One of the most anticipated blockbusters of the year has finally arrived in grand style! I saw it last night and here are my first impressions straight from the Dark Side.
As an initial disclaimer, I must say as a fan I loved the film, I really did. I was entertained and on the edge of my seat for the whole time. But, looking at it with my critical goggles, there are somethings we must discuss. This will be spoilerific, so beware!!
Let’s talk about that grand style… Director Rian Johnson, Director of Photography Steve Yedlin, Production Designer Rick Heinrichs and their crews brought in a visually stunning movie. Maybe more than any other Star Wars movie so far, I could even argue. It was a feast for the eyes from start to finish. Two particular settings that stuck with me are Snoke’s room and his red henchmen, and the final battle in the abandoned Rebel outpost of Crait. The latter was GORGEOUS, very bloody without any actual blood, by creating a planet covered in salt that gets red once touched. Genius.
We got many new additions to the Star Wars world, in terms of characters and new planets. The Porgs, for example, were a public favourite even before the film’s release, and they truly are adorable. Their use was heavy-handed but not in a way that took too much away from the movie, as I still smiled every time they were on screen. They also had the crystal animals called Vulptex , fox-live animals reminiscent of Pokémon who lived in Crait, and the big Fathiers, animals used for racing in Canto Bight, who had a sad storyline about exploitation.
I already spoke of Crait, but we also got Canto Bight, in the Cantonica planet, and Ahch-To, the Jedi planet, as new cities and planets. I’ll get into my problem with the whole Canto Bight plotline in a moment. Ahch-To is where Rey went to find Luke, and where she is hoping for some training, which Luke kind of refuses to do, especially after he sees her power. The whole Jedi island is very isolated and uninhabited, apart from Luke and the Lanai, creatures caring for the island that have a very entertaining relationship with Rey. It is a beautiful setting which brings a surprise cameo of none other than the ultimate Master himself, Yoda. Or Sassy Yoda, as I now call him. This was a scene that had everyone roaring in the theatre. In fact Luke was also a sass master, and in general just awesome throughout.
As you can see, Johnson did a lot of world building and that turned out mostly great BUT, I have qualms with various plot points. Let’s list my problems, shall we?
- Snoke is dead? Really? After all of that? That seemed like a ridiculously anti-climatic decision. They probably did that to set up Kylo as the new true bad guy who will get his redemption much like Darth Vader did, but still. All the unanswered questions, just felt like a ??? decision.
- Rey’s parents are nobodies? I both like and dislike this. If this is true, and not Kylo lying to her, it goes back to the “anyone can be a hero” thing that the original trilogy had. I dislike this because there was such a build up to it, the same as with Snoke, and then it ends in nothing. Given that at the end of the movie, a stable boy showed signs of being able to use the Force, I think maybe Kylo was not lying, but still…
- The whole Canto Bight arc with Finn and Rose. It led to mostly nothing, and didn’t really advance anything other than Poe getting in hot waters, creating a doomed romance and keeping Finn, Rey and Poe away to create build up for their reunion. Of course we got Benicio del Toro, comments about animal exploitation and abuse, and arms trade, which are all valid additions, but plot-wise it made little sense.
And then the good….
- Rey and Kylo’s new-found connection. It was very sweet in a weird, frightening way. I really feel Kylo needs a hug right about now. When they were fighting side by side I was completely on board with their alliance, and I so wanted to see it happen. But of course, with Snoke dead they still needed a villain for Movie #9.
- Rose, as portrayed by Kelly Marie Tran. Even though I am critic of the usefulness of her storyline, I really liked the character, in how soft and tough she can be at the same time and just how generally badass she is.
- Kylo’s conflict is heartbreaking, and Adam Driver delivered it all so well. He seemed much more comfortable this time around, and when Kylo couldn’t explode the bridge of the ship where Leia was… I really feel there is still hope for him even though you know, he is The Big Bad Guy now.
- Everytime Carrie Fisher came on screen I teared up a little. No one knows what will happen with the next movie, since she had no story conclusion in this one and will not be used in any way in the next movie. But even then, Johnson chose to keep Leia’s story as envisioned by him and Carrie, using all the footage she shot in a way of honouring her and the fans. Leia is the original badass and here it is no different.
- Laura Dern as Commander Holdo, a nice counterbalance to Poe’s recklessness. The chemistry between Leia, Holdo and Poe here is great, and offers up a little feminist gem in which the women are always stopping Poe in his mansplaining and occasional toxic behaviours (love you anyways Commander/Captain Dameron!).
- Mark Hamill as Luke in every moment. You can tell his passion for that character, for this universe. He is always fantastic, in his sass and in his sadness. I am only waiting to see if he will make a comeback in the next film after his little evaporation act…
- The casting diversity. I am really glad to see that the revival of the Star Wars franchise, including Rogue One, seems to not typecast and stereotype anyone. We have Rey, Rose, Leia, Jyn, Holdo and many other women occupying high-ranking positions and/or being main characters and other ship personnel, we have Rose as an Asian who is not stereotyped AT ALL we have Finn as a main character and several other black characters as ship personnel, we have Poe and Cassian representing the Hispanics and so on and so forth. While here I put them into categories for the sake of argument, what I love the most is that they are there simply as PEOPLE, and not as the groups they represent. Nothing smells of tokenism or anything like that. Major brownie points to you all making these decisions! ❤
And an honourable mention to the cameo by Michaela Cole!!!!! If you have read my review of Chewing Gum, you know I absolutely love her. Her cameo was literally a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, but it made me happy to see her there!
I still need to watch this more times, but there you go, my first impressions! This movie has been very divisive, being simultaneously called crap and brilliant, but it is generally a hit for me even with its shortcomings. Go watch!