pbcinemac’s review published on Letterboxd:
It attempts at more of a gut-punch much more than "The Force Awakens", but as expected with a more ambitious film, from person to person it can become hit or miss. (Also, for a random note, there are lots of instances of terrorist-like suicide bombings in this. I get that it's a movie about underdogs and rebels, but I suppose in the current climate it could be seen as less appropriate.)
Some of those "shock" moments felt a little confusing. One example seemed to evoke confusion on purpose, but together with the film score, I couldn't quite grasp the emotional intention. Other "shock" moments seemed dumb, even though I think I understand what the movie was going for. And then some "shock" moments are actually shocking. "The Force Awakens" didn't have much of that; it was a well-constructed reboot.
In terms of direction, there were a few striking images once and a while. Yet, J.J. Abrams had a much more frenetic (lens) flair that coupled nicely (many probably disagree) with the Star Wars Franchise. His direction revitalized the series visually. It's fine if you think that it should adhere similar visual language to the originals, but I think he did a good mix of old (ex. facing camera pilot shots) and new (sweeping crane shots, actually interesting and still not overly flashy saber fights). This is a new era for Star Wars. So, I'm perfectly fine with the trilogy doing new and potentially unusual things with the universe, and Rian Johnson's take did not throw me because of its perspective.
I became a little disheartened very close to the beginning. The movie starts off with a rather silly joke (many have been calling those of this kind Marvel-esque). It deflates some of the tension in the premise, and my trust in the film wavered slightly. The movie seems like its trying to go for a "Empire Strikes Back" style of character-based drama with fewer setting changes. There's a "join me" moment, a Han/Leia type kiss, but the latter feels a bit tasteless considering its context.
There's a lot of characters doing things in this movie, but I don't know if many of them get much emotional resolution. Yeah, it's the middle part of 3 movies, but I didn't feel like there was much change from the start to end. Rey is still resolute in finding her purpose at the end, not having really found it. At least, it wasn't very clear in that regard. Kylo Ren is still torn by the light and the dark, with no indication that he will be resolute in either direction come Episode 9.
The pacing of the movie was strange. It dragged several times, maybe because Episode 7 was so quickly paced, or maybe because the scene order/length disregarded emotional investment. Cutting to another scene before the resolution of another is a simple way to increase tension, and it's nothing new and it's not necessarily bad. Unfortunately, in "The Last Jedi", it seems like it cuts away at random, and other times it seems like it should have cut earlier. In the latter instance, this might be more about writing: a scene feels like it concludes, and then continues on, leaving me confused. This whole paragraph is just a long poorly worded attempt at saying, "I think this movie was edited/written poorly" (I suppose I write much in the style of the movie itself: long and disorganized). Speaking of which, I had a pressing feeling towards the end of the movie that it was wrapping up, but it kept going. This movie started to feel pretty long.
There are good things, though. The spectacle, as always, is front and center. I think that's what Johnson was going for when he put all those "shock" moments in there: pure entertainment. The CGI is great, but it seemed to blend less seamlessly than in Episode 7. But maybe that's just my preference; Dan Mindel and J.J. Abrams give their film a nice texture, a grittiness. Everyone's acting is good, Mark Hamill and Adam Driver being the obvious stand-outs. One scene, featuring an unexpected character is one of the better written scenes, and even emotional. Unfortunately, a lot of emotion is missing from the rest of the film, mostly due to the jumbled, unclear motivations of some and unresolved arcs of others. On the lighter side, some of the jokes are good (like the movie moments, still very much hit or miss), and I'm fond of cutesy things like Evil BB-8 and the Porgs. For other Star Wars fans, it is things even at little levels like this that might make this film offputting. It's a Disney Star Wars film, for better or worse.
The film works somewhat well as a scene by scene spectacle, but taken holistically, it's a bit messy and unsatisfying. In comparison to Episode 5, its clear inspiration, it is a lesser installment. "The Last Jedi" is more risky and original than its direct predecessor "The Force Awakens", but lacks its solid craft and genuine resolution. In an unfortunate comparison, this reminds me of the difference between the hope of the Season 6 finale of Game of Thrones and the unfortunate reality of the following season. One makes grand promises and nearly convinces you of greatness to come (albeit without doing a lot of heavy lifting in terms of story progress just yet), and the other makes you pine for the version of future you imagined beforehand.