There is a lot I like about this film. It didn’t really feel like Star Wars to me, but it’s a solid sci-fi action movie, and definitely worth watching.
ALL THE SPOILERS BELOW!
So, things I really admired:
1. It is really dark. The only humor we get is from Goth C3PO, and it’s gallows humor. I sat there, during the final planetside scene on the beach, and thought, Holy hell, they’re really going for it.
2. No goddamned romance! Not even a kiss for luck or for the hell of it because we’re going to die!
3. Extremely diverse cast. Out of our main group of rebels, the only white person is a woman.
4. AT-ATs! Actually, I really loved seeing all the old ships. X-wings and the giant Imperial ships and even the Death Star. Nostalgia.
5. THEY CGI’D PETER CUSHING BACK FROM THE DEAD TO PLAY GRAND MOFF TARKIN. Look, it was clearly CGI, and apparently even Industrial Light and Magic cannot make that man’s cheekbones as sharp as they were in life, but the audacity there, especially given how often he shows up in this movie, was just stunning to me. I had a very Go, you beautiful bastards! feeling every time he showed up.
6. Darth Vader! I missed you! And that scene where he’s in the, what, sensory deprivation chamber thing without the suit and gets hauled out by machinery, half-visible in clouds of steam? I think a case can be made for that being the darkest moment of a very dark movie. Because it reminds you that there’s a person inside that suit, and he’s been through a lot of trauma,* physically and mentally, and the suit is also not easy to survive in. It reminds me, as a person who saw A New Hope when it came out, at age four, of that moment in Empire, when you see the back of his head without the helmet, and also more strongly of the end of Jedi, when we saw Anakin Skywalker’s face for the very first time.
(I imagine the kids who have been watching Clone Wars have a similar reaction, but in a different direction than I do?)
And then he’s put in the suit and he goes on to force choke someone; we see him at the end slaughtering the crew of Leia’s ship.
7. Um … were Chirrut and Baze a couple? Was that just me?
8. Mads Mikkelson can take three scenes and turn them into something emotionally resonant. Between this role and the one in Doctor Strange, he’s a treasure.
9. And there you go, haters, that’s why nobody did anything about the goddamned exhaust port.
Things I did not admire quite so much:
1. Why is Jyn the only significant female part in this movie? Seriously, there is no reason I can come up with why every single other member of her band of rebels is male. I mean, it was really apparent when a whole bunch of rebels decide to join her group against the orders of the Council, AND EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM ARE GUYS. We just got done watching a scene led by two women, with women in the background, but the cannon fodder newbies are all dudes. Um.
And no, Mon Mothma and the female senator don’t make this better. Nor do the four female pilots in the fight scenes (yeah, I counted). I want supporting female characters with mini-character arcs like Bodhi and the goddamned droid got. You cannot tell me there were no Latina or Asian actresses out there who could have been cast.
2. Cassian needed a little more backstory; I wasn’t feeling all the emotional beats there. Same thing with Forest Whitaker. I didn’t really care that much when he died, and it seemed like I ought to.
3. While I loved that they took the end of this film right up to the beginning of A New Hope, and while I also loved CGI-Peter Cushing, the CGI Leia looked really CGI. Although the older couple in front of us as we left the theater was wondering who the actress was that they made up to look like Carrie Fisher. And really, I want real Carrie Fisher in all the movies, so I’m pleased that they can’t just CGI her into things yet.
There are other things, but that’s just details. I liked it quite a bit, but as I said, it didn’t feel like Star Wars. And it gave me a couple of twinges about the world it’s being released into. But that doesn’t mean it’s not good.
* Anakin Skywalker’s story of being traumatized and abused and manipulated/conditioned from childhood–as a slave–and then as a padawan (because wtf, Jedi training?), and finally by Palpatine is, on the surface, the most compelling story in the Star Wars universe, and it’s the one that was so poorly executed in the movies that it still makes me mad. (I occasionally imagine how Kylo Ren’s story would resonate if Anakin’s story had been done better, and then I just sigh and go read lookninjas’ Children’s Work again.)