I wanted something to match the quality of a Lord of the Rings film. What I got was a Harry Potter film.
I’ll explain later.
This is a good movie. Not great, but it does some interesting things. Visually this is one of the best looking films I have ever seen. The 3D is probably the best, because of the wide space used for almost every scene. I suspect you’ve already seen it if you’re reading this, so my recommendation of go see it might be redundant. But I’d say 7.5/10 overall.
I’ve seen people worrying about being spoiled on this film. But I think part of the problem is there’s nothing in here where a spoiler would have lessened the film. Snoke, Yoda, Luke, Leia, Kylo… all the big elements were nice to see without knowing them in advance, but they didn’t add anything or surprise you once you’re in the moment.
There’s a lot to unpack. The film is filled with some great ideas that almost get to something better, but never quite make it. It’s also packed with filler that makes it hard to justify the length.
The good – Leia, Kylo, Rey, Admiral Holdo, Rose. These characters were fabulous on screen. They had great moments, arcs, and dialogue. I could write pages for each of them.
Benicio del Toro was good as DJ, but we’ll talk about his character in another section. Same for Skywalker.
The humour in the film seems to have split people. I liked it, but I want to have fun at the cinema. If I was looking for compromise I think they could have gone to comedy a bit less, but I did enjoy laughing at odd moments.
The bad – My biggest gripe with Star Wars is that, cinematically, it’s a small universe. There are only a handful of people who do anything of significance and everyone else is ignored. I was hoping that might change with this trilogy but other than Poe, Finn, and Rey, I don’t think it’s going to. The wonderful new Admiral is dead. Rose is going through what Finn went through last time, sacrificing herself to help Finn’s arc. Kylo Ren has fully become Vader. Snoke is dead. Hux is a comedy mule.
The moment when Kylo Ren is suggesting they could tear it all down, no more Jedi, Sith, Republic, First Order… that had such great potential. It could have been a truly astonishing moment of him and Rey starting something new, or becoming outlaws, or adding a shade of grey to a universe of black and white. But within seconds he started talking exactly the same way we have always seen which shows us it is no different. For a film that tried to go in a different direction, it sure did stay on target.
And speaking of which – Finn dying would have been a great way to show they’re prepared to push what’s happened before. It came so close, but couldn’t even commit to that.
The slow chase with fuel gradually drying up was wonderfully executed. I loved the feeling of claustrophobia on the ship as they had fewer and fewer resources and no options. Except for the two of them who could jet off for their own adventure on a nearby (??) planet. The whole casino sequence could be excised completely, and used in a way that supports the characters.
Perhaps Poe takes the plan to Holdo to show he’s looking for help and other solutions and they work on it together perhaps oh why oh why couldn’t something like this have happened. Because I need to call out that Holdo didn’t trust Poe. When he finally learns the plan he tells Finn on a comm, overheard by DJ, who then sells them out.
HOLDO WAS RIGHT NOT TO TRUST HIM AND STILL DIED TO SUPPORT HIS ARC BECAUSE SHE WAS A GOOD AND CAPABLE CHARACTER.
The ugly – So many critters. So many characters. So many moments barely filled in. Hey Disney, your merchandise arm is showing.
DJ could have been an interesting counterpoint to everyone, but I don’t feel like this landed at all, since he was a little muddled himself. Phasma also got a couple of minutes in there, but was wasted even more than her appearance in the last movie. I don’t understand why that character exists or is advertised so heavily.
Skywalker was fun, and his philosophy on the Force was perfect. I adored him talking about the history of the Jedi being failure and hubris, and his resolution to destroy the order is one of my favourite things in it. The problem is that with all that I had to hear three different versions of what happened at his temple with Kylo Ren, and take half the film with repeated beats on the island that meant nothing to get there anyway. It seemed obsessed with something that didn’t matter and wasn’t interesting when it was finally delivered.
I feel bad ragging on a film that is so beautiful, and has such good performances, especially without offering alternatives. So here’s my main take – this film delivers everything that annoys me about Harry Potter films. Side plots, characters, and shenanigans that don’t add anything or matter too much. Internal conflict that isn’t believable or well written (eg. Poe mistrusts Holdo like people mistrust Snape/DATDA teachers), and it’s all about watching our heroes having an adventure without worrying too much for their safety.
I would love it if The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi were merged into one film. Clearly there would need to be structural changes, however I think there is a lot that could be removed from both films to shorten the sequences, giving a film that introduces new characters and sets their arcs in motion. Sadly this is two films now that do not dare deviate from what has gone before. Where the prequels were hindered because they had to mesh into canon (I still remember the debates if they could do a twist that Vader was actual Kenobi), this trilogy has no such excuse, and yet this is what we get.