It's that time of year, again! No, I'm not talking about my usual 'Best and Worst', 'Tweets for 20xx', or 'Year in Review' posts. I'm talking about the annual Star Wars movie in this new era of Disney Star Wars. Being the second 'trilogy' movie, and the successor to my well-received The Force Awakens, I did have reasonable expectations for this movie.
As usual, be warned that there are SPOILERS AHEAD!
I don't totally share the critical acclaim this movie is getting. It's a good movie, not a great one. I was pretty frustrated after my first viewing, there was a lot going around my head about the movie.
The second viewing allowed me to enjoy it a lot more, and not get bogged down in the major settings and plot points, but moreso enjoy the nuances of the movie, which I think is where it shines. I'll try to keep my thoughts to short bullet points.
- The movie is spectacular. The colours, the locations, the effects, the space battles, the combat scenes are all amazing, with not a noticeable shaky cam in sight. The direction is great.
- The performances of the actors, for the most part, are admirable. It's great to see Luke back, even if he is a worn, broken, bitter old man now. Andy Serkis' voice work for Snoke is also under-appreciated.
- It wasn't predictable. For most of the movie, I had no idea where it was going to go.
- I liked the progression of the interpretation of the Force; that there might be something more or better than just a simple and absolutist light vs. dark dichotomy in understanding it and using it.
- Also, I think the major theme of the Force being in 'balance' (which was a prequel theme too, BTW) was well worked in the movie. In this light, the death of Snoke explains the need for Luke to become one with the Force. Everything is in balance.
- The Rey/Kylo dynamic is great. So charged with emotion, tension, and chemistry.
- The scenes of the movie: the Rey+Kylo fight against the red guards; and especially the Holdo hyperspace sacrifice in complete silence was draw-dropping.
- Porgs. All the porgs. Loved them to bits.
- Although the larger plot themes (the 'balance' of the Force, it being more complex than just light vs. dark) were central to the movie's theme, the overall plot settings felt like a bit of fan fiction.
- I didn't buy into the plot that was the setting for the majority of the film: the cruiser running out of fuel and the First Order being content just to sit back and follow them. This significantly affected my enjoyability of the plot in the first viewing.
- How can the First Order now track ships through hyperspace? Seemed a throwaway McGuffin device that came out of nowhere that everybody just accepted.
- Why, oh why, did the First Order not just call in a few ships in front of the Resistance cruiser? Or jump a ship out of system and jump it back in in front of Rebels? Bah.
- The entire Finn/Rose 'mission' plot was almost entirely unnecessary, and the movie was too long because of it. It seemed to serve only two points for the plot: the political ones (of war profiteering, child labour (mirroring the light/dark Force complexity not being as simple as it looks), and hope); as well as a method to get Finn onto the Star Destroyer to fight Phasma. Both points could have been accomplished without adding a superfluous 20 minutes to the run time.
- Laura Dern as Admiral Holdo was a bad casting choice, and her character didn't make sense. What Admiral wears silky evening gowns into a space battle? I really like Laura Dern, but she was unsuited for this movie. A grittier actress in a proper uniform would have been more suited.
- Adding to the plot unbelievability, Holdo inexplicably not telling anyone of the plan (even at gun point!) made the whole Finn and Poe plot lines stupidly redundant. Was there a reason for not telling them? It would have been easy to make up a 'spy'/'computer virus'/'tracking device' excuse, and that would also have made more sense than the First Order now being able to magically track ships through hyperspace.
- Although it was a welcome twist, Snoke getting killed off before any explanation of what his motives were and where the heck he came from seemed a bit cheap.
Although the movie was spectacular, and the performances very decent, I felt that main settings of the plot didn't totally carry it. Nothing about this trilogy's plot was advanced in any meaningful way from the end of The Force Awakens. The deaths of Snoke and Luke aren't that impactful when they were almost totally absent from the previous movie, and even seemed somewhat peripheral to the relationships in this movie.
That said, I think repeat viewings will be a kinder way to experience it, despite the plot's shortcomings.