This review will be more like a stream of consciousness of first thoughts, because there's a lot to process for anyone who considers themselves a lover of that galaxy far, far away. The final chapter in the Star Wars saga is here. The internet is already ablaze with takes and analyses. It's almost like we've been here before. Let's all take a breath. Now, here's another take: It's a Star Wars film, so it'll be open to tons of interpretation, just as the original still is over 42 years later. It's a powerful Star Wars film. A sometimes messy Star Wars film. A busy one. A grim one. A dazzling one. It's a lot of things, and it's hard for a hardcore fan like me to separate the critical analysis of the film I've witnessed from the emotional reaction I had to the story that unfolded. But that internal battle is part of the experience of watching one of these installments. But is it part of the conversation afterward in a way that can really be considered valid? Should you take my opinion into account for something that's so personal for so many of us? Probably not, but here you are. So thanks for reading. I'll do my best.
This is a truly satisfying conclusion in my estimation, but it won't make everyone happy. I mean, it's something of an impossible task, and everyone's expectations will play a role. With that, we have to ask ourselves about what we got, not what we didn't get. And we have to ask an essential question: Are the film's relationship with the fans and J.J. Abrams's relationship with other filmmakers a part of it? Depends on your read, really. It depends on, like Yoda said in Empire Strikes Back, "what you take with you." There are choices in this that take the sequel trilogy in new, sometimes weird, unexpected, and even clunky directions. It isn't always smooth. There are points in the film that definitely could have used another script pass. Why go from point A to B with five stops along the way when you really only need like two stops tops? Things like that flaw and a couple glaring plot conveniences make the extremely fast pacing feel conflicted in a way, and almost tiring. I was exhausted when I walked out of the theater. It's almost too much movie for its run time. I wish it had been longer (but it's not my film). All that said, I was as moved as I was tired. I really was.
What this film does really well is take the core characters in natural directions. It may not feel like it gels perfectly with the previous two installments, but when you really break down that lore, it feels like a weighty expansion of what came before in an emotional and mythological sense. Harrison Ford described 2015's The Force Awakens as an "extension of theme," and it's clear that Abrams thought along those same lines here. It's hard when plot and character journeys don't necessarily seem perfectly in sync, and I think that's the case here. But I admire the swings. That's the thing: I even enjoyed the misses. It's in the more odd choices that it feels like a spiritual successor to 1983's Return of the Jedi (which happens to be my favorite of these). And when you look at things like the arcs of Rey & Kylo Ren, they track beautifully with what came before in 2017's The Last Jedi. Especially with lead performances as good as the ones in this film. Everyone is on top of their game here.
We have to consider the whole as Star Wars fans, and for me, this film (despite critically being in the middle of the franchise pack) made the whole better. The emotional highs may come off like they're covering for the films flaws, and maybe they are? But that's a tad too cynical for this franchise I think. I don't think the kid in me who played with my toy version of Luke's green saber would want to approach it that way. But what he would want to do is talk full on spoilers, so look for my spoiler filled breakdown on my Star Wars podcast, Ahch-To Radio.
May the Force be with you. And may you have some hopefully respectful conversations!
(Below are some of my immediate, right out of the theater reactions.)