So it wasn't perfect, but I really liked it.SPOILERS:
-I loved the emphasis on letting the past die. We all know that VII was a little too close of an echo to IV. I understand that poetry echoes and that's fine, but this was a great time to get it out of the way. There's some of that poetry aspect here. We get Luke and Rey on the island in that sort of Yoda/Luke redux. We got the temptation/throne room sequence with as done with Sidious/Tyrannus/Anakin, Sidious/Vader/Luke and now Snoke/Kylo/Rey. But it's out of the way by this movie. It's all set up to give us fresh things in IX.
-The shift from Destiny to a theme of the common people. While I would still hope the misinterpreted prophecy of the force ended up meaning something at some point. I like that we got an on screen canonical story that shows that post Empire Jedi aren't all just about who's related to Anakin Skywalker. 2 years ago, I was convinced that Rey was Luke's daughter, and going into the theater last night, I was convinced she was Obi-Wan and Satine's granddaughter. But the truth of her being no one (even if it's a red herring) matched up with the shit about the kids, and the need to form a new Rebellion really forms a theme of anyone can be a hero, and it's not about what family name you're born into. Glorious.
-The character work and arcs. Holy shit. We got to see Poe learn you can't always be a hero (his machinations got TONS of ppl killed....twice), Finn learned sometimes you have to stop running and be the hero, Rose got her heroic arc as well. Holdo. Fucking loved her. Was so worried that she was going to be a Dolores Umbridge character, there just to make you frustrated and mad, while our heroes proved to be right. I loved that she was the one that actually had shit together. She had no need to share her plan with Poe, and it was a good one, and one that would have saved countless lives. Although Poe's plan had a greater success outcome, like she said, it was a gamble, and one that would not have paid off. I'm sure some will be upset that Finn and Rose's side quest essentially amounted to nothing because it didn't end up accomplishing anything, but I feel that story is about the journey, not the destination. Luke's arc was certainly an unexpected one, but I don't have a problem with it. Like many a fan boy, I probably would have liked to see Luke actually follow them to Crait and to participate in the battle, but we got to see some badass Jedi Mastery level trolling instead. Leia got much better treatment in this movie than the last, where you really got to see what she meant to everyone. She was the Rock the Resistance leaned on, their physical and emotional leader. Rey and Kylo. Bravo. Well done. I was not expecting any emotional connection to ever really occur between them. Which is blind, because something needs to connect those 2 characters other than Rey's anger at Han's murder or Kylo's following instructions to eliminate competition. This is Star Wars, not an 80's action movie. The heroes and the villains have a relationship. And this was excellently done. The Force Psychic Rapport was great, and I loved the character work with them way more than I would have thought. And for those who have been whining for 2 years complaining that Ren wasn't just a 1 note bad ass villain, and that missed his position as a Skywalker, and how whiny and conflicted they've all been, I think this movie will turn them. Kylo might be the best character in the entire movie, and I almost never say that about villains. It continues the originality of his character being one who believes that dark is right, not light, but feels tempted by light. He and Rey's attempts to convert each other, along with the appropriate fake out where we think she's been successful, only to find out that he saw an opportunity and took it, Bravo. Encore.
-Set Pieces: The Opening Fight was great, the escape from Canto Bight was fun, the Battle of Crait was satisfyingly original. Holdo going to hyperspace into the First Order Fleet was amazing. I don't know how the Luke/Kylo moment will hold up with the reveal gone and done with. I worry it may be like Attack of the Clones where once you've seen Yoda fight once the wonder is gone from that moment. But. But. But. The Throne Room. Talk about delivering something I never knew I always wanted. I didn't get as many goosebumps and chills moments in this as I did 2 years ago. But that 5 seconds where Kylo kills Snoke and Rey draws her saber and they go back to back. wowowowowowowowowowowow. The emotional impact of what was happening combined with the good choreography is so much of what makes a good action sequence. Especially when the movie shows us that we were just hopeful, and that we misread the situation.
-The opening scene with Kylo and Hux did a lot to help patch up some concerns ppl kept having about VII while transitioning well to this. They didn't go as far into the government makeup of the galaxy as I'd like but they did a good job of explaining the status quo post Starkiller blowing up Hosnia Prime. Essentially the Republic was too Utopian for a real army/navy presence and the destruction of that planet has left a power vacuum the First Order feels no difficulty in snatching. They also addressed the Kylo losing the Rey thing which hopefully puts a pin in all that.
-The Luke Yoda moment, while super fan servicey, worked really well in my mind. Part of me wishes it had been Ewbi-Wan McKenobi, but I get that those actors were never on screen together, and the chemistry might've felt off. However, the Yoda moments themselves were great. I love that he was the trolling old man Yoda from Dagobah, and not the wise character we saw in the prequels. It's a good reminder of Yoda's best performance, and good continuity for what Luke would know. Also, I didn't catch this myself, but he directly says "there's nothing in there that she doesn't already have" and I guess when Finn opens some drawer on the Falcon at the end, the ancient Jedi texts were in them.
-The Leia in space moment. woof. I know we haven't seen everything the Force can do. But I hated this imaginary bullshit in Guardians, and I hate it here. Pretending anyone can live in space for more than a fraction of a second, no matter how powerful or lucky just drives me up a wall.
-Captain Phasma. When she was on screen, she was great. Unfortunately, I feel as if they intended for her to be gone after the last movie, but the outcry of her small role and untimely demise led for them shoehorning her in this movie when she didn't necessarily have a plot line. So she doesn't show up until the 3rd act, and once again she gets like 5-10 min of screen time tops. And this time they just essentially confirm her death after one of the shortest 1v1 fights in this series. The ad campaign really led me to believe that like Han and what kids thought Boba Fett was, they were going to make her Finn's personal arch-nemesis. His former boss, vengeful over his defection etc. I thought it would drag out and we'd see the finale next movie. To have all of her (good) work shoved into another truncated role, and to be shoved off screen with a handwave for the second time was disappointing.
-I get that we're letting the past die, but I still feel like Chewie and R2 could have had bigger roles. I get that BB-8 is the spiritual successor to R2, and I continue to love it, but R2 was literally asleep like this whole movie again, without reason. It's possible it's because Kenny Baker died. And every moment Chewie was on screen, he was great. I realize it's also a new actor, but I feel that there's a lot of room to build on his relationship with Rey after her sorta adoption by the Han/Chewie duo during TFA. For him to just sit off screen being mild comic relief in like 3 min of scenes is such a sad limbo for a great character.
-The Luke arc was certainly interesting. It wasn't bad at all, but it certainly wasn't what I was expecting, or hoping for. I didn't think he would get some action set piece, but I thought he would come with the heroes and provide a direct role in what's to come, a sort of redemption arc for his failure off screen pre-VII. If this really is the end of the last vestiges of the Old Jedi Order and there's no follow through on the prequel prophecy of the one to bring balance and/or it being related to the strength of the Skywalkers, that's going to seem to undercut the 6 old movies.
-More than ever, it feels like their goal was to highlight one old character per movie and end each movie with that character's death. Vii-Han, VIII-Luke, IX-Leia. With the way this movie ended, it's sad that I feel she won't get her focus movie. However, I think I see the path forward. The state of the Galaxy, with the Republic gone, the Resistance thinned out to being able to fit in the Falcon etc, and the whole spark bit combined with the kid at the end leads me to believe we're getting a time jump. I feel we're going to move forward in time and Leia will have died offscreen, and that the Resistance ranks will be swelling again. We'll see though.
-Is there still something in Kylo to save? Some are saying yes. Some are saying the 3rd act fake out was all about him seizing his moment to take over the FO, and nothing about him being tempted by the light. Is he fully cemented now, after the events of this movie? Or are we going to get a redemption arc? The romantic stuff between him and Rey was certainly unexpected, but oddly not offputting. If they can find a way to let audiences accept his redemption after murdering his own father and franchise hero Han Solo, man, that's some Disney Magic. Also, as much as I like the "let the past die" shit, I was sad to see the helmet and hood go. I really thought that character design was great and was the perfect blend of Vader reverential, Sith Hood, and combat functional. But I get it.
-Multiple ppl I saw it with mentioned there were too many jokes in it. Oddly I thought it was less silly than TFA, because I remember having that feeling watching that movie.
-First movie without a lightsaber vs lightsaber fight, and I'm not even angry.
-John Williams, please don't die before doing one last score.
-Oddly, although reviews are all as good, if not better, than TFA, everyone I knew more or less universally loved TFA when it first came out, doubts crept in later. Upon leaving the theater last night, I was all in on loving it, my wife and one friend were unsure of if they liked more than TFA. And my other friend in attendance left crestfallen, but only because his whole hope was that there would be a huge Luke Skywalker set piece, which I told him he'd never get. Small sample size I guess.