Jim’s review published on Letterboxd:
I love and appreciate this film more with each viewing. I think it is the most creative, the most emotional, the most mentally stimulating Star Wars film that’s ever been made. The only Star Wars film that feels like it has truly tight thematic throughlines. It’s second only to Empire, which unfortunately sits on an unmovable pedestal of perfection.
Some more random thoughts:
- There’s a small crack of lightning just before Rey first defies Luke and goes to check out the Jedi Tree. When Rey and Kylo touch hands later, a major lightning storm breaks out while Luke lashes out at Rey. Yoda was trying to get the message across to his pupil without having to come spell it out to him like always.
- “I felt like I could pass on my strength to [Ben]” says Luke early on. Now that I’ve seen the film enough times, I recognise the dovetail right into Yoda’s “Strength... but also weakness” speech at the tree later. “Failure is the greatest teacher of all” also fits very neatly with “That is why you fail” in Empire - I guess Yoda always wanted Luke to fail to lift the X-Wing.
- People complain about the absence of the third lesson from the story, but I feel like I’ve found it - the lightsaber training scene. Defying Luke’s mentorship, Rey trains alone and ends up chopping a rock in half - along with her clumsy attack on the Living Force (“you must feel the force around you... between you... me... the tree... the rock...”), she also causes collateral damage, taking out the Caretakers’ wheelbarrow and narrowly missing the Caretakers themselves in the process. Aggression has consequence. In the very next scene? Her holster is empty (and the blaster itself is never seen again in the film - Rey replacing Han with Luke?), the staff isn’t on her back and the lightsaber isn’t at her waist. She’s starting to learn that you can’t just swing a laser sword around (“your weapons... you will not need them...”).
- Every named male character in the film has a scene where they talk over a woman or take credit for a woman’s accomplishment, including Hux - it’s right there in his limited screentime with Phasma.
- Rey’s mirror scene continues to stick with me. It feels like such a succinct, powerful metaphor for the battle between self-doubt and self-belief. Rey reaching out for the mirror makes all her previous selves look like they’re pushing the Rey of the now forward, encouraging her to move ahead and go beyond the past. Yet her lineage, which is tied up in her own image and the self she presents, stares back at her, pushes back, creating a barrier. Rey wanted to learn her destiny but she is forced to face up to the fact she can only truly rely on herself - and she really doesn’t like that answer.
- Luke runs to Rey’s hut after he’s made the force connection with Leia and realised she’s in grave danger. This is what motivates him into action rather than Rey’s repeated attempts to persuade him that the First Order are taking control. As I said in my Empire review, is Luke really interested in the Rebel Alliance at all?
- The very first thing and the very last thing Rey does on Ahch-To is offer Luke his lightsaber. Like Luke when he’s hastily getting into his X-Wing on Dagobah in Empire, Rey still doesn’t quite grasp why Luke threw his weapon over his shoulder.
- Yoda’s force ghost is so powerful that he can physically put a dent Luke’s forehead. That’s really cute.
- Rey’s “COME GET SOME” scream to the Praetorian Guard might be the best moment in the whole damn saga
- Snoke’s red banners coming apart and falling down in the wake of his death feels like a Wizard of Oz moment. We’ve pulled back the curtain of the shoddy Snoke characterisation and revealed nothing was behind it. (The massive hologram head at the start of the movie helps sell this idea too).
- I like that Finn’s final uncertainties of allegiance end as he rises back up out of the floor to clobber Phasma. Star Wars REALLY loves the descending/ascending imagery when it comes to rebirth (see also: Han Solo)
- Kylo does a classic Darth Vader force choke on Hux as soon as he’s awake again after losing Rey. After all Snoke’s goading that he’s no Vader, it feels like losing out on his crush’s affections is the thing that’s finally pushed Kylo into full-blown Vaderesque psychopathy and tantrum-throwing. It’s always a girl that sends these guys over the edge, eh?
- The shot of Luke stepping out from the fire of the Crait base to face the sunlight feels like he’s come back from the personal hell of his failure, and he’s all the stronger for it.
- I love that Kylo literally gives up the high ground of his hovering shuttle to take Luke’s bait. In his final ForceTime with Rey, he’s down on his knees, looking up at her as she stands at the top of a ramp. He really fucked it.