thickened with more exposition than necessary, that somehow feels rushed and boring at the same time.

BUT, once Billy Dee Williams appears as Lando Calrissian and another Star Wars vet makes an appearance that elevates the entire film and everything that follows, the movie really kicks into crowd pleasing nirvana.

Abrams has a gift for giving long time, devoted fans everything they want with some terrific twists, as he did in rebooting Star Trek. He's rarely delivered as well as he does in the final hour, piling on visual thrills and references back to nearly every film in the series.

If there's a favorite planet from a Star Wars film, you'll be there. A favorite ship? Here you go. A favorite character, they're here.

Carrie Fisher plays a major role in the film through technology and clever use of previously shot footage. Mark Hamill still has a major influence and wears his grumpiness very well.

Driver rises above it all with a strong dramatic performance that allows him to convey more than one emotion this installment. He makes the movie.

C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), R2-D2 and Chewbacca all have great moments, as do Richard E. Grant and Domhall Gleeson as dark hat Generals.

There are at least four "give you chills" moments for long time fans like myself, all set to John Williams soaring music that weaves in all your favorite musical themes from the past, while creating hours of new score around them. WIlliams hasn't slowed down at all in the 42 years since the original film.

What the original trilogy had that this trilogy never fulfilled, was a trio of characters in Han, Luke and Leia that you felt like you knew well by the end of the trilogy. You cheered for them, they had fun, romance, adventure. Finn, Po and Rey in some ways are phantoms when it comes to any deep understanding of them. Maybe that's why the film truly only soars when characters from the past appear and remind you of how classic some of the moments of this series are in film history.

Abrams isn't making history here, or creating anything truly original, but he does deliver a highly polished, truly enjoyable and emotional final hour that will leave most Star Wars fans very satisfied with the wrap up.

Halfway in, I was restless, but by the time Williams music climbs to one final, blue letter end credit roll up the big screen, I had certainly had a great time.

Hey, at least Jar Jar didnt come about those Ewoks.....


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