When I first came out of the cinema, I wasn’t sure what I thought. By the next day I was happy to say that I liked it, with reservations. Over the past weeks those reservations have diminished a lot, and I feel any re-watches will improve it.
It’s a very clever, well made film. The stuff with Luke, Rei and Kylo is all fantastic. I like the Poe / Holdo stuff as well. I love that it’s a Star Wars movie with a core theme. It’s about failure. It’s about hubris. Luke directly calls that out in relation to his failure with Ben Solo and why he’s hidden himself away. He was arrogant enough to call himself a Jedi Master and believe he could restart the Jedi, and he failed in a major way.
But everything else that everyone else does in this film fails as well because they made assumptions about their own ability. Holdo assumes the best way to deal with the hot headed pilot is to tell him to fuck off and then he can’t cause any problems. Poe assumes he knows better than a Vice Admiral. Hux assumes one X-Wing isn’t a threat to his dreadnaught. Rei assumes that Luke will give her life meaning. Kylo Ren assumes Luke will turn up to fight him. Leia assumes that if they use her “personal code” then someone will turn up to help. (That last one is a bit unfair, I admit, that’s more a last ditch “try anything” but it still subverts her expectations.)
People keep saying as criticisms of this film: “Why did they do that?” or “If only they’d said this!” but that’s missing the point. These characters are people (or sentient life forms anyway) and people make mistakes.
The one mark against this film is Canto Bight. For several reasons that I won’t get into as lots of other people have already said them. The most annoying thing about it for me though is that I realised there’s an alternate universe version of this plot line that’s much better. One where Finn uses his First Order knowledge to sneak him and Rose onboard the flagship directly and then plays a cat-and-mouse game with Captain Phasma as he sneaks around to try to shut down the tracking device, making her his personal antagonist. (Also the same with BB-8 vs. evil BB-8.)
Sure, it would mean cutting out Benico del Toro, but I don’t see that as a big loss really. The First Order could find the fleeing Resistance ships after capturing Finn and tracking his comm unit or something. It would have kept things tight, played into the overall thematic arc of the film and it’s characters, and given Phasma something to actually do.
But annoying as I found the Canto Bight stuff, it doesn’t take away from what makes the rest of it great.
I also loved how this film improves TFA by making a trilogy about people trying to live up to their heroes/teachers/parents, but also to come out from their shadow and supplant them. Which is exactly what the film makers themselves are doing.
The first film was in awe of their predecessors. (Kylo worships Vader; Rei idolises Luke.)
This film was about learning their teachers are flawed and rebelling. (Both end the film without their teacher.)
The next film will be about coming out and forging their own identity. (He’s not a Sith, she’s not a Jedi.)
The same beats, but a different tune. It’s why TFA stuck so closely to ANH (with a bit of Empire there in the Kylo/Han moment), and this film had echoes of both Empire and ROTJ. That means the old trilogy is complete now. The final film has no template to follow. It’ll be something new.
And I’m betting it’ll be called something like “The New Balance”.