I was really looking forward to this movie. I think I’m one of the few people who had loved both the ones that came before. The Last Jedi I’ll admit hasn’t aged well with me, and I don’t love it as much as I did, but while there are parts I don’t like, I appreciate Rian Johnson doing something new with Star Wars, and I maintain that from a cinematography and filmmaking point of view, it’s potentially the best Star Wars film made, narrative choices let it down. I was at Odeon Leicester Square for the midnight release showing, which I think is an amazing way to experience these hyped up “nerd culture” films. The crowd is always buzzing and it’s just a great atmosphere. I’m not going to lie, I came out of this one feeling just a bit disappoined. It was good, it was fine, I didn’t not like it, and I need to watch it again, but it just wasn’t that good. I was sort of waiting for a big climactic moment that I felt never came. Let me explain.
So there’s a lot to unpack with this film, bearing in mind it’s the conclusion of 9 epic films spanning 42 years and arguably the biggest piece of pop culture ever besides Michael Jackson. This is huge. Where it so obviously falls flat, and this trilogy does as a whole is in its changes of director. JJ Abrams and Rian Johnson are both great choices to do the saga, but to sandwich Johnson’s film made it feel like:
JJ: I’m going to set up a new Star Wars saga
Rian: Fuck that, I’m doing my own thing
JJ: Actually, your thing was terrible, here’s mine again
JJ was so obviously trying to get the trilogy back to where he wanted it, that he actually decreased my enjoyment of the other two films when I think back to them because there is zero continuity between the three. There’s a big mystery over Rey’s parents, then they’re no one, then they’re no one “because they chose to be” because one of them is Palpatine’s child. Like what? Why did Rey see herself then when she looked in the mirror in TLJ? There’s a big build up for Snoke to be the main bad guy, then he goes out easily, then all of a sudden Palpatine made him. Really? Even Finn was set up to be a Jedi or force sensitive, then that was ignored, then they just randomly bring it back? Rey and Finn are sort of set up as a romance, then it’s Rey and Poe at the end of TLJ, then we’re sort of back to Rey and Finn, then she kisses Kylo after a whole film of build up?? Even Kylo Ren, the undeniable best bit about this trilogy, abandons his mask in TLJ then literally welds it back together again in this. There’s so much clashing between the directors it’s crazy. Johnson brought in Rose to be Finn’s love interest, then Abrams quite literally sends her to the background and they don’t even kiss once in the film. The only arc that feels consistent across all three is the relationship between Kylo Ren and Rey. The story of their relationship is great, I loved every single choice until the end. If they’re going to kiss, let him live. If he’s going to die, don’t let them kiss, that’s just my opinion. But there’s some great scenes with them in this film and it’s by far the best bit.
Let’s get on to the narrative, and start by just talking about the pacing in this film. My god it’s bad. It’s really, really, really bad. Honestly, I think Poe and his ex got nearly as much screentime as Rey and Kylo. We had a long drawn out scene on her planet trying to reset 3PO, but about 5 seconds to digest the fact that Rey is a Palpatine before just moving on?? The long, Mad Max rip off scene on the dessert planet is good, but they could’ve halved the length of it and given us more Rey and Kylo. This film is long, and really not a huge amount happens. Remember, the whole film they’re looking for a map that they don’t end up using at all. The plot could’ve been very different and more efficient. If you’ve ever seen Star Wars, a lot of this film is very predictable, and there’s a lot of fan service, and that’s fine up to a certain point, but it has to be done well. If we compare it to Endgame, which was also filled with fan service, but did it in a way where personally I didn’t know what was going to happen about five minutes (or sometimes an hour) before it did. When Rey healed the big snake thing, I immediately knew that was going to come up later, obviously. In the final conflict, I knew Lando would turn up with a bunch more good guys, in Endgame I’d actually forgotten the good guys were alive again until they came back. The moment where Rey transfers the lightsaber to Kylo through their force connection was the one bit of fan service I loved, it was well set up and executed satisfyingly, but that was it really. There’s narrative choices I did not like, and just general issues with the movie. After their epic lightsaber battles through the film, the Han Solo scene, the lightsaber transfer scene, all of which were epic parts, I expected some amazing final bit. It just confused me. Why is it that if Rey killed Palpatine at the start she’d turn evil, but when she kills him after a bit of soul searching and the cringiest Endgame ripoff line (if you know you know), it’s all good?? Why does the final conflict of 9 films come to Rey blocking some lightning? It was just disapppointing. Not awful, just disappointing. Also, who did Palpatine have a child with?? And why, why did Rey say she was a Skywalker? Isn’t the entire point of the film that names don’t matter? That you can control your own destiny?
I won’t lie, writing this has made me like the movie less. I have a lot of issues with it, and that’s saying something because I love Star Wars, even the prequels and even Solo, I love The Mandalorian, I have a Darth Vader mask on my bookshelf, a Boba Fett model in my room and I own two Star Wars t-shirts. But this one let me down. If I’d rank it among all of them, including the spin-offs I’d go:
1. Empire Strikes Back
2. The Force Awakens
3. A New Hope
4. The Last Jedi
5. Revenge of the Sith
6. Rogue One
7. Return of the Jedi
9. The Rise of Skywalker
10. Attack of the Clones
11. Phantom Menace
And for me, there’s a big gap between 8 and 9 on that list. This film unfortunately went for fan service over filmmaking, and that would’ve been fine, but there’s too much about the plot I didn’t like, it made me like The Last Jedi less, and I just felt disappointed, and that sucks. Obviously watch it, it’s Star Wars and it’s a great film for escapism, but lower your hopes slightly. It’s not as bad as the bad reviews, but it’s not good.
Best Scene: The water lightsaber fight
Best Character: Kylo Ren
Best Actor/Actress: Adam Driver
Best Quote: “I know” – Han Solo