Just got home from my first viewing. My theater was packed...not a single seat was available in the 20 minutes before the lights dimmed.
I too, loved this film. The two words that come to mind are "Epic" and "Relentless." This movie had a LOT of territory to cover, and JJ and his crew did about as admirable job as anyone could do.
Let's get this out of the way...I cringed at the kiss between Rey and Kylo. It felt totally unnecessary for a scene that already had a lot of weight. My opinion...it was there to appease the Reylo faction of fans. The actions of the two characters - Rey vs. Palpatine and Kylo saving Rey - were enough to make that scene have the proper weight.
The only good part was the quick smile Kylo had just before dying.
That was a nice touch.
Now, for the rest of this packed film.
Everything about this movie was BIG. Big landscapes, environments. JJ and his crew didn't hold anything back here, and the settings were magnificent.
The X-Wing being raised out of the Ahch-To ocean was a gorgeous callback to Empire Strikes Back.
The music was the same and Luke "redeemed" his earlier failure to lift his submerged ship.
Totally unexpected and fun.
I wish he had a little more screen time, but I enjoyed every second he was on there.
I found Poe and Finn more likable and easier to cheer for throughout this film. I get why people think Finn has Force sensitivity, but I attribute some of his actions to being more mature and experienced. He knows his way around First Order ships and protocols, and that came in very handy throughout. I liked the adversity and self-doubt placed in Poe, more in this film than the previous two. Made his character journey more investment-worthy and payoff-worthy.
Palpatine... Ok, so I wasn't clear on the *how* part of his comeback...wish that had a bit more explanation to it. Or are we saying he did learn Plaguies' trick of immortality, at least when it came to being thrown down reactor shafts? His death, at the hands of Rey, had a neat callback to the deaths in the climactic scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Melting faces and heads do the trick every time.
Rey was an awesome character in this film. The way she carried herself, she reminded me very much of Luke in ROJ. She had a different, more powerful aura about her, and yet, she didn't have all the confidence and bravado. Her force lightning at the transport shocked me.
Chewie not being in that transport was also a neat callback to Raiders, when Marion wasn't in the truck Indy shot and blew up in the Cairo marketplace.
I liked that Rey didn't just sail through this film unharmed. She was beat the hell up on Exegol, and that was essential to see. She needed adversity, consequences and visible and physical pain. I felt all that through her character. But her strength growth was also easier for me to accept due to the in-universe time distance from TLJ. That element alone helped correct what was, in my mind, the biggest thing that held TLJ back, was its immediacy after the events of TFA.
Kylo Ben... was the most fascinating character to me in this film, and probably for the entire ST. One issue with TFA, TLJ was that we were told of his internal conflict, but never really saw it. It was a "tell me" not "show me" situation. We were "shown" more of that in this film, and the character and film benefited from it. Rey had become more powerful than him, and I bought it totally. He was more vulnerable and less sure of himself for most of the movie. I sort of expected him to be redeemed right after TFA, and I wasn't sure if that could be believably pulled off. In my opinion, it was.
Han Solo showing up was a fun surprise.
R2-D2 being at Leia's bedside when she died ripped my heart out. I didn't expect her passing to have as much of an emotional effect on me as it did. Her death was expected and necessary, and yet, it still hurt. Does anyone else think she was Force-projecting to get Kylo's attention during the Death Star duel, a lesser version of Luke's same trick in TLJ? We didn't see her in that scene as we saw Luke in TLJ, so maybe she did, maybe she didn't...in my head, she did, and that sets up parallel deaths for the two twins.
I came away from the film being emotionally drained, but satisfied and thankful I have survived long enough to see this story through to its completion. I probably look at Star Wars uniquely from anyone else. To me, this is a story that's already happened, and parts of that overall history are being revealed to us, one bit at a time. So I don't actively try to critique the finer points of filmmaking, dialogue, stuff like that when it comes to Star Wars.
I accept what I have been given, and I accept it as the gift I consider it to be. Are there aspects of any and all films I would change, if I were writing or directing? Sure, of course. But Star Wars has given me so much over the past 42 years, going back to when I was a 4 year old toddler seeing A New Hope in the theater. I remember that day well to this day, and I recall being so mad that Darth Vader got away. This franchise has allowed me to retain the essence of 4 year old me, 7 year old me and 10 year old me (my ages when the OT films came out) well into adulthood. What else on earth can do that?
So I say thank you to George Lucas, Irvin Kershner, Richard Marquand, JJ Abrams, Rian Johnson, Gareth Edwards, Ron Howard, John Williams, Ben Burtt, Joe Johnston, John Knoll, Ralph McQuarrie, Doug Chiang, Ryan Church, Eric Tiemens, Ken Ralston, Dennis Muren, Roger Guyett, Dan Mindel, David Tattersall, Rob Coleman, Matthew Wood, Rick McCallum, Kathy Kennedy, Michelle Rejwan, Rick Carter, Phil Tippett, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Ian McDiarmid, Frank Oz, Hayden Christensen, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Ahmed Best, Jake Lloyd, Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Lee, Temura Morrison, Oscar Isaac, Daisey Ridley, John Boyega, Kelly Marie Tran, Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alden Ehrenreich, Joonas Suatumo, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke and everyone else, in front of the camera and behind the camera for this saga. What Star Wars has done will never be duplicated and everyone involved in these films are geniuses at what they do.
Thank you all for the ride of a lifetime.