So I finally saw The Last Jedi and my reaction to it winds up being a bit more complicated than "It Gud" or "Not Gud." Which I kind of expected, but I would like to enunciate my thoughts for my own sake so I figured now you guys can go along for the ride. If somehow you're even farther behind than I am this is gonna be spoiler-tastic, but my rule is if someone is even slower at seeing a movie than I am then COME ON.
So first off, since I'm a person who exists on the internet I knew the general shape of what happened, as well as a few specific big moments. So I came in with slightly more on-point expectations than a lot of people, and unfortunately a few of the twists I really would have liked didn't have as much impact as they might otherwise have had.
Short version, where The Force Awakens executed very well on reinterpreting ground already tread, The Last Jedi tries as many new and bold things as possible and very often misses the mark by just enough for me to see the shadow of awesome behind it all. Not just one a scene-by-scene basis (Leia's Force use being something not well executed that could have been super amazing) but on a macro level as well.
Okay let's get into the meat of it. It's Original Trilogy flawed, rather than Prequel Trilogy flawed. There are points that are silly or dumb or don't make a whole lot of sense but in the moment I kinda didn't, y'know, care? Because it was earnest and heartfelt enough. I definitely got the feeling that the people making the movie love Star Wars and every decision made was made with care - even the controversial ones. Probably especially the controversial ones.
Let's start from the beginning: structurally, it's unlike anything Star Wars has seen in movie form before. Considering there were expectations after New Hope 2.0 (not a knock on TFA, just an observation) that it would retread Empire the fact that it becomes a car chase in space, a final confrontation with an alleged Dark Lord-ish person, and a deconstruction of our entire understanding of the Force (well, unless you've played KotORII but we'll get to that later) was very cool and very welcome. I love trying new things for the sake of it, and saying "fuck it" and doing it with arguably one of the most iconic franchises in American cinema is exactly the chaos move I live for. That said, the structure is also clumsy, confused, and drawn out after a strong first act then has an avalanche of individual climaxes that don't tie together super well even if they're all individually awesome - which now that I mention it was the problem with Episode I, except Episode I only had one cool climax sequence out of three (Darth Maul fight) where in this one the Throne Room battle, Rey vs. Kylo for the legacy of the Force, Holdo's final attack, Finn vs. Phasma, Salt Flat speeders, Luke vs. Kylo and the team reunions are all good, they're just so scattered.
The plot with Holdo and Poe butting heads is good on an idea level because conflict is story and conflict between people on the same side is interesting. I definitely see why people object to it, but I think if it were executed better it would have gone over more clearly. In Holdo's position, I wouldn't tell a hotheaded fighter pilot who had recently been demoted for insubordination and costing the lives of an entire bombing squadron my plan either - and in a real military structure I can't imagine anyone in the Admiralty of any force to tell some random ass grunt the full scope of a plan because he's a good fighter, history of catastrophic insubordination or not. That said, when writing two good characters that are antagonistic it's important to make both likeable enough, and since we've had an entire movie and entire advertising cycle to fall in love with Poe a natural audience reaction is to side with him even when (as he is here) he's wrong. And let's not even get into the latent sexism of immediately being against the female authority figure when pitted against a male protagonist - other people can and have covered that better than I can. While that does exist, some blame has to fall on the rushed and clumsy introduction of the character.
Continuing with the idea of "realistic but not really Star Wars-y" the conflicting plans throughout the movie are also a neat idea but executed kinda poorly, if only because they cause the movie to drag. I might expect, in movies, for the disparate plans to all come together into a cavalclade of awesome in the climax. But since this is a movie about failure and miscommunication (more on that next) each plan knocks into the other to cause the most harm to their allies as possible. Again, very good idea, very new and fresh for Star Wars, implemented in a clumsy way.
Finn and Rose going off on their adventures is neat, but again it's clumsy and pads a lot of time into an already long and kind of slow movie. I do like the idea that beneath all the, erm, Star Wars going on in the Galaxy most people are just regular people going about their lives and, just like in real life, people who profit from war don't care who wins (and are the richest people who will probably live their lives consequence-free). Hell, the only difference is that in Star Wars there are people who we can know are the Good Guys at the end of the day, a luxury not afforded to real people.
I like what they did with the Force a lot. The idea that the Force doesn't belong to the Jedi, that the Jedi were a flawed but well-meaning religion of regular people and not the be-all end-all only hope of the Galaxy for peace and justice, and that the Force itself is infinitely more complicated than a Good Guy Light Side and a Bad Guy Dark Side is a wonderful way to open up the series to new ideas and interpretations of Force users. Only one problem: Knights of the Old Republic II did all of that and more, and executed on it better, up to and including having the message being delivered to the audience by having a Jedi fail horribly with disastrous consequences so horrible that they cut themselves off from the Force and demands a more nuanced explanation of the galaxy than "DUHURR DARK SIDE BAD," leading to more complicated characters and a more interesting view of the series as a whole. Granted, the hero/villain Force Bond was executed differently (or at least it's outcome was) but the one place Last Jedi did decide to retread old ground, even if it's not from a movie, it didn't do as well as the series did before. That said, the Force Bond scenes are some of my favorites in the movie. The background silence, voice echoes, camera work, writing and performances are all excellent in those scenes and I think set up an emotional final confrontation for the future.
The main theme of the movie is simply great. The ideas of failure not being final and miscommunication being more deadly than any evil Force user are masterful, and in fact one of the few great ideas this movie implements well. Luke has failed on every level. As an Uncle, as a Brother, as a Jedi Master, and just generally as a person. A failure that seems so complete and calamitous he cuts himself off from the Force and exiles himself to an unmarked grave in the middle of nowhere, space. But he still stays close to the Jedi. He is still convinced to take one last student, who then convinces him (with a little help from Yoda) that just because he has failed before he is not excused from trying now. The Resistance is cut down to enough people to fit on the Millennium Falcon, but Leia has no intention of giving up. In an era where we, as humans, can be said to have failed as a species that is a really important message to get across to the masses.
The secondary theme of letting go of the past vs. letting it rule you is also well done and well crafted. Using the trifecta of main Force users for it was very smart, with Luke and Rey learning to let go (a Jedi lesson Luke had forgotten) and Kylo Ren thinking he has let go of the past by "killing it" but still being just as ruled by it as before. That makes his character a lot more tragic and interesting, as well as giving us a shot of how flawed memory is in the first place with the Roshamon-style "fall of Ben Solo" sequences.
Overall, I enjoyed myself. If it were on, I'd watch it - which is more than I can say for the prequels - but I don't know that I'd seek it out. I'm more interested in it as a bridge to Episode IX. Since they've thrown out the conventions and expectations of the past. I can't say what to expect, and while that means I don't exactly have expectations to be defied, that's also very exciting. I knew where the Prequels all had to go, and The Force Awakens made it seem like this would be a replay of Empire, but here we have a movie that sets the only expectation of "we're in uncharted territory, strap in."
So yeah, overall, I can definitely see why some folks hate it and others love it, and here I am in the middle, basically enjoying myself but more excited for what's to come.
And that's my thoughts, all nice and organized.