Because this is why you come to FtB. Read no further if you haven’t already seen it.
Ok. Hi again.
What follows is a “review” only loosely organized by bullet points:
- The opening crawl has the First Order conquering the New Republic almost immediately after the events of The Force Awakens. Which, what? How? At the end of The Force Awakens, they used their dumb planet death star to blow up the capital or whatever. But that shouldn’t entail the rest of the republic falling like a house of cards. It had DECADES to create some kind of a military infrastructure that should survive the destruction of one planet. That leads to what I think is my main problem with TFA and TLJ. The scaffolding that holds up the various narratives is rickety. In a galaxy with tens of thousands of star systems, hundreds of thousands of sentient species, and trillions (quadrillions?) of inhabitants, everything just seems so small. Canto Bight and Maz Kanata’s place were the only times it felt like there was a larger universe that the stories occur in.
- One of the few things the prequel trilogy did well was give a sense of scale to the enormity of the Star Wars galaxy. Perhaps it’s just too difficult to tell a good story this way and that’s why these new movies are moving back towards more localized narratives. Fortunately, the localized narratives of TFA and TLJ are, for the most part, compelling and well done.
- You may not be surprised to learn that I am the type of nerd whose read almost all of the recently decanonized Expanded Universe novels, many of the comic books, and other random SW ephemera. I just love the size and scale of an entire universe (spanning thousands of years) to fuck around in. When I see a weird looking alien I think “What species is that? What planet are they from? Why aren’t there any more of them? Why the hell is the Resistance so human-centric (I’m aware this is not a real word)?”
- The first scene after the crawl saw Poe and Hux reenacting that awful “can you hear me now” commercial, and the forced, gimmicky attempts at humor continued for most of the movie. Not all of the humor was terrible, but it should’ve been dialed back.
- Probably the funniest part of the movie was Leia, seemingly dead, flying through space back to safety. I think I was the only one in the theater laughing out loud. It was terrible.
- The writing wasn’t always great, but overall, the acting was phenomenal.
- Rey and Ren were great together. Their chemistry is amazing. It almost makes me want to ship them, but I’m ride or die for Rey and Finn
- Finn and Rose’s detour to the casino planet was meh. I liked Rose lecturing bright-eyed Finn about the amoral capitalist scum in their midst (to be honest, this should be enough to group this blog post under the “Politics or “Social Justice” categories). I fucking loved that they went animal liberation front on their asses while escaping. The entire plot proved to be a red herring, as the plan ultimately failed. I’m conflicted as to whether or not I liked it. On the one hand, not all the plans of the protagonists should work, but on the other, an opportunity was missed to develop Finn and Rose’s characters.
- Speaking of Rose, she stopped Finn from leaving to find Rey, calling him selfish. Then later on, she selfishly saves him, compromising a suicide mission that could’ve bought the Resistance much-needed time. I guess it’s supposed to be character growth, rather than acting out of character
- After saving Finn, she says she loves him. I don’t think their storyline was developed enough for that, as mentioned above. Exchange care for love and it’s much more palatable. Then again, I’m not exactly impartial given my preference for Rey/Finn. Rose is great though.
- Poe was kind of annoying. Hot of course, but annoying. He was salty as fuck because he wasn’t given command in Leia’s stead. Shit like that sucks.
- I had similar issues with Finn. He had a bit too many unfunny one-liners which is more galling due to his character’s unexplored background and motivations. Unlike Rey, whose backstory is blessedly uncomplicated (see below), he was a goddamn stormtrooper who defected. It’s a good thing John Boyega is awesome or his character would be almost c
- Captain Phasma continued to be useless. It looked like she died after once again failing. Which is basically her arc in TFA, though with even less screen time. It’s an absolutely criminal misuse of the fantastic Gwendoline Christie
- Speaking of underutilized characters, the most notable thing Chewie did was eat a porg, which I believe was supposed to be funny – because eating a creature as that creature’s relatives look on sadly is funny I guess.
- Luke was way more excited to see Artoo than Chewie. Kinda shitty, especially since Chewie’s bff just died.
- Speaking of Artoo, playing the Princess’s message to Obi-Wan definitely hit me in the feels
- Speaking of feels, Yoda’s reintroduction into the saga gave me legit chills
- There were other callbacks, most of which I can’t remember off the top of my head. They were both subtle and effective, and evoked just the right amount of nostalgia.
- Two of the biggest questions, Rey’s parentage and what the deal is with Snoke turned out to be enormous red herrings:
- Leaving the theatre after I saw TFA, I wasn’t even thinking about who Rey’s parents were. She was awesome and it wasn’t something I was interested in. After a friend brought it up, I thought “god fucking dammit, her parents will matter and that blows.” The internet endlessly debating this only solidified what I thought was inevitable. However, I did have some hope, as none of the theories were very convincing. It was baggage that the character didn’t need. And so Rey’s parents are nobodies! That’s awesome! There’s a small chance that Ren is lying, but it would severely undercut the last scene of the movie, which I liked quite a lot (a child slave practicing jedi moves against a starlit backdrop)
- To me, Snoke requires more of a backstory, despite his awful name. His age made it clear that he was around during Palpatine’s empire. What was he doing during this time? Did Palpatine know? What’s his deal? There should be interesting stories about this. Also, how did he ensnare Ren? That’s not to say I didn’t like that he died. It was completely (to me) unexpected, gutsy, and I respect the decision.
- Luke and Ren’s differing perceptions of their falling out was artfully done and effectively revealed to the audience. In short, Ren had every reason to believe Luke was going to kill him. I do wonder, though, how much Leia knows of this. Luke wasn’t very forthcoming with Rey at first.
- I liked Luke apparently achieving nirvana (unless he comes back as a force ghost, which wouldn’t really make it nirvana). I was annoyed when he appeared unscathed after getting shot with enough lasers to blow him to bits, and cut through with a light saber. The fact that he wasn’t physically present was a good enough justification for me, even if it necessitated an absurd and nonsensical amount of force power. But there was a consequence to using all that power. I think it was a cool death.
- Overall, it was good, but too long. A lot of the humor was bad. It appears I didn’t like it as much as some, and am one of the few that like TFA better. But that could change – my thoughts are definitely fungible when it comes to this. For example, TFA lost a bit of luster when I became aware of it’s numerous similarities to A New Hope, which I didn’t realize on my own. But it was still good (despite the awful planet death star thing). All of the post prequel trilogy movies have been good. And that’s good – after the prequel debacle, there was ample reason for concern. (Though I do think the prequels are somewhat defensible – in a nutshell, I think of them more as the Rise of Palapatine, rather than the Fall of Anakin Skywalker (because Anakin was terrible and Palaptine ruled))
- As for what’s next, it’s hard to see The Resistance, apparently consisting of one ship, being any kind of threat to The First Order. Perhaps they’ll do a several year time jump. I think Rey kills Ren and the saga of the Skywalkers and Solos comes to an end. TFA was pure nostalgia; TLJ threw a bunch of that nostalgic baggage in the trash; and episode 9 will set the course for the next series. Not bad.