The Scribbling Man’s review published on Letterboxd:
Watched with Tom!! 🚀.
Spoiler free, unless knowing the dominant colour scheme counts as spoiler territory for you.
I've never been in a screening where the audience has clapped - apparently that's unusual? I thought this might be the day that changed. The audience seemed like a rowdy bunch - the guy next to me even spilled his popcorn quite loudly, then (for some reason I can't fathom) proceeded to stomp on it repeatedly. Maybe it was the only way he could keep from tearing his hair out over the film. I dunno. Anyway, no clapping and no cheering. I guess it's just me? I half regretted not clapping just to see what would happen.
Did I like it? Umm. I dunno. No? I'm gonna go with no. Did I think it was bad? Loaded question, and I'm not gonna attempt to unpack everything - I'm sure plenty have done that and are doing that as we speak. So I'll just give some general thoughts.
It's not terrible. It's not anywhere near as bad as I expected, but neither is it nearly as good as I hoped it might be.
The word that immediately came to mind at the start was "erratic". It was frantic, immediate, fast paced to the point of confusion. No time to breathe anywhere, not even with the music. It gets straight down to establishing things that we've never seen before, in order to use them as a device later on to convince us the film is closing off a saga. It's not. It's its own thing, and that's the problem.
It's not (entirely) JJ's fault. It was rushed, there was pressure, and ultimately, this whole trilogy was mishandled from the start. It was doomed to be a disappointment the moment someone decided it would be a good idea to write as they go and just let each person bring their own idea for each film. Bad idea. Let them bring their own style, flavour, twist, whatever, but the overall narrative needed to be planned in advance. There was no foresight here. And that's why the film that claims to be closing off a trilogy of trilogies only really closes off what it sets up within its own runtime. The result is a muddled spectacle of varying degrees of entertainment that never quite convinces you of the supremely high stakes it apparently has.
However, I honestly expected much worse. I think that given where things were at and what they had to work with, they did ok. Undeniably there is fan service, but it doesn't pander to fans anywhere near as much as I expected. There is some (emphasis on "some") consistency with The Last Jedi's themes (though, arguably not nearly enough), and there are some genuinely good character moments and surprises. Do I generally like the overall direction? No. But I didn't wholly mind it.
On a visual level, I wasn't really a fan. JJ's obsession with lens flare is something I notice, but rarely bothers me. Here it really bothered me. I mean, it was just everywhere, getting in the way of shots and obscuring my vision of the sets and characters. Has the man no restraint? Even though there were plenty of practical FX etc. and the CG was pretty good, I didn't find the overall aesthetic particularly pleasing to the eye. Maybe it's just that there was too much of everything - too many planets, too much spectacle - I dunno. There was definitely too much blue (wait, is that a spoiler?). Flickering lights in certain scenes were frankly annoying, and I just generally got that vibe that I get from a lot of modern movies where I wish the damn camera would stay still. I've already said the pacing was far too snappy, but I also think the direction and camera work was too busy as well. I just wanted some space. Even audibly, I just wanted there to be a moment where the score wasn't playing and a character wasn't talking, and I never got that. Everything just charges ahead on every level and you've no space to work out what you think or how you feel.
That's about all the detail I'm going to go in for now, but ultimately, it's an undeniably disappointing end to an already mixed bag of a trilogy. It was never gonna be great with what it had to work with, but at least it's not (overly) offensive. It's fine, and that's all. The reality is though, I'm somewhat relieved. I can soon stop talking about it, speculating about it, thinking about it. For the foreseeable future, it's over. At the very least, this incarnation is over, and anything that comes in the future will most likely be a new tale separate from the Skywalker story. I find this immensely relieving, and I look forward to the possibility of Christmas being Christmas next year, not Star Wars release month.