This is an overstuffed and slightly convoluted entry in the Star Wars series that still manages to be an entertaining adventure with some good scenes, genuine laughs, and fun characters.
The story follows Rey, Finn, and Poe as they try to track down a thing that will lead them to another thing that will lead them to the bad guy in order to stop his nefarious plan. Everything in the movie is given important sounding names, the Sith way-finder, but really it’s just a series of items and events that are designed by the writers to create spectacular set pieces. There’s a chase through the desert that’s fun and really well shot. There’s a water soaked battle on wreckage that is full of unique visuals. There’s a fun sequence in which two characters duel even though they’re in different locations.
Anchoring it all and elevating the movie is Daisy Ridley. Her deeply expressive eyes convey genuine emotion that carries the audience through all the stuff. Her team of friends feels like they have a real friendship and connection. Their banter and moments together are the best part of the movie. This movie has a core group of friends that is the beating heart of the movie. Oscar Isaac and John Boyega deserve praise for their chemistry and ability to give small moments big impacts.
C-3PO is given a bigger part in this movie, and it is wonderful to have him back. He hasn’t had much of a roll in the last few movies, but his presence here fills the movie with comic relief and a hit of that sweet nostalgia so many in the audience are looking for.
The character work in general is really nice in this movie. Small rolls are filled perfectly. Characters are fleshed out with some nice details and new characters have just the right amount of time to establish themselves in the story without bogging things down.
The movie has a lot of problems though. The villains nefarious plan is dumb. He states his plan then a minute later he achieved his goal without executing the plan. He says he wants Rey dead, then says he never wanted Rey dead. The villain is Emperor Palpatine resurrected (somehow). That’s not a spoiler. He’s all over the trailers. Anyway, without Ian Mcdiarmid playing him that character would be nothing. His command of his voice and the delicious way he savors his words completely makes up for how silly Palpatine is. His plans don’t make sense, and his motivations don’t exist. He’s just there to be a big bad ghoul in the background.
There’s a big light saber duel in which the characters just hack away at each other. There’s no tension as these characters fight, no suspense as to who will win. It’s better than the absurd baton of the prequels, but it’s not great. Some combination of the editing and the choreography just causes the fight to fall flat. Though even this scene is saved by the actors. They convey so much in the moments when they aren’t trying to whack each. The fight falls flat but their looks and physicality conveys a lot.
The grand finale has a lot going on, but it feels more like a generic Marvel movie finale with the heroes fighting a seemingly insurmountable enemy in extended cgi sequences.
The movie tries too hard to satisfy too many people. It floods the screen with cameos and surprise visits from original trilogy characters. It abandons new music for John Williams original score. It tries so hard to undo everything that happened in the previous that it often feels like a guy begging his ex girlfriend to take him back.
Star Wars fans will hate this movie for a number of reasons. Most likely because it’s not exactly what they expected or wanted it to be. The problem with judging a movie against the one you’ve imagined is that the real movie will never match up. It’s the same reason people always think books are better than their movies. If you walk into the movie with preconceived ideas about what the movie is supposed to be it’ll disappoint you. walk in with an open mind and it’ll provide plenty to enjoy.
Personally I had a lot of fun. It evoked all the right emotions for me. While I can see the flaws, the movie generated enough good feeling and positivity that I can honestly say I liked it a lot.
It’s my cup of tea. B+