I am not a big Star Wars fan, so take my review of the final act with a grain of salt. (I mean the final act of the original nine-episode storyline of course. This lucrative franchise will be milked with spinoffs until the next millennium.) I enjoyed the first trilogy (episodes 4, 5, 6), absolutely hated the first film of the second prequel trilogy (episode 1), so much so that I completely skipped episodes 2 and 3. The first film in the final trilogy (episode 7) got good reviews, enough that I went to see it and quite enjoyed it. I then watched episode 8 and was disappointed again and was now ambivalent of seeing the latest release but decided to do so due to a combination of staying with people who were going to see it and curiosity about how the story line would end. We ended up seeing it at 8:45 on Christmas day morning which had the benefit of the theater being largely empty even though we were watching it on an iMax screen.
(Q: Why were the nine films made out of order? A: In charge of scheduling, Yoda was.)
My review will not please those who are die-hard fans. Verdict on the film? Kind of meh. For me, the problem with all these films are the long fight and chase scenes that make the film much longer than they need be and the poor writing of dialogue. During the interminable fight and chase scenes, I would get bored and be waiting for them to end to that the story could move along, but when they did, the dialogue was so clunky that I began to get irritated and wish for some fight and chase scenes to distract me from it.
These films are not doing Adam Driver any favors as far as his acting credentials are concerned, even though they must be lucrative. I first saw Driver in a film in episode 7 and wrote about how his character of Kylo Ren looked “like a sullen teenager who is about to burst into tears because he has had his cellphone taken away and been grounded by his parents for the weekend.” My appreciation of his acting rose considerably with his performances in BlacKkKlansman and The Report but here he was back again with the sullen teen act. Would it kill the writers to give him a wider range of emotions and maybe even have him crack a smile or make a quip once or twice? In fact, the villains were all one-note characters and even when one of them behaved surprisingly, there is no backstory whatsoever to explain their behavior. It seems to be just thrown in for the sake of creating a surprise. And of course one has to overlook all the plot holes and contradictions and the fact that the mystical powers of the Force that some characters have seem to come and go and change without any explanation.
As to the main heroic characters of Rey, Finn, and Poe, they were ok, and the droids provided the usual comic relief. Rose, who seemed in episode 8 to promise playing a larger role, largely faded into the background this time in favor of two new female characters whose introduction was not well motivated and who at the end remained ambiguous. Actor Carrie Fisher had died before filming but her appearance using archival footage and CGI was done well so that you would not have known that she was not actually on the set. It was fun to see Billy Dee Williams reprising his role from the first trilogy.
Given how popular this film was bound to be, there were a lot of previews before it began. There were about ten that lasted for about half an hour, and they were all films that were high action with loud bombastic soundtracks so that by the time the film started I was already suffering from visual and audio fatigue. I also noticed that most of them (Top Gun, Dolittle, Mulan, Wonder Woman, Black Widow, and the latest Bond film) were sequels or remakes or spinoffs of popular earlier films, a tribute to the power of studio accountants over the creative artists.
Here’s the trailer.