The following review includes lots of spoilers and assumes you’ve seen The Last Jedi.
Overall I enjoyed the movie. While I don’t think it’s a masterpiece and I think it’s flawed in parts I don’t quite understand the hate it’s getting.
To start this off I think I have to explain how I’m approaching the sequel trilogy movies. When I first saw The Force Awakens in the cinema I was entertained, although I did have reservations, especially about the use of the Starkiller base weapon and the introduction of the new elements to the universe without any context, such as the First Order and Snoke. Where did they come from? It was just a bit too convenient to have these ready-made adversaries there without knowing their origins. But never mind.
After enjoying Rogue One much more that The Force Awakens I realised that the sequels are probably not going to please me as much as the spin-offs. So I thought I’d just take The Last Jedi as I found it.
Over all I liked it. I certainly like it a bit more than The Force Awakens as there a little more meat on the bones of the story and while it does lift elements from Empire and Jedi it’s not a complete remake like The Force Awakens was of A New Hope.
That being said there were a few things I didn’t like about it so I’ll deal with those first.
The humour, especially the Poe-Hux comedy routine right at the start of the movie. It actually felt like something that should be in a parody movie like Spaceballs. It was very bad judgement to include something so comedic, especially right at the start of the movie. Plus they turned Hux into a comedy straight man throughout the rest of the movie.
The constant “we have a bigger ship” routine. This started with the Dreadnaught ship appearing which was much bigger than the already large Star Destroyers. We are expected to believe that Poe in his small fighter can single-handedly rid it of the defence cannons. Then Snoke’s ship appears which is supposedly 60 km wide. And on the planet at the end they have a gigantic battering ram cannon (much larger than the supersized AT-ATs) just to knock a tiny hole in a door. It just feels like overkill and again like self-parody.
The use of the Luke character. I really don’t think Luke has been well used in these movies. The Force Awakens reduced him to a cameo without dialog. This one has him hiding on a distant planet pretty much being very grumpy and refusing to help Rey. I do find it hard to believe that the Luke of the original trilogy just gave up and hid himself away. And then he goes and dies at the end. Indidently Mark Hamill is apparently on record as sayin he doesmt recognise this version of Luke.
The Mary Poppins scene. Or if you like the scene where Leia was blasted into space but used Jedi powers to “fly” back into the ship. Heavy sigh. It was one of those moments where I sat in the cinema asking myself “just what the hell am I looking at here?”
The side mission to the casino planet. Again with the inappropriate humour, especially an inebriated patron putting coins into BB8 mistaking him for a slot machine. This allows BB8 to later fire the coins like a machine gun. Face palm. They also got in a very unsubtle “be nice to animals” message.
BB8 driving a scout walker. Puts head in hands.
There was however much that I liked.
The opening bomber raid on the Dreadnaught was something a little bit different and was quite gripping. The bombardier on the last remaining bomber is unable to press the all important “drop the bombs” button so it’s up to gunner Paige to retrieve said button and drop the bombs without a thought for her own survival. A very tense and eff3ctive opening.
(It occurs to me that I’d like to see a Star Wars movie about that, a single bomber crew on a specific mission with the odds against them.)
Some of the stuff with Rey on Luke’s planet was good. I liked the bit where she has a Jedi vision of herself multiplied. There was some good visually interesting stuff going on.
There was a lovely little moment where R2D2 shows luke the old hologram of Leia asking Obi-Wan for help.
(But that reminds me, R2 was hardly in the movie. That’s two movies in a row he’s hardly used. Why are they so reluctant to do stuff with R2?)
The lightsabre battle with Rey and Kylo having to team up against the Praetorian guards was pretty impressive and was probably one of the strongest sequences in the movie.
The DJ character was interesting. Of course it’s Benicio Del Toro. Respect. But besides that it opened up the universe a little. I liked the scene where DJ shows Finn the holograms of what weapons the arms dealer supplies. There’s the Tie Fighters that the Empire used, and then unexpectedly there’s an X-Wing.
There’s some interesting commentary here on arms dealing in the Star Wars universe that perhaps touches on explaining how the First Order could come about, that war is good for business. But it’s not developed. (That’s another movie I’d like to see.) In the end DJ isn’t really used much.
As a side note some time ago when I heard they were going to a casino planet and would meet Benicio Del Toro I did think “well, Lando betrayed Han, I guess Benicio Del Toro will do the same…”
And I really liked the bit where the Laura Dern character turned her ship and went into hyperspace pointing at Snoke’s ship and basically cuts it in two. The use of silence for that sequence was impressive.
Another highlight was when Luke appeared on the planet at the end to face off against the walkers and Kylo, especially the moment where he brushes the dust off his shoulder.
In general looking back on it I like just how dark things get for the Rebels. They lose their base, they gradually lose their fleet and then their escape shuttles are picked off one by one. There isn’t the expected last minute rescue for the majority of the Rebels. There’s really only a handful of personnel left to continue the fight.
But I’m not sure how I feel about the basic plot, i.e. the Rebels are chased by the First Order at sunlight speeds. For the whole movie. The First Order can’t catch up but the Rebels can’t get outrun them either. It just feels a little limited. I almost wish they had lifted the asteroid sequence from Empire to spice things up a bit. Maybe the Rebel ship could hide in an asteroid and have to wait out the bombardment. But then I’d be complaining that something else was copied from Empire.
What I really find perplexing is that they are making up these movies as they go. George Lucas always had an idea of where each trilogy was heading as he made the earlier movies. I had assumed that Lucasfilm would have done the same for the sequel trilogy. But apparently JJ Abrams just created the story for The Force Awakens, setting up all those mysteries, principally who is Snoke, and who are Rey’s parents.
Only now Writer-Director Rian Johnson has shown that he doesn’t particularly care to answer them so he just killed off Snoke and decided that Rey’s parents were some random people we never met.
Not that I mind Snoke being killed off. He was never that interesting to me and it was a nice surprise that they chose to do it in the middle of the trilogy, replacing him with Kylo.
Unfortunately JJ Abrams Is back to do episode 9. We can anticipate more pointless CGI creature chases. I can’t pretend I’m looking forward to it.
Again this reinforces my thoughts on the sequel trilogy. If you’re going to do a trilogy then you should plot it all out in advance, not make it up as you go. Otherwise why bother making a trilogy at all?
Also the main saga is sometimes referred to as the Skywalker saga. Fine, only now you’ve killed off Luke Skywalker.
While JJ is getting his people to design some new CGI creatures Rian Johnson is going to develop a new Star Wars trilogy. My bet is that it will be about the kid with the broom at the end.
So overall I liked the movie but am aware of its many flaws.