TL;DR: I liked it. You should totally go see it.
I had a few issues with it — one part being that it could have wrapped up half an hour earlier than it did, and that there’s a major section of the plot ended up being rather pointless and “Nice job breaking it, Hero” territory, but I can’t really get into it without getting into spoilers.
Despite my issues with it, there was a lot of stuff that was really cool and awesome, but I want to get into that after I talk about my issues, so this review/analysis thing can end on a positive note.
So I guess we’ll just jump straight into the *SPOILERS*.
Problems first, praises second.
1. Going, Going, Going….
So first the Resistance needs to outrun the enemy fleet, then the transports just need to get to the surface, then they just need to destroy the laser, then they just need to escape the mine. Yeah, I feel like they could have trimmed out two or three of these. Although the Hoth-esque fight on the planet surface was really cool, and it meant we got that lovely quote from Rose and all the feels, I think it would have done better to have the confrontation between Kylo Ren and Luke on the flagship, rather than on the surface.
Or maybe just removed the part about the transports getting shot down on the way down. Actually, now that I think about it, I feel like that was probably the part that could have been cut. If they had moved straight from abandoning ship to setting up defenses on the surface, it probably would have run more quickly and much better. There really wasn’t much during the escaping transports section except drama and stress, and gratuitous drama and stress at that.
2. Canto Bight
I wouldn’t exactly call this entire “side quest” unnecessary, but I felt like it got close. Sure, Finn and Rose and Poe go way out of their way to help out, it all turns out to be unnecessary, and they end up just making everything worse, but there were a few little things in it that I think made it worth doing — though perhaps differently.
On the one hand, showing the oppression of the First Order was important. So too that the Resistant has a lot of silent support in the galaxy. And the shades of gray present in the conflict — weapons dealers selling to both First Order and Resistance.
On the other hand, the whole thing could have been avoided by purple-hair woman (name?) telling Poe what her plan was, that it was more than just running. If she had just pointed to a star chart and been like “That’s our destination”, the whole side quest could have been avoided.
3. Silent Majority and Galactic Stakes
Probably the biggest issue I had with the film was the size of the Resistance. The film frames them as a tiny force, basically just one ship and a few smaller vessels. Kylo Ren basically manages to cripple their entire force single handedly (aside from the bombing squad that suicided into the dreadnought) between bombing the hangar and bombing the bridge (yes, I know he didn’t do that himself, but he was part of the group of fighters that did that).
There’s mention of other Resistance cells that this particular group could reach out to, but we never see them (even a shot of some other Resistance leaders debating and deciding not to help Leia’s group would have been good in this regard — better than the “they’ve received it, but not responded”). The film frames Leia’s group as basically the only bit of the Resistance left — a convoy that ends up being only a couple dozen people at the very end — which really stretches my ability to believe that they can actually defeat the First Order.
It also stretches my ability to believe that they represent the will of the people. The scenes of the children in Canto Bight helped me believe this a little bit, but I wanted to see some adults who were like “Yeah, we’d love to take down the First Order, but we just don’t think we have the power to.” And if Leia’s group is essentially all of the Resistance that exists, then they really don’t. It feels like the equivalent of a high school class deciding to overthrow the US, or of Winston Smith taking down Oceania.
Part of this I feel stems from events in The Force Awakens, particularly the moment when the core Alliance planets are annihilated. I really hated that that ended up being a thing.
I guess this all comes back to stakes. The stakes of this film should have been smaller than they were (well, for the last film too, but this is about VIII, not VII). I think I would have preferred something like war between the Alliance and the First Order, rather than the First Order against a paltry force of rebels. Because defending the Alliance still has galactic stakes without gratuitous urgency. (I mean, we can still have urgency, especially if there’s a planet+ death weapon taking aim on part of the Alliance.)
A big part of me, though, is starting to think that, between the power of the Empire and the immediate followup of the First Order, the galaxy WANTS an autocratic empire (perhaps because autocratic security is better than chaos?). Which brings me back to the whole will of the people thing. Of course, the First Order/Empire is still evil and thus needs to fall for that reason, but the conflict never seems to be framed in that way. (Well, Rose and Finn do this some, but for most of the Resistance members, it seems to be more democracy vs autocracy.)
4. Great Job Fixing It, Villain
A minor issue: Snoke’s been manipulating Kylo Ren for years. Why now is he unable to see that telling Kylo Ren to kill his crush is a terrible idea? Especially when he was the one to basically get the two together.
Whatever. I still felt so satisfied when Kylo Ren killed him.
5. Stop Killing Everybody!
Why’d you hafta kill Akbar? Why you gotta sever everything that was in the old series?
Now for the positive stuff.
❤ Porgs ❤
2. Rey and Ben
These two were great. Especially Kylo Ren. Kylo was perfectly impulsive and passionate, in a way that made him a good villain. Unlike Snoke, while his decisions weren’t always necessarily the best, they always made sense for him. Of course he sends ALL the TIE fighters after the Falcon, even though it’d be better to keep even one in front of the mine; of course he orders ALL the AT-ATs to shoot Luke, for like a whole minute straight; because that’s how he does things: impulsively, all in.
Part of me hopes that he could make the First Order a better place, but I suspect that if he hadn’t already made it a better place as Snoke’s lieutenant, he won’t as Snoke’s replacement. But that’s getting into theorycrafting about IX.
His hesitation to kill his mother was also significant and good.
To make Rey the daughter of nobodies, rather than giving her some questionable connection to an established character was also good. Star Wars needs to be more than the drama of just a single family. (Though perhaps a case could be made for transposing the drama and politics of the entire galaxy onto a microcosm of a single family, such as the Skywalkers, but that would have to be a very deliberate route planned out in advance, resulting in a story with a very different plot than the whole Star Wars series. That is to say, that would be a different story to tell.)
The revelation of Rey’s parentage was really good as well. Rey has been in denial about her abandonment, understandably, looking for some kind of parental figure to overcome her abandonment issues; the way Kylo Ren says “You’re nobody. But not to me.” was incredibly sweet.
A pity those words had to come out of a villain.
3. The Force
Oh my gosh the Force. VII and VIII have had literally the BEST examples of uses of the Force.
It’s kinda understandable that the original trilogy doesn’t really have any good Force usage, seeing as Luke is much less focused on using the Force, after a fashion, than Rey has been. Probably the best use of the Force in the original trilogy was Luke tapping into clairvoyance to see Han’s and Leia’s torture. And the Mind Trick-ery Ben Kenobi uses in the first film. And I guess Luke redirecting the photon torpedoes into the exhaust shaft. And Force Ghosts.
Okay, the original trilogy had quite a few good examples of Force utility.
The prequels, however, do not. Despite basically ALL the major characters being Jedi trained from birth. You’d think they’d be able to pull off even half the stunts that Rey, Snoke, Luke, and Kylo do in the Disney trilogy, but all they do is do some flips, make some cool landings, and deflect a few blaster bolts (and they can’t even do this last one consistently).
Perhaps this is supposed to represent how stale the Jedi Order has become, that the Jedi aren’t very powerful after generations of galactic peace and lack of practice. Or maybe it’s supposed to be Law of Conservation of Ninjitsu, where three hundred Jedi become only as powerful as one lone Jedi for the sake of drama. Or maybe it was just bad writing. (Given the quality of the prequels, I suspect the latter.)
Honestly, I feel like this new trilogy, rather than that old video game, should be called The Force Unleashed. Sure, that game had some interesting abilities, but those were mostly just amped up versions of the ways the Force was used in the prequels. The Disney trilogy has been expanding the vision of how the Force can even be used.
Force projecting onto a different planet probably takes the cake in this regard. Although stopping a blaster bolt midair takes a close second.
Given the way Rey and Kylo were able to connect and project — and even get Kylo all wet — I expected one of them to be able to teleport (instant transmission?) to each other’s position. I kinda hope one of them will demonstrate this ability in IX. If only because it’d be totally awesome.
Also, Leia moving herself back to the ship after the bridge blows up was totally awesome.
So, overall, I really liked it, despite some issues with the plot.