SPOILERS AHOY. Don’t read this unless you’ve seen the movie.
It was good. It bordered on great.
Let’s start with what I loved.
Failed plans, as a theme. Act to act this movie let the characters fail over and over. It is refreshing to experience in a Star Wars movie, and it also shows what happens as balance is lost in the universe. In fact, I can’t really think of a plan that was a complete success for the characters; while the best laid plans in previous episodes, no matter how impossible, always seemed to succeed. Star Wars felt more more real than ever in this way.
I loved that Rey sent a rock tumbling when she messed up during lightsaber training. (In Episode VII she was infallible and perfect. Never a misstep. Good at everything.)
I loved that Kylo hesitated in blowing up the control room on Leia’s ship. I loved that the pilots next to him did not hesitate.
The B-Wing as a beefy bomber was awesome. It looked cool and felt right. There’s a purpose for that shape now. Also, that whole scene with trying to knock the detonator down the ladder was thrilling and well executed.
Artoo was barely in the film, but the moment that he was on screen was possibly the most endearing moment of the Star Wars series, honestly. I was seven and forty-seven at the same time, and choking up as both.
Rey was a badass when she needed to be, and the Kylo/Rey thing was handled nicely. I loved that Kylo turned on Snope, and that Snope died was great, mostly because it really shakes this up from following previous trilogies. I loved that Kylo has many new reasons to go much further down the dark side path and will be a slick villain for Ep 9; rage unshackled.
Unexpected turns happened throughout… and some of that is reflected below in what I didn’t like. Yet I am delighted to have been surprised, so maybe take those bad points with a grain of salt.
And now the stuff I didn’t like so much:
Leia died in a way that was not grandiose but was fitting and humble. Thrown from her command craft into the cold vacuum of space was a shock… I don’t know what to say other than I was good with it. But then she lived. She lived and without Jedi training pulled herself back to the ship… and she looked for all the world like she did so with the special effects magic of something as old as Mary Poppins. If somebody in the audience has pulled out a slide-whistle I would have laughed all day long.
If it were up to me, I would have left her dead. She’s not in too many more scenes in the movie after that, and with Carrie now dead they obviously need to kill Leia off… the best thing to do would have been that she died there and then.
The slowest car chase in space.
This is something I enjoyed as a plot device… but I need to watch it again to see what the excuse was. Why did the rebel ship take so long to destroy? I don’t get it. Whatever the excuse, it needed to be more visible. I’m remembering a nebula or something in Rebels that they used as an excuse to sneak up on another ship. This would have been better… introduce some environmental hazard that made this situation unusual – the radiation was so bad that it caused a certain effect that was draining both the chaser and target? It just felt like the characters were like
“Remember? We can’t destroy that one because reasons.”
“Yes, of course.”
“Mmm-hmm that not-blowing-up-stuff problem again.”
“Righto. Onward then.”
Luke Projects Himself.
It isn’t that I minded this. I loved that his costume and hair changed to match Kylo’s last impression of what Luke looked like. Well done. However – why? He dies anyway at the end of the film, so this clever ruse feels like it is without purpose. That said, it points out one more failed plan in the film, which I enjoyed: The plan was to get Luke off that island; they never did pull that off.
Very Convenient Explosion.
I didn’t like that Finn and Rose somehow were freed from capture without a shot fired thanks to the explosion from what I believe was Laura Dern’s character’s actions. Finn just woke up and it was like “oh look, the bad guys are dead, awesome!” Then BB-8 comes out of nowhere, controlling an AT-ST to save them a second time. WHY? The better way to handle this would have been to show BB-8 finding his way closer to the AT-ST while Finn and Rose were being tortured. Have BB-8 start the rescue and decimate most of the evil army, forcing what’s left to cover. Finn and Rose run for it, but THEN the explosion, and it just makes the escape harder. That way it is just capture and escape… not capture/escape/re-captured/re-escape. Hard to explain, it is just this level of editing that the film could really have used.
Otherwise, well done. It was cool that there was always some crazy objective and that there were many of them. No big death ball to blow up, just a bunch of smaller death objects. There were enough in the film to make it feel like these objects were each threats without being the ONE threat of the movie.