Aster’s review published on Letterboxd:
still ruminating on this and planning to see it again. some early thoughts.
a colossal film about failure. there is of course the literal explanation of this theme by way of Yoda: failure is not only how we learn but how we teach. but also Johnson layers in expressions of failure in the many subplots. Finn and Rose accomplish nothing they set out to, but instead succeed unexpectedly at others (building relationships, fighting old villains). Poe running around like a child being gently reared by the elder-dyke mothers of the resistance, succeeding in short-term gains but failing to grasp a larger picture, a bigger role for himself (one's place in all this being the defining arc for all the millennial characters operating in the shadows of decrepit boomer icons).
what I really want to write about (and explore on a second viewing) is the revelations of Canto Bight. Finn and Rose pull back the curtain of the film's universe in a sequence as cold and shockingly calculated as the Architect sequence from The Matrix Reloaded: the discovery of the parameters of this universe. the duality of good versus evil is quite literally turned on its head (paralleling the Rey/Kylo connections) by the revelations of the war profiteers and arms dealers. this builds on what Johnson seems to delicately layer in visually: weapons and their limitations. The brilliant plot device of missile ranges (which creates a sense of scale, dimension, and temporality that The Force Awakens lacks), the arms races of bigger weapons and their exploitation becomes more than a nostalgic re-calibration of the old formula of Death Star hubris. Super weapons are simply part of the tapestry of Star Wars and here they are put to thematic use sketching the limitations (and thus possibilities) of the emotional and psychological space this film inhabits.
Johnson traded the mysteries of lore (Snoke) for the mysteries of financing. I'm way more interested in who is funding The First Order (please spare the references to those awful novels about plot points), which casts Hux as perhaps a wealthy alt-right space figure lending his toys to those who command the dark side of the force. You can almost hear Anakin pleading with Obi-Wan, "please master, not another lecture on the economics of politics".