THIS IS NOT A SPOILER-FREE POST SO IF YOU ARE AVOIDING SPOILERS, PLEASE STOP READING, THANK-YOU!
I’ve numbered this review because I want this to be the first pass for the film, and my thoughts and feelings may evolve once I’ve had more time to think about it. My first initial reaction was confliction – I both loved and disliked this film in equal measure. I’ve seen the movie twice now, so I have had more exposure to it than most, and I’ve been able to go on social media and talk about it in spoiler tags (of course).
I’ll break this review up so that it’s easier to read, but right now, my honest opinion is that this film was better than The Last Jedi, at least for me and on equal par with The Force Awakens, which I came to love after watching it a few times.
The Resistance, Leia, Poe and Finn
I thought that Leia was treated well in the film and represented the way I expected she would be. No issues at all there. The CGI was still a little weird looking, but overall, I liked what JJ and Chris did with her. This is a huge deal for fans because Princess Leia is a prevalent character, even in the sequel trilogy. I felt that her presence was honoured and respected. I hope fans feel the same way once they see it. Her passing was as emotional as can be expected. I cried a fair bit silently, in my seat, hoping the light from the screen wouldn’t expose my tears.
Poe and Finn’s dynamic has evolved quite a bit. Anyone who is a fan of these two characters will enjoy what they represent in the film and how they interact. Some of it was witty, some of it was tense, but Poe and Finn will always be yet another draw-card for fans. And I would be lying if I said that I enjoyed these characters myself. I didn’t. I found Finn’s consistent badgering of Rey annoying. Rey had big stuff going on and she just honestly didn’t have time to deal with Finn and his unresolved feelings for her. Finn just needed to understand that he was friend-zoned a long time ago and he’s never climbing out of that hole, no matter how many times he tries. There, I said it.
Poe and his past – not really sure how this helped the movie as a whole but I guess if you’re looking for character development, there’s a bit of that thrown in. I thought Zorii, the mysterious woman from Poe’s past was really just a filler character. The film would have been fine without her.
First gay scene ever in a Star Wars film – yup, that’s legit. It was pretty cool, too. I guess if we’re handing out brownie points, JJ earned a couple there.
The Return of Emperor Palpatine
This, in my opinion, was one of the best things to come out of this entire trilogy. While I was not too comfortable with the idea at first, I began to realise that bringing back Palpatine as the main antagonist was a genius idea. Not only does it give the movie the appeal of coming “full circle”, but it also draws in fans from the original trilogy, which is a crucial step for the fandom. Many OT and PT fans have felt divided over the direction of the Sequel Trilogy, and now they actually have a reason to be invested. Ian McDiarmid as Emperor Palpatine was AMAZING and every single scene with him resonated such significant presence and foreboding. I haven’t felt that sense of fear and dread for our heroes in a long time. While Kylo Ren is a fantastic antagonist, Emperor Palpatine is an entirely different type of evil – the deepest and darkest evil there is. And we also know now that Palpatine has been the main antagonist all along (another great twist in the story).
THE FOUR GIGANTIC ELEPHANTS IN THE ROOM – REYLO
For anyone who wants to know, yes, Reylo is indeed a thing if only for a moment. It is a genuine and emotionally charged moment at that. As I was never a massive supporter of Reylo, I found myself surprised by this aspect of the plot because I thought I would feel really grossed-out about it. And I just wasn’t. I cried, twice – once for each viewing. The scene is honestly one of the most heartbreaking that I think I’ve ever seen in a film. And that’s including Wuthering Heights! So if you’re going for the Reylo, take tissues, I implore you.
ELEPHANT NUMBER TWO – THE REDEMPTION OF BEN SOLO
And again, this just broke my heart. There is a scene where Ben is confronted by his past, by his father and his mother and they are almost tied together in timing. This is one of the most moving parts of the film and again, I warn you that if you’re soft like I am, bring tissues because cry you will! I guess the question of whether or not Ben Solo is redeemed can only be answered by your own interpretation of this scene and Ben’s scenes with Rey in the final act. It is undeniable when Kylo Ren becomes Ben Solo, and you won’t be at all disappointed by this. I was elated to see Ben Solo, finally, get his moment to truly be. It was cinematic beauty for me, it was one of the highlights of the entire film.
ELEPHANT NUMBER THREE – BEN SOLO’S DEATH
Yup, it happens. And again, I choked up like a newborn baby when he passed over to the light. I couldn’t help myself. I mean we get to see him as Ben Solo for what? 10 maybe 15 minutes only to lose him at the end? Yeah, that was just wrong. I am sorry, but I will never agree with this part of the story. It’s right up there with Luke Skywalker’s character development in The Last Jedi. It felt like an assault on everything that I held dear in the sequel trilogy. I felt ripped apart and left to die. Why give a character this beautifully moving moment of happiness only to rip his heart out at the end and throw it away like trash? I just can’t with this, I get teary-eyed just talking about it, so I’ll leave it there.
ELEPHANT NUMBER FOUR – REY PALPATINE – OR WAS THAT SKYWALKER?
The one thing I thought about when all of these plot points were revealed in the film was that Jedi Praxis over at Reddit and Jason Ward from Making Star Wars were both spot-on with their leaks. And I will be forever grateful that I knew what was coming before I went into this. I couldn’t imagine having to go through any of the final act without knowing the end. So the last elephant is enormous, I know. But it does explain how Rey was an alleged “Mary Sue” throughout the trilogy (she had power from the Palpatine line as Emperor Palpatine’s granddaughter) and able to defeat a trained and skilful Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens and fight like she was born a Jedi in The Last Jedi. That bit is handled exceptionally well. But the ending where she claims the right to call herself a Skywalker when the TRUE Skywalker had to die so she could live?!! Nope, not having it, not one single bit. Burying the Legacy sabre AND Leia’s sabre on Tatooine was an excellent way to kick the fandom when they were already bleeding on the floor.
So that’s my first pass for this film – I haven’t talked about the visuals or how pretty it looked, John Williams’ sound or any of those aspects of the movie because by the end of it, you truly won’t care. I feel that fans will have more than enough to feel good or bad about given the points I’ve made above.