AT the age of nine, I became a disciple of George Lucas's epic sci-fi saga.

That summer, I sat expectantly between my parents nervously awaiting Sunday service at the church of the moving image.

The title of the afternoon's sermon: Return Of The Jedi.

Thanks to VHS, I had obsessively studied Lucas's old testament – A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back – and still felt ripples of shell shock from the disclosure of Luke Skywalker's parentage.

Lights dimmed and a familiar opening scrawl transported me to a galaxy far, far away accompanied by a sonic blast of John Williams's thrilling orchestral score.

The same electrical thrum of euphoric shared experience crackles during key scenes of the ninth and concluding chapter, The Rise Of Skywalker, which promises a fitting resolution to 42 years of fantastical beasties and breathless dog fights on board the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy. Director JJ Abrams preached to the converted in 2015 with The Force Awakens, and here he provides generations of expectant Padawans and Sith apprentices with the nostalgia-saturated swansong they crave.

It's not always the most elegant film-making – the opening 20 minutes are extremely clunky – but when planets align, Abrams delivers rousing action sequences, including one of the series' most visually stunning lightsaber duels, and he engineers a fitting farewell to the late Carrie Fisher using unreleased footage.

Following the death of mentor Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Rey (Daisy Ridley) finds herself on a parallel journey of self-discovery to Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), who has assumed the position of Supreme Leader of the First Order after the demise of Snoke. Meanwhile, a shift in the Force propagates rumours about the return of Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid).

Co-written by Chris Terrio, The Rise Of Skywalker shoehorns every conceivable reason for audiences to whoop, cheer and weep into 142 minutes.

Loose plot threads are tied neatly and heartstrings plucked as friendships and romances threaten to become collateral damage of a bloodthirsty war against the First Order.

Some of the plotting is convoluted and a long-awaited battle royale follows the Avengers: Endgame template for an emotional crescendo but Abrams presides over a happy union of old and new with obvious affection. A final hurrah made by a fan for the fans.

RATING: 7.5/10