Didn't much care for the movie. Saw it Thursday and Friday night. Here are some thoughts:
I don't mind humor in these movies, and quite enjoyed much of the humor in TFA. But the first scenes with Hux turned him into too much of a joke, which then made it hard as the movie progressed to feel much suspense from his pursuit of the Resistance fleet. In TFA, I liked the brief bits we got showing the tension between him and Ren, and the sense of potential rivalry between the two for Snoke's approval as something to build on. But then, right off the bat in TLJ, we have him "tooled" and called pasty, made to look foolish in his interaction with Poe and then embarrassed by Snoke in front of his bridge crew. And this is the guy leading the pursuit of the Resistance fleet.
Meanwhile, the Resistance fleet seemed to be made up of a bunch of clowns who had no idea how to work together. Poe was the lone fighter going up against the ship in the opening battle, Leia ordered him to pull back, and he disobeyed. Okay. But then we have all the bomber ships arriving to take that ship out. So who's operation/command was this? If it's Leia, are we to believe its not only Poe but all the other bomber crews that are also disobeying her? If its Poe's command, he had this whole thing mapped out without telling Leia? We had these communication issues continuing under the Vice Admiral. Why the hell is she keeping the plan a secret? We end up with that unnecessary subplot of Finn and Rose heading out to that casino which jeopardized the Vice Admiral's plan and led to numerous Resistance ships being destroyed and a lot of loss of life.
That whole thread of the last remaining Resistance ships on the run from pursuing enemy forces seemed pulled from BSG, yet with none of the suspense of the episode 33, which did more with less time.
With the Luke/Rey plotline, I thought they got off to a shaky start. At the end of TFA, they let the camera however around Luke and Rey with outstretched saber. There was a sense of weight there, a sadness that hung in the air, the sense of being on the verge of something big. But they return to that in TLJ with none of that spacing, a much edited down version that then went into joke territory with Luke tossing the saber. I also found it laughable when Luke mentions coming to this "unfindable" island. Right. When there was a map pointing right to him.
The movie showed first signs of life with the Ren/Rey Force connection, which I found fascinating and well acted by both actors. And then with Luke's first lesson for Rey when he had her sit cross-legged on that rock...great scene. With Rey/Ren, that opened up a lot of interesting questions (What is it that connects these two? Is the Force drawing them together? To what end? Can they bring something new that the Jedi and Sith Orders couldn't?
). But much of that evaporated when we found out it was just manufactured by Snoke to manipulate them. And it was more disappointing when she didn't join him, a move that would have been unique and built on the ideas the movie opened up about the Force not belonging to the Jedi and Sith and the hints of letting the Jedi (and Sith) die in favor of something new. Also disappointing that Ren's offer to her had to be of the "let's rule" variety rather than something more subtle and nuanced. I will give them props for showing that Rey and Ren still had a connection post-Snoke.
Speaking of Snoke, what a waste. We learned literally nothing about this guy. Who or what was he? Where did he come from? Was there any connection between him and Sidious or Vader? What did he want other than the Jedi gone? In TLJ, when Ren brings him Rey, he spoke of Kylo regaining his favor for it. But then seconds later he revealed he was the one who created the Force connection between the two and used it to manipulate both, knowing Kylo was conflicted and that Rey wouldn't be able to resist trying to turn him due to that inner conflict. So Kylo hadn't regained favor? Or had regained favor for being an easily manipulated tool? And since Kylo's inner conflict is so obvious to Snoke, why his strong conviction that Kylo could never turn on him or would do exactly what he wanted him to? Maybe in a nod to the Emperor's weak, heavyhanded attempted to turn Luke in ROTJ, Snoke continued to talk in a way that would only further anger Ren and create hate toward Snoke (and again, on top of the conflict/weakness Snoke had already noted aloud about Kylo).
So Snoke knew Kylo was conflicted. Berated him as a child in a mask playing at being Vader earlier in the movie. Openly talks about Kylo's conflict in front of Rey and about how he used that conflict to manipulate both. And then he expects Kylo couldn't possibly turn on him? Snoke is powerful enough to Force connect the two, to override Rey Force pulling her saber and take it back, but he can't sense what Kylo is going to do? And this as he's sitting there focused on Ren and giving us a play-by-play of how's he about to kill Rey...which turns out completely wrong as he's oblivious to the saber at this side being used against him. Satisfying to see this idiot cut in half, but made no sense. Again, they seemed to be riffing on Sidious in ROTJ being so focused on torturing Luke with Force lightning that he didn't sense Vader moving on him. But it doesn't fit the scene here where Snoke is
focused on Kylo and yet still completely misses what he's doing.
I had a major problem with Luke in this movie, too. Really, we were back in ESB territory for Luke. He was once again "young Skywalker," hard-headed and not seeing what was in front of him, needing his wise Master Yoda to pop in and show him the way. After all the past emphasis on "do or do not, there is no try", here Luke's post-ROTJ history was one feeble try to continue the Jedi and then giving up at first failure. That's not the Luke we saw in ROTJ. Great to see Yoda back and as he looked in ESB, but to use him to pop in and point out to Luke the obvious (that failures can be our greatest catapults to greatness and learning) was weak. It would have been great for Luke's history post-ROTJ to involve both failure (Kylo Ren), but also success (other successfully trained Masters out there in the galaxy). And for Luke to be a Master that brought lessons and wisdom to bear in the final Act of TLJ that he'd built himself off of his own years of experience since the OT...rather than being handed it by Yoda at the end. As great as it was to see Luke's actions when he arrived to help out the Resistance, it wasn't satisfying given that we went from one extreme with what we'd seen from Luke for most of the movie to another extreme simply from Yoda showing up for a few minutes.
I was also very bothered by Luke telling Leia that he could not turn Kylo back. Really? Everyone seemed able to sense Kylo's inner conflict. Kylo himself. Rey. Snoke. But Luke, the man who sensed the good in Vader and went to turn him back, who was willing to die on the Death Star to remain with the Light ("You've failed, Your Highness. I am a Jedi, like my father before me."), he couldn't and wouldn't try to turn his former pupil and his nephew back? The movie for the first half to two thirds seemed to want to be all about shades of gray, nuance, and looking at the SW universe (whether with regard to the Force or the different sides of war) in a more complex way...all of sudden it was back to a simple, black/white view of things at the end.
After all the talk/focus on the Jedi not owning the Force, the mistakes of the past handed down by former masters to their apprentices, the idea that something new could rise that was different than the orders of the past...it was right back to same old with Luke declaring he's not the last jedi and Rey poised to continue the Jedi. That's where we were at the end of ROTJ with Luke heralding the return of the Jedi. So we've taken two movies now in this new trilogy to rehash much of the previous trilogy and end up right where we already were. On that note, Luke was already a symbol at the end of ROTJ, as well. But we're given a pretty sad post-ROTJ legacy for him that then in minutes of screen time re-established him as a symbol.
So much of what we saw in TLJ felt like smoke and mirrors (maybe I should say Snoke and mirrors
), hinting at different, deeper ideas, but superficially and taking us right back to where we already were...Kylo on the Dark Side, Rey on the Light Side.
I've found questions fans have asked since TFA, such as speculation on Rey's parentage, Snoke's identity/background, significance of the first Jedi Temple, the nature of the Force, whether Rey and Ren might take alternate paths, and other stimulating discussion online to be so much more engaging the much that we got in the actual movie.
There were definitely things I liked: seeing different ships on both sides, different use of the Force (Rey/Ren in communication, Luke's Force projection at the end), the Rey/Ren team-up battle against Snoke's guards. But its been really disappointing to see so much pulled from the OT, rehashed, and without much sense over TFA and TLJ of any kind of coherent, overall vision. If they were vastly improving on what we'd seen in the OT, that'd be one thing. But so often it seems to be pulling scenes/lines/situations from the old movies, putting them in a blender, and then pouring them over these two movies without characterization or development that makes sense.
Oh, and on Rey's parentage...no problem with them subverting expectations, but after failing to get any meaningful info/backstory about Snoke, the Knights of Ren, the first Jedi Temple, I'd really hoped at least something of interest would be revealed about her parents. I will say there's a clear opening for Abrams to reveal something different in the next movie. After all, I don't know that Kylo Ren is the best source for truth. Throw in Snoke's hand in manipulating them with their Force connection and both Rey and Ren seeing things wrong as to what the other would do...there's plenty to cloud whether we actually know the truth about her.
One other thought that comes to mind: Luke seemed pretty bitter in talking about a Jedi being the one who trained Vader. Are we to take that as a sign of disdain/resentment toward Obi-wan?
As to my experiences outside the movie itself: Got a cool stormtrooper helmet popcorn bin on Thursday. On Friday, went to a SW party at a bar across from the theater and got a couple cool mini-posters, a neat lanyard, and bought some art prints of some of my favorite SW characters, including Darth Revan, Kylo Ren, Darth Vader, and Darth Nihilus.