This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
William Mahaffey’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
My initial feelings walking out of this movie were of feeling somewhat letdown. But already in the time that it's taken me to drive home I've started to turn around on it, and that's because this film has depth that you usually don't get in a Star Wars film, or most blockbusters, for that matter.
I think it's going to end up being a pretty polarizing film, as its commitment to subverting expectations is really going to challenge some people. I saw it with the most die hard Star Wars fan I know, who defends the prequels and even a lot of the god awful changes in the special editions; and his reaction was shockingly negative. I think that this works in its favor overall, but it definitely creates some issues as well.
The film is very topical, it deals with ideas of how the old establishments sometimes just don't work anymore, and how clinging to the scriptures and rules of ancient religions is unnecessary as long as the core message is intact. It also explores many themes such as disappointment in your parents and role models, and how you can't always look towards them for the answers. It deals a lot about the mistakes that humans make and how we can learn from them. I think those 2 themes are very key to the film and intersect in a variety of ways. It's a film about how life is full of disappointment and failure, but how you have to keep going and learn from those mistakes; even if the lesson you learn is that it may be time for you to let someone else take over and fix what you could not.
The downfall of all of this is that it takes its time establishing these points and you really feel it throughout certain scenes, when it could have gotten these ideas a bit more elegantly without pushing the runtime so much. Currently, my biggest gripes are that there's a scene on a gambling planet that has some biting social commentary on the wealthy, but we spend entirely too long there, and it's here where the film really starts to drag. Besides the fact that these bits feel overstay their welcome, the plot point that brought them here feels like a huge stretch and it's a bit hard to swallow. It eventually ties in to our heroes making more mistakes, but it took great lengths to illustrate what it has already done with other elements in the film. The other big nitpick is that it eliminates another one of the original characters, and it felt pretty unnecessary. It's a nice send-off, but it does it after playing with the notion that this character is going to die, and the sentiment of the farewell was undercut by the way it was handled.
haven't talked about it at all, but the action is pretty stellar. There's an all time great light saber fight, and all of the space battles are thrilling and a huge step up from Force Awakens in my opinion. While I don't think a lot of things work, the fact that it's got me thinking this much about it, shows that it is a very worthy successor to Empire Strikes Back. Overall, I think there's a lot of amazing things in this film, but that it's a mixed bag and not the immediately fun ride that Force Awakens was. I think that it's much better than it in most regards, but it's not something that is consistently as entertaining.