I’m going to push Chapter By Chapter to tomorrow because I want to get my immediate thoughts in. While this review will have more spoilers than your average installment of Finally Watched (although I’ll tone it down as best I can) this is still about my immediate thoughts on the movie rather than a deep dissection. Most of these movies I wanted to see for fun, not critique.
My friends and I seem to have a problem catching this new trilogy in theaters. The Force Awakens came out when I and one of my other colleagues had more important things to worry about and we didn’t see it for a few years. Every time we tried to see The Last Jedi there was snow, and if there wasn’t snow at least one of us were busy with other things. However, we got to see Rogue One in theaters. Thus far the new movies, trilogy or standalone, have failed to impress. So what happened with this one?
RELEASE DATE: 2017
RELEASED BY: Disney & Lucasfilm
RUNTIME: 2 hours 30 minutes
STARRING: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, and Kelly Marie Tran
SCREENWRITERS: Rian Johnson, but for some reason IMDB credits Lucas as well
DIRECTOR: Rian Johnson
GROSS REVENUE: $1,332,704,286, but I can’t find the budget on IMDB
IMDB SCORE: 7.4 out of 10
ROTTEN TOMATOES SCORE: 91% (Audience Score: 47%, which is confusing)
The Plot: Set almost immediately after the end of The Last Jedi Rey (Ridley) has gone to Luke Skywalker (Hamill) to train her in the ways of the Force, but due to his actions in handling Ben Solo (aka Kylo Ren) he refuses until the ancient text seems to call to her. Back with the Rebels/Resistance (depending the time of day apparently), they’re on the run from the First Order. Finn (Boyega) gets better and wants to search for Rey, but gets sidetracked thanks to a woman named Rose Tico (Tran), with whom he ends up on an adventure with to help the fleet escape. While that goes on Poe (Isaac) keeps running afoul of both Leia (Fisher) and the famed general Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern). As for Kylo Ren (Driver) he makes a decision that leads to a new dynamic while having a strange link with Rey.
Why I Wanted To See It: Because it’s Star Wars and I’m a fan of the franchise. While I’ve dodged a lot of details, I know that this movie is kind of divisive for the fan base and I was also curious if it was as bad as I’ve heard.
What Did I Think?: Don’t get me wrong. I have a number of problems with this movie, which is where the spoilers are going to come from, but overall I kind of liked it. We at least agreed it was more interesting that The Force Awakens but it’s rife with a number of technical issues that keep me from wanting to really see it again. However, I don’t think it’s the dumpster fire I’ve seen it painted as. Maybe if I go back and catch the actual reviews I’ll understand the problems more but right now I’m only interested in my opinions and those of the two friends I watched this with.
But let us start with the big controversial character, Rose Tico. While avoiding the details all this time I see a lot of hate for this character. As a character I didn’t think she was so bad. The problem is her part in the story, which is minor. She basically exists as part of Finn’s continuing arc between “I don’t want to get involved” to “sign me up” and I don’t know how big a part she plays. It might work if this was part of her character arc, but what we get ends on the same planet it began. It doesn’t help that outside of Rey, Luke, and Kylo’s subplot none of the stories seem to part of a long movie but short segments ala The Clone Wars. Rose doesn’t do a whole lot but she isn’t a bad character, just a poorly utilized one.
As for Finn, his character arc ends right here. Unless you honestly expect me to believe after this movie that he still has to be convinced to join the team his arc is done and outside of his friendship for Rey (it looks like Johnson is pushing Finn and his creation Rose as a couple) there isn’t much left for him to do. He gets his big final battle with Phasma (Gwendolyn Christie), shows he’s in with the Resistance (or Rebels, it goes back and forth, leaning more towards “Rebels” as the term of choice near the end), and that was his arc. He’s going to be useless come the next story. It is a good arc granted, but Johnson seemed to be trying to end everything with his movie, having less interest in what Abrams was planning than Abrams did what Lucas planned for the aftermath trilogy (not the official name but that’s what I’m calling it).
Poe probably gets it the worse of anyone. He’s actually more of a problem than anything else. While I agree with him that they had a chance to take out the Dreadnought the plan cost a lot of ships and lives and he didn’t seem to care much. He is so sure that Holdo’s plan is a bad thing that everything he sets up with Finn and Rose actually dooms her plan, which would have worked and saved more lives. At every point he’s shown to be a detriment to the Resistance, which may be Johnson trying to turn a trope on its ear but still makes a character we saw little of in the last movie into a character we’d be better off not seeing in the next one. BB-8 is supposed to be his droid but he still spends more time with Finn in this one like he did Rey in the last one. Also, Poe does a “your momma” joke. Classy, Johnson.
Then there’s Kylo Ren, probably my last big complaint. He does more in this movie, has more of a character arc…sort of. We get some actual motivation for his actions, which is good, but it makes Luke look bad. Ren feels betrayed by his master, fine. Later he’s betrayed by Snoake…kind of sort of. Basically Snoake puts him down and pushes him on a path nobody saw. Now he pretty much wants to watch the galaxy burn but he comes off as an angry man-child. He may be less imposing here than he was in the last movie. I think that’s yet another twist, which will lead to a minor complaint. You think he’ll turn, but instead he goes in a different direction, but it’s only interesting because of the reasons why and not what he personally does. He also loses the mask, which Johnson must not have liked but I think he’s worse off for it.
Which leads into a minor complaint because it’s not AS bad as the previous movie in the trilogy. There are a number of reused ideas from the first trilogy, but Johnson chooses to add twists and acts like it’s completely different. The final battle is on a salt planet instead of starting the movie on a snow planet. (SF Debris recently reviewed The Empire Strikes Back and noted that setting the big Hoth battle at the start of the film allowed the final confrontation to be about the characters rather than the battle, but the opposite happens here.) Also, the Wampas are replaced with cute fox creatures while Luke’s planet is filled with these little bird things that serve as comic relief at one point. The character you think is going to be Lando betrays them and sticks to it. Luke gives the line Ben gave Vader, but it’s part of a trick, and here’s the biggest spoiler.
Luke dies in this movie and I’m of two minds on this one. His death does help the Rebelistance a chance to escape, but why does he die? Because he Force-projected himself across space? How did he do that, and how did he project Han’s rear view mirror dice as a solid object but become a ghost during it? This is another of his script flips. Luke doesn’t die like Ben does. It’s a psych moment, but he still dies. Otherwise Luke gets a new character arc, which also ends here, and while I have problems with it versus Luke’s character I don’t immediately hate it.
Rey is probably the most interesting thing. There are a number of stronger female characters here and given the franchise’s history with not having enough interesting females among all the dudes (outside of the cartoons where you had women Jedi joining Padme plus the crew of the Ghost and I’ll even throw in the Freemakers from the LEGO series) that’s not a bad thing. (The fact that Poe looks like a fool still is though.) She’s the one who convinces Luke to get involved again and then there’s the Force-link with Kylo, which makes them potentially more interesting arch enemies. While Ren has given up on the old ways Rey wants to protect them. (what DID happen to the New Republic anyway? It’s less clear here.) Ren learns about her parentage and we finally learn why she was left behind, but rather than embrace her potential arc of seeing there is more to her than her origins it’s just there so Johnson can come up with Rey’s backstory and it doesn’t really fit her character arc at all. In fact it ruins the potential. Daisy Ridley gets more time to be interesting, which makes up for her flaws, and I want to see what happens to her in the next movie.
Carrie Fisher sadly doesn’t get a lot to do in this movie, but nobody knew this would be her last. Her character survives…which is going to be a problem when it comes to the next film. Of the three main humans to return hers is the only character to live while her actor is the first not to.
What really worked were the visuals and the various fights, both ship-based and blaster/lightsaber based. Yeah, watching the fleet slowly get shot at or lose fuel at the hands of a second big ship was rather weak and while I see the tension Johnson was trying for I didn’t really feel it. However, the dogfights and shootouts were pretty good. I did like watching the fight between Finn and Plasma, even if it should have been saved for the final movie in the trilogy and only works if you saw the previous one. Probably the best fight is when Rey and Ren are fighting off Snoake’s revenge happy guards. That was both choreographed and shot beautifully, and given how many directors have been ruining these fights by being too close and not letting us see the action this was a welcome moment. Directors should be shown that fight to show how to do it right. The comedy was funny but there were a few times it felt forced. But even forced we laughed at the funny parts so props there.
Was It Worth The Wait?: This has been the shortest wait time of any Finally Watched thus far so it’s not as easy to determine. Despite my complaints I did enjoy it. Perhaps not enough to want to see it again like the originals but I don’t think it deserves all the hate. It does a lot wrong and the final movie seems to be there just to have the trilogy. That was a problem with the prequels, but at least Lucas knew to not use them up in the second movie and go “okay, NOW what do I do with these people?”. I’d say it’s worth watching at least once for the visuals and to see where characters went, but I think Rian Johnson really should have stuck to the plan instead of virtually ending everything here and making changes to what Abrams intended (see the third link below). Then again I wanted to see Lucas’ intentions too, with Han and Leia’s twins, so judge that as you will.