Release: December 15, 2017
Genre: Science Fiction (Space Opera)
Director: Rian Johnson
Screenplay: Rian Johnson
Running Time: 152 minutes
Starring: Daisy Ridley as Rey, Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, Adam Driver as Kylo Ren, John Boyega as Finn, Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron, Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico, Benecio Del Toro as DJ, Carrie Fisher as Leia Organa, Domnhall Gleeson as General Hux, and Laura Dern as Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo
Review Contains Spoilers
After a semi successful bombing run that takes out a First Order dreadnaught but causes heavy casualties, Poe Dameron finds himself demoted and grounded. Meanwhile, his best buddy Finn awakens from his coma while the resistance ships are in hyperspace. Rey, Chewbacca, and R2-D2 find Luke on Ahch-To. After some prodding, Rey convinces Luke to train her. Meanwhile, Rey starts communicating with Kylo Ren via the force. Meanwhile, the resistance discovers that the First Order can track them through hyperspace. The First Order attacks the resistance fleet and blows a hole in one of their main main ships causing several casualties and leaving Leia incapacitated. Leia is replaced by Vice Admiral Holdo. Holdo has a plan, but she refuses to tell anyone leading Finn, Poe, and Rose to plan a suicide mission to disable the tracker onboard the First Order flagship. Meanwhile, back on Ahch-To, Rey continues to train with Luke and converse with Kylo via the force. She learns that her mentor’s attempted nepoticide. Rey leaves to meet with Kylo Ren and Luke burns the Jedi temple down. Meanwhile, Finn, Rose, and BB-8 go to the casino planet Canto Bight to find a master hacker. Haldo finally reveals her brilliant plan, load everyone onto unshielded, unarmed escape ships and make a desperate break for the planet Crait. Poe, along with a few other officers, stages a mutiny and forcibly relieves her of her command. Lea awakens from her coma and stuns Poe. Rose, Finn, and DJ (the hacker they met on Canto Bight) get captured while trying to disable the tracker and are immediately sold out by DJ who also tells them of Haldo’s brilliant plan. The first order turn their guns on the escape vessels and start blowing them up. Rey arrives onboard the flagship and Kylo takes her to Snoke. After Snoke does his best weak impersonation of Palpatine, Kylo kills him. Kylo and Rey fight off some of Snoke’s elite guards. When Kylo asks her to join him, she refuses and they play force tug of war over Anakin’s old lightsaber and break it. In an effort to save face, Admiral Holdo turns the resistance’s main remaining ship toward the Snoke’s flagship and rams it at hyper speed. The explosion somehow doesn’t kill Finn and Rose, but conveniently kills their would be executioners. Finn engages in a bit of a sword fight with Phasma who falls through a hole in the hull. Finn, Rose, and BB-8 escape and join the remaining resistance fighters on Crait. In the ensuing chaos of the explosion, Rey escapes. General Hux arrives and begins to bemoan Snoke’s death, Kylo declares himself supreme leader and they launch an assault on the Rebel Alliance base on Crait where the resistance have parked themselves. On Crait, the resistance fighters find themselves trapped in the Rebel Alliance base which, for some reason, only has one entrance and exit. With a battering ram made from “Death Star technology” and a horde of TIE fighters and AT-ATs bearing down on them, they use some old speeders to mount a last ditch defense. When Finn tries to sacrifice himself to destroy the battering ram, Rose crashes her speeder into his to save him. Rey uses the Falcon to draw the TIE fighters away and Luke appears on the battlefield. After a brief temper tantrum, and some well deserved physical abuse of General Hux, Kylo goes onto the battlefield to confront Luke. While they fight, the handful of remaining resistance fighters follow some porcupine fox creatures to an exit that is blocked off by rocks. Rey arrives and uses her force powers to clear the rocks from the other side. They escape in the Falcon. When Kylo strikes Luke with his lightsaber, he realizes the Luke he has been fighting is nothing more than a force projection. Back on Ahch-To, Luke peacefully dies and disappears. On Canto Bight, one of the child labourers uses the force to pick up a broom. The end. Cut to credits.
Where to start? This film is bloated. There are too many main characters, it jumps between narratives too frequently, and the Finn/Rose side plot consumes entirely too much screen time for something that ultimately has absolutely no payout. I feel like Johnson felt that he needed to have his own Death Star moment here, but ultimately the Death Star suicide rescue mission in A New Hope doesn’t really consume that much screen time. More importantly, it is part of the main narrative and isn’t interrupted by a hundred cuts to other things. The Canto Bight scenes and the entire suicide mission subplot in general could have been greatly truncated or, better yet, entirely removed and it would have greatly helped the flow and the focus of this film. It is two and a half hours long, but at most should have been two. Furthermore, disposable characters do not need backstories. The extended sappy exposition between Holdo and Leia did not need to happen. Rose’s multiple sob stories didn’t need to happen. Especially when one character has been consistently depicted as an unlikeable ballbuster (more on that later) and the other ends up sidelined before the end of the film. Then there is the matter of the humour. Anyone who has reads my reviews on a regular basis should be able to deduce that I detest Joss Whedon style puns. Another thing I can not stand is the current practice of inserting, for lack of a better descriptor, “LOL so random” jokes into films. This film suffered from a lot of this. In fact, it damn well opens with an “lol so random” joke when Poe does a “can you hear me now” bit on General Hux. I’ve heard that Hollywood types use these jokes to pander to millennials. Well, technically being a member of Gen Y myself, I can’t stand them and it needs to stop. The “can you hear me now” scene was particularly egregious as it depicts the man who is third in command of the First Order, essentially the Heinrich Himmler of a long time ago in a galaxy far far away, as a bumbling oaf and removes any real sense of menace that he may have had. Which brings us to the next problem with this flick, there is no compelling villain.
Apart from the obvious plot hole of where the hell did the First Order even come from and how did they get so well equipped, they just don’t come off as particularly threatening. Snoke does not have the same sense of malice as Palpatine, Kylo Ren will never be as menacing as Darth Vader, and Hux does not exude the same air of authority as Governor Tarkin. They come across less as evil authoritarians threatening to forever squash republicanism and self rule from the galaxy and more like Col. Wilhelm Klink and Sergeant Hans Schultz. What’s worse, the previous entry in the series seems like it was trying to build up Snoke to be the big baddie of the series, but he gets unceremoniously killed off halfway through this picture. That leaves the villainous duty to an emo kid with a sword, and a guy who is so incompetent that he must be related to someone higher up (Hux is Snoke’s nephew, you heard it here first) to not have been discharged yet. These are not good villains, they’re not even passable villains. This film is, of course, loaded down with bad characters on the other side as well. There’s Admiral Holdo, the second in command of the resistance navy and a leader so inept and power drunk that her actions and attitude lead to a mutiny and an act of insubordination that costs the resistance a substantial number of soldiers. However, I can’t help but feel that the character of Holdo could have been saved if they had made her a villain. Instead of the suicide mission, have a more sensible side plot involving a mole onboard the ship. Then there is Rose, Rose gets in the way. She seems to be being set up as something of a forced love interest for Finn, but the two characters don’t seem to play off of each other well at all. Beyond that, there is just nothing compelling or memorable about her. Then there is quite possibly the most disappointing character of them all: Luke. I know this has been said by so many other reviewers that it’s becoming a cliche at this point, but Luke’s characterization in this flick just seemed very off. From unceremoniously chucking his father’s lightsaber over his shoulder to his attempted murder of Kylo Ren to his burning of the Jedi temple. There is nothing that could have happened in the preceding 30 years of peace that would have driven the character depicted in those first three movies to being the one depicted in this movie.
Aside from the obvious spamming of the artificial colour muting that is so popular in movies these days, the film certainly looks good. The visuals on the ships are definitely a step up over Rogue One. The fights are done pretty well. However, there are some pretty bad effects shots in this that stand out. One in particular being the scene when Leia uses the force to pull herself back into the ship. Another being the scene in Snoke’s chamber. I don’t know whether his face was rendered practically or through CGI, but either way it looks bad. The Porgs and those fox-like creatures on Crait also looked pretty terrible.
Like this movie, this review is starting to get a little bloated. So, should you see it? Sure, why not? It was certainly entertaining despite its gaping and often annoyingly infuriating faults. However, I view it in the same way I view Rogue One; it’s entertaining the first time through but will ultimately be more disappointing on subsequent viewings. I’ve seen other reviewers sing the praises of this flick, that it’s better than The Force Awakens, but I don’t see it. For all it’s faults, at least the previous film told a focused narrative and didn’t suffer from the character and story bloat that this film does. When all is said and done and Episode IX has been released, and the inevitable disaster of the Han Solo flick has come and gone, opinions will probably start to turn. I think ultimately, The Force Awakens will probably end up being remembered as the best (or at least the least bad) entry in the new Disney trilogy. I also see these flicks going the way of the prequels. Many of the people who love them now will end up re-watching them a few times, mulling over them, picking them apart and ultimately come to dislike them. I see Episode IX being a disaster and potentially a franchise killer. Really, there is just nowhere else they can go with this plot after this movie.