Introduction: I’ve been very grateful to everyone who has been thoughtful enough to avoid spoilers for the past month, or at least been thoughtful enough to warn me so that I wouldn’t read spoilers. Because of that, walking into the theater today, I was only aware of one major plot event in the movie, and very much appreciated that. Also, since having kids, I’ve gotten a new perspective on how impossible it can be to see a hot new movie within a reasonable amount of time, so am trying to be extra sensitive to those who may STILL be trying to avoid spoilers. Okay, that should fill up the preview for Facebook: ON TO THE SPOILERS!!!
The Good Stuff: I’m going to open up by saying that overall, I thought the good in this movie far outweighed the bad. I think Mark Hamill rose to heights of acting I’ve not previously seen from him. The rest of the cast likewise did well, but being a writer and not a drama geek anymore, I’m going to mostly discuss the writing.
I thought this film may have done more than any other to show what a Jedi on the cusp of “turning” to the Dark or Light really looks like in the complex relationship between Kylo and Rey. There was an ambiguity portrayed in these characters’ actions that explored how someone may reject a specific evil, and yet refuse to embrace virtue. There was a sense that Rey really was tempted by Kylo’s offer, not of power, but of belonging, whereas I never got the sense that Luke was ever truly tempted by Darth Vader as a father. Luke already had too strong sense of identity as Vader’s adversary for that.
I liked that there was no great secret behind Rey’s parentage, and the wound that this dealt her as she came to terms with that. I liked the backstory that filled in the reason Luke “lost” Ben Solo, and the tension that created with Rey.
I also really liked that Luke Skywalker correctly cut down the Jedi Council as a collective failure that allowed the Empire to seize power. I wish he’d turned some of that insight onto Yoda.
I very much liked that Supreme Leader Snoke had guards that actually seemed to be competent. I liked a little less that Kylo Ren, whom we saw stopping blaster bolts in Ep. VII, seems not to have considered directly using the Force a bit more in that fight.
I have to admire the visual homages to Empire and Jedi that managed not to feel nearly as much like a retread of those films as The Force Awakens did of New Hope. I am stunned and delighted that they had the guts to fit an homage to Hardware Wars in there.
The Bad Stuff: As far as the discussion that I am vaguely aware of regarding Vice-Admiral Holdo and her competence, I do think that Holdo’s command style was awfully opaque. Why, after all, not tell the people on her own ship what was going on, to give them hope? On the other hand, an opaque command style really doesn’t justify a subordinate relieving her of command. Poe Dameron is a mutinous idiot, and his and Finn’s and Rose’s actions led directly to the death of what appeared to be something like 2/3 of the Rebels Holdo planned to save. And him demanding to know what was going on right after her assumption of command and while she is obviously busy was just asinine.
One of my biggest peeves with the movie is the whole “no one can track anything through hyperspace” plot point. In all seriousness, this has ALWAYS been possible in Star Wars, from the very first: The Empire follows the Millennium Falcon through hyperspace to get to the Rebel Base. And before anyone says “But that’s because they put a homing beacon on their ship!” Uh-uh. Bullshit. Leia says “They’re tracking us.” Makes no mention of how. And if everyone knew it had to be a homing beacon, Han and Chewie could at least have searched for one. Moreover, if everyone knew that the only way to track ships through hyperspace was by means of homing beacons, someone aboard that Rebel flagship should have said “Great Maker! Some spy has planted a homing beacon aboard our ship!” Not “Wow! The First Order must have just developed a whole new order of technology that-a-stormtrooper-and-a-maintenance-tech-can-deduce-must-be-based-on-the-same-principles-of-any-active-tracking-and-if-we-talk-really-fast-we-can-slide-weaklogicbytheaudienceandscream IT MUST BE ONLY ON THE LEAD SHIP SO WE CAN MOUNT A HOPELESS COMMANDO RAID ON THAT ONE WEAK POINT ‘CAUSE WE’RE REBELS THAT’S HOW WE ROLL!!”
Oh, and yeah, the whole argument that no one’s ever tracked anyone through hyperspace is also bullshit because in Jedi Han and Leia read Imperial sensors that were tracking the Rebel armada before it emerged from hyperspace. So there’s that.
This next one pains me to say, but there’s no way around it: I loved that someone finally decided to use a hyperspace ram on the big screen. That was an epic moment. Except…
…if that was possible and so easy to think of, why did the Rebels not use it during the Battle of Endor when they seemed sure to lose? Three or four hyperspace lances through a Death Star would have ruined the Emperor’s whole day, and would probably have been a net gain of ships for the Alliance besides.
The Dumb: Yoda has looked less wise with each passing movie. I really wanted Luke to rip into him. Aside from the line about the importance of passing on our failures to our students (which was poignant and true), Yoda came off as a cheap trick that weakened Luke’s character.
Oh, and along the lines of idiotic command decisions, Leia has the gall to slap Poe for not aborting in the middle of his attack run and endangering the bombers? Why the hell did she not just order them to abort herself and make Poe’s attack run moot?
And speaking of idiocy, the Empire has still not learned that you can’t shoot fighters down with anything but other fighters? That lesson should be well over two decades old.
I’m sorry, but Leia saving herself from the vacuum of space with the Force was dumb. Even dumber was them opening the door for her and not losing the whole corridor and themselves to decompression.
Okay, that’s it for now. All my judgments are, of course, right and true and utterly immune to criticism. Unless I think of something else later. Jump in, the argument’s fine!