The Rise of Foreboding (Before I see it)
I already don’t like this movie’s title. It is a bad omen. Because this is the story of the end of the Skywalker saga. That’s the idea, anyway. We also already know that there was some last-minute post-production a month from release, and we know that this is once again a JJ Abrams joint, and he is famously bad at endings. Is this going to be Lost-ending-bad? I remember the crushing feeling of watching A Phantom Menace and realizing I was in for a Terrible Movie. I hope that isn’t true again. I have to think that Disney wouldn’t do that.
The film is once again very much JJ Abrams, with characters shouting exposition to one another during action scenes. This isn’t in itself a bad thing in an action movie that demands some exposition, but the problem that I saw was that so much exposition was added in this, the final film. There wasn’t NEARLY enough time to give any character interactions or moments room to breathe and actually have an impact because we immediate raced to the next thing.
There’s the fakeout death and you’re not positive it isn’t a real death because nothing else in this thrill-ride has been given the slightest bit of time to develop so why would this? Then a scene later oh there it is, it’s a fake-out. But the characters don’t know that, and they are basically unmoved emotionally by what happened. Because we have to get to the next damn MacGuffin!
So Many MacGuffins!
This was just too much. Find the dagger and then find the person to reprogram the droid to read the dagger to find the planet to use the dagger to find the spot to find the Sith wayfinder to find the random ice-planet in the Unknown Regions so we can see the Infinite Fleet of Star Destroyers (who built them? Where did they find the millions of people to staff them? Have they just been sanding there waiting for 30 years!?) all so we can undo the climax of the original trilogy and then re-hash it with Palpatine giving the exact same speech.
It Couldn’t Have Been Enough (But it could have been better than this)
Ending a nine-film, 42-year saga on a note that resonated with millions and satisfied artistically and emotionally would have been an epic artistic achievement. This film was not that film. It was a Star Wars movie. I mostly had fun watching it, in the moment. Upon closer examination, it mostly falls apart as a film and as a narrative. That being said, yes I’m sure I’ll watch it again many times.
But it could have been better than this. Easily better. Even significantly better. Apparently it was significantly better, as far as Reddit is concerned – see below.
The JJ Edit (After reading about it)
A number of the stupid things in the movie were apparently straight from Disney for the purpose of merchandising (“They fly now”). There were also apparently more than 30 minutes knocked off of what JJ turned in, including some great scenes that absolutely should been in the movie – more Rose Tico, live Jedi and life Sith facing off through Rey and Palpatine, etc.
It Is What It Is
The greatness of Star Wars is ephemeral. It is a mix of the actual films, what we remember about the films, our feelings at the time, our memories of playing with the toys and various Star Wars games, and what it implies about the larger galaxy where the stories take place. It echoes some mythic themes and stories, but doesn’t quite do them justice. It delivers incredibly, and just as often fails spectacularly to deliver.
It’s mythology. I mean, if you really get into a mythology, including real-world ones, they are a huge mess. Stories contradict themselves. They reflect the deep flaws of their creators. They change over time, sometimes for the better and sometimes not. They include strangeness that we’ll never understand because we weren’t there. We return to them later in our lives and find them both deeper and more disappointing in turns.
Star Wars is mythology, and the core mythological cycle has ended. No one is satisfied. Very few are entirely dissatisfied. Everyone has different favorite moments. Thousands more stories will spin off of these stories. It isn’t better than mythology, but I wouldn’t say it’s worse either. At this point, 42 years later, Star Wars simply is.