I've watched Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens about a dozen times; I've watched Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi a couple of times. I just re-watched them, after having watched all the other SW films in story-chronological order.
I've already blogged a lot about Episode 7: The Force Awakens, so I'm not in the mood to say the same things. Basically I really enjoyed its return to the OT feel, and I really liked Daisy Ridley as Rey. Even though TFA mimics story points from ANH, I still enjoy it a bit more than TLJ.
If TFA is an example of how to play it super-safe in making a new Star Wars, then TLJ is an example of how to go in a totally unexpected direction from the prior film, for better and worse. TLJ starts with off with an unexpected use of humor, as Poe Dameron and his droid BB-8 try to stall First Order General Hux from attacking the fleeing Rebels or their own tricked out X-wing. I like the gag and I laughed out loud on this viewing as Hux, who takes himself and his role far too seriously, is played for laughs. He just doesn't get it; but his fellow officers sure do, as do we the audience. Then after a costly brief battle (for both sides), Hux is immediately and hilariously berated by Supreme Leader Snoke himself, wiping the floor with Hux's face! But Hux was not 100% a fool as we soon learn.
As I watch General Hux later in the film, I am starting to believe his character is the Star Wars equivalent to Pride and Prejudice's character Mr. Collins. Mr. Collins is a pompous, idiotic clergyman who constantly drops the name of his patron, lady Catherine De Bourge. The actor who plays him in the 1995 BBC mini-series was perfect for the role, a greasy and sniveling man who has a bit of authority. In the same way, Domhnall Gleeson's General Hux can't mention enough times his admiration for the SUPREEEEME LEEEEEADER Snoke. And he is pompous enough in his zealous love of the First Order that he gets easily pranked by Poe Dameron. Hate the scene if you will, but I've watched it several times and I like it.
My problem with TLJ is that as the film progresses, I start to get bored with some of it. I love all the scenes with Luke Skywalker , Rey, and Princess Leia. Leia's Force abilities are demonstrated for the first time. She is empathic and senses what is going on with Kylo, Luke, or Rey. She doesn't waste time doing things like levitating and cutting fruit for example, but when her life is in danger, she is able to almost unconsiously pull her body through space to safety. I like this scene. I will not criticize it. It makes sense to me.
What I don't like about that part of TLJ is that Admiral Ackbar is killed off in this attack scene with only a mention later. The film squandered his character. Later, paleo-botanist Ellie Sattler shows up in a purple wig to replace Leia - it should have been Admiral Ackbar in this role, taking charge, making the sacrifice, and being heroic! Admiral Holdo (purple-hair's name) is lame! Sigh.... oh well.
I also have problems with Finn's and Rose's dialogue and mission , namely the journey to the Casino planet and return. This stuff veers away from the main story and I get impatient with it. The Casino's aliens are entertaining enough, but the preachy message about war profiteering, sad or smiling horses and pauper kids really don't connect with me. Well, once Finn and Rose find a master hacker character and infiltrate the First Order Star Destroyer (to turn off the hyperspace tracking device), it gets better.
TLJ does a great job with its use of the Force. It shows new Force abilities and the Force is once again quite mysterious! The scene where the Dark Side tempts Rey is creepy, mysterious, and very cool! The way Kylo and Rey get connected, and Luke's unexplainable final demonstration as he punks Kylo Ren on
the Ice Planet Hoth the SALT planet . Well, at first watch I didn't really like the reveal about how Luke got there. But now, I think it is GREAT. The scene where Luke appears in the cave, briefly talks to his sister Leia, then walks past them all and outside to confront Kylo Ren and the walkers ... that was one of the most exciting SW scenes I've ever seen. Even knowing how it ends, its still magnificent! When he brushes off imaginary rubble from his shoulder , fantastic! Mark Hamill rules in this film!
I actually enjoyed the decision to make Luke regretful and hiding out on the island, waiting to die. I originally expected him to be an uber-powerful wizard by now. But that would have been boring to be honest. Instead, it was nice to see Mark Hamill act his way around the unexpected direction of his character and his journey to going back to using the Force and his decision to help Rey. Especially enjoyable was his getting trolled by Force-Ghost Yoda. Who was again an excellent puppet.
Finally ... I really really liked that Kylo killed Snoke, and I liked Kylo and Rey teaming up to battle the First Order red guards. I never really liked Snoke that much, good riddance and bring back Palpatine for Episode IX!
In my next blog entry, I will rank the 8 Skywalker films and 2 side story films and give some brief reasons for my personal rankings.