Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (12A)

Director: JJ Abrams

With: Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega

Runtime: 142 mins

42 years, nine films, characters that have passed into legend, a mythology that’s become a religion, and the end of the road for the most popular and beloved piece of storytelling ever created for cinema. We’ve much to thank Star Wars for, even if the naysayers would have us believe that, with the last two episodes, one was too beholden to nostalgia, the other too much of a departure from formula.

The return of Episode VII director JJ Abrams for this finale would suggest a move back to the comfortingly familiar. He’s certainly in a near impossible position if the plan was to please everyone, so we should be grateful that he’s crafted a very enjoyable adventure that thrills with several stunning moments and checks all the boxes it needs to, yet never quite achieves the emotional heft it’s driving for.

As we join the action, Supreme Leader Kylo Ren (the exceptional Driver) is filled with rage at the news that the late great Emperor Palpatine may be back from the afterlife, something he sees as a threat to his rule. Meanwhile Rey (Ridley) is attempting to complete her Jedi training under the tutelage of Leia (Carrie Fisher, who is fitted in reasonably seamlessly following her sad death before production even began).

As the pair set out on a collision course, we’re treated to a plot with a lot - an awful lot - to reveal and explain, which you wouldn’t want spoiled here. But what it all really boils down to is a treasure hunt involving careening from one clue or artefact to the next in a manner more reminiscent of Jumanji than a galaxy far, far away. There’s no denying that it’s entertaining, and it allows for something that’s been missing so far in these sequels, which is for the whole gang to get together and share in the action.

Everyone gets stuck in, but the sheer volume of *stuff* that’s crammed into The Rise of Skywalker is staggering. Revelations abound, as do surprise appearances, and it’s so jam-packed and moves at such a breathless pace that you may not have time to consider that it’s entirely possible Abrams and his writing partner don’t have a completely firm grasp on their material, or the rules of the game.

Thankfully, Abrams never loses sight of the true heart of this new trilogy, the battle of wills and lightsabers between Kylo and Rey. Theirs was a relationship that was deepened in The Last Jedi, and their frequent epic clashes here have real impact as each tries to turn the other to good or evil.

It’s all so close to being the monumental conclusion we’d anticipated, coming up just short in the final reckoning. There will be howls of disappointment in some quarters, but hopefully we can all agree that George Lucas and those who came after him have left a legacy that will be enjoyed for generations to come. It is, after all, only a movie.