3 Stars — Thoughtful

Sitting in the same historic theater in Santa Barbara where we saw the first release of any “Star Wars” film, “Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope,” now 42 years later we came to the final episode, “Star Wars: Episode IX — The Rise of Skywalker,” with both appreciation and expectation.

After the 23 films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the 11 “Star Wars” films are the next highest-grossing series to date. Creating a cultural phenomenon that engrossed a generation, the characters have aged, but the battle between good and evil is now fought by their children and grandchildren.

Conceived by George Lucas, the conclusion of this story continues to stir the hearts and fears of its fans. Noting that death is not the end for both heroes and villains, while also nodding to the belief that in each of us are the strengths and weaknesses of our ancestors, the power of the force for both good and evil continues.

A distinctly clear choice within this fictional universe, the Jedi are the warriors using the power of the universe for good, while the Sith use it for evil. The generational impact of which choice is made is clear throughout the series and comes to the ultimate climax in this final chapter.

The ensemble engaged in this battle are both living and dead. The primary families are that of the Skywalkers and the Palpatines. The seduction by Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) of Anakin Skywalker to become the dark Lord Vader is a central plot of the films, and his seduction of Anakin’s grandson Ben Skywalker to become Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) in these last two chapters demonstrates both the power of evil and the seductive nature of rage.

However, love is always present. As in earlier chapters, this final moment of the tale not only brings about reconciliation between living and dead but also supplies the message that love can bring a person from darkness into light. We won’t spoil how that happens, but it is a central part of the films in which many sacrifice their lives so that others can live.

A second message is that both women and men are gifted and empowered. The introduction of Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) at the beginning and Rey (Daisy Ridley) at the end provide the clear message that we need both genders working together if we are to be successful.

A third and primary message throughout the film series is that evil can be resisted if people are willing to come together to do so. It does not take a military to defeat that which would destroy us. It only takes unity. Becoming a part of the “resistance” is the true calling of all that is good. That is a message for which we are clearly thankful.


» The struggle between good and evil is played out in each of our lives at all levels. How do you identify what is good, and how do you pursue it?

» That it takes generations to create both the depth of evil and the height of good is a clear message. How are you helping the next generation in its fight against evil?

» The desire for ultimate power drove the Emperor to sacrifice everything and everyone. He was willing to destroy the worlds that would not give him their allegiance. Where do you see such a force throughout history and even today?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is a former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is the retired pastor of Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara and lead superintendent of Free Methodist Church in Southern California. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com, or follow them on Twitter: @CinemaInFocus. The opinions expressed are their own.