This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
smithofadave’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
don't take the rating too seriously - i'm not sure how to rate this, but it broke through my No-Good Terrible Mood fog, so that's definitely something. i was wary at the start - the villains were hammier than a babe reunion (/that awful joke), there were jokes everywhere, and i don't care about kylo (or at least, i didn't at the start).
but then, somewhere around canto bight - which worked for me on a political level, whereas until then i was wary about the framing of finn & poe as Guys Ignoring Women - things changed. people raised good points about the representation of poe & holdo's choice to avoid telling him anything, along with the need for so much violence against men of colour, but the criticisms regarding luke, rey, and kylo, while they resonated with me at first, were honestly dealt with in greater nuance than i was led to expect.
the apparent turning of kylo was a beautifully epic moment, and that it was then switched was kind of a brilliant reversal of expectations. kylo as a gigantic mess whose weaknesses could be exploited to save lives worked wonderfully in terms of 'here is how we defeat the fascists' (have patience with my failure to remember any technical terms). rey and luke's fight was less about wrath and disrespect than it was about luke being a suspicious, grizzly and resentful figure who seemed determined not to help the resistance. her mistrust of him made sense within the context of their interactions so far and his lie about kylo, especially given the effect the force visions were having on rey.
luke's moment regarding ben/kylo i'd already heard arguments and counterarguments about - discussion of characterisation in the original canon countered by the need for character development as opposed to a static view, and that it was a moment of horror at the darkness made it seem like an understandable slip. it's possible the defenders of luke do have solid points and that luke skywalker, beacon of light, is an important image to defend, but heroes are not always perfect. they make mistakes - we, as people, make mistakes, and we can learn from them and grow. escapism is a beautiful relief, but hope often requires grappling with reality and discovering it can withstand our flaws, and tlj presents us with hope.
even the repeated failures and tragedies of the resistance offer a kind of hope - no matter how many times you fall and fail, no matter how often the enemy defeats you, there can still be hope. luke's final intervention had a genuine narrative reason for its miraculous nature, and the hero of the resistance, the light, proved himself human. but he used the image of himself to defeat the enemy.
canto bight offered us genuine villainy in the form of malevolent capitalism (all capitalism is malevolent, but you see my point) along with oppression and its effects in rose's story. that finn and rose were able to destroy the place was a magnificent setpiece, an image of revolution and overturning the tables of the moneychangers. that rose was able to be the fist through canto bight, and that even that was not enough until she'd shown compassion and set the creature they used to cause havoc free, was beautiful. finn's reaction to causing them pain, that the children and the creatures they oppressed were able to rise up against them - this was beautiful too.
that even in all the pain of their situation the children found hope in the resistance and its symbol was a vivid demonstration of the words leia spoke. without that, they could have been mere words, the pretensions of liberals. with that, they offered genuine revolution, genuine hope. that these children, so irrelevant and discarded by the capitalists of canto bight, were the final scene, holding on to hope and embraced by the force, able to wield its power, was the most perfect and poignant symbol of hope.
and the way the force worked in this! that final scene was probably my favourite example, but yoda's burning of the tree and the texts because the force goes so far beyond the jedi (& so far beyond mere symbols) exemplified this extension and equality of the force too. (star wars fans may have a right to complain about the idea the force was ever elitist, i'm a very new fan.) rey's randomness is also a delightful element of this, but tumblr raises a good point about rey's marketing/imagery being focused on skywalker symbols and the need to separate her from that if she is supposed to be unique. i'm rephrasing it badly, but it was a good point.
i'm not sure at what point i slipped into appreciating the wit of the jokes rather than thinking they detracted from the seriousness, but they were always well-crafted - poe's hedging with hux and the utter glorious disrespect he showed, hux's exasperated 'you think you got him?', yoda's irreverent dismissal of the ancient jedi texts, rey's 'i've seen your daily schedule, you are not busy', undoubtedly endless other examples that have slipped my mind.
rey's concern about kylo seemed far more like hope/optimism than anything else, especially in the light of luke's refusal to help. kylo was a glorious gigantic mess, determined to wrench himself from the past and unable to rid himself of the guilt he carried on accumulating, petty and childish and fixated on revenge and proving his own excellence. (hux is a pantomime villain who loathes kylo and is loathed in return and i wish to God they were a rarepair and not the main fucking ship of the fandom, but no, racists gotta racist.)
the war for the lightsaber and the equal strength of kylo and rey (which, incidentally, paints the scene with snoke as kylo using what he knows about snoke, all he's learnt in their time together, against him, rather than kylo simply being more powerful than rey) was beautifully filmed and Epic, as well as the famous ending scene with luke we've already discussed.
one final point - the finn/rey in this film was stronger than expected - rey's insistence on chewie greeting finn, finn's concern for rey, their link with the homing devices and consistent references to and concern for one another, all culminating in that final reunion which screamed otp.
(corollary to final point: i love rose tico vv much & if they turn her into a Jealous Love Interest, much as i'm sure that could be coherent, i will Revolt. let rose & rey be best friends(/GIRLFRIENDS) 2k19, thank you. i mean ideally rose and rey and finn and poe end up in a giant polyamorous cuddle pile, but given that it's disney i'd be happy with finn/rey. this is not the place for shipping discourse, but basically i will be deeply vexed if they use finn/rose to sideline finn and that is my main concern.)