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I saw this in early January at the Hyde Park Picturehouse with a chap I know through local Lib Dem activism called Troy. Much as I had enjoyed The Force Awakens for being "much the same as the original three films, except that the characters now have new names and faces" (LJ / DW), I am also glad this one chose to break the mould and subvert some of the tropes which the series has developed. It would be a bit boring to keep on re-treading the same old ground, and it was fun here in particular to see Poe Dameron's brave and rebellious escapade revealed as completely pointless. The whole thing could of course have been avoided if Vice-Admiral Holdo had just explained to him what she was planning and why a bit earlier - but then again, problems which could have been solved with a bit of basic communication are at the heart of an awful lot of fiction and drama. It's hard to have a good story if everyone completely understands one another from the start.

Besides, while Poe's escapade may have been 'pointless' in straightforward plot terms from the rebel point of view, actually as far as world-building and story-telling goes it very much isn't. Without it, we as the viewers would miss some very revealing insights into the nature of the society which has both created and been shaped by the victory of the First Order - the casino full of wealth and privilege which turns out to be based on weapons-dealing, the rogue hacker, DJ, whom we expect to be an anti-authoritarian hero but turns out to embody the selfish cynicism which has infused the galaxy, and the dirty stable-kids at the bottom of the heap, looking and hoping for something better. Actually, I found that last bit about the kids less than entirely convincing - those kids are too young to remember or expect anything different from what they know, and I'm all too aware from contemporary UK politics how easy it is for the people most crushed by any system to be most susceptible to absorbing and internalising its ideologies. But, that aside, it's important to how this kind of story works to have people who symbolise the sort of better world the heroes are fighting for, and it's important for Rose and Finn, who barely know anything different themselves either, to see that and have it to drive them on through some seriously adverse circumstances later in the movie.

Meanwhile, I enjoyed Rey's disillusionment with Luke, her determination to train herself up anyway, and his heroic self-sacrifice at the end. I also very much liked how Kylo Ren has developed. In my Force Awakens review (LJ / DW), I wrote: "Obviously he's going to be redeemed in the third film - that is clearly where the entire story-line is leading." I now think I'm wrong about that. He has become the leader of the First Order, and I don't think you can come back from that. But I loved all the yin-yang stuff between him and Rey, the moments in which he appeared to have decided to throw his lot in with her and the denouement which revealed that for him that was actually only a temporary alignment of interests. Their fight-scene together against Snoke and his guards was beautiful to watch.

The saddest thing of all about it was how obvious it is that the final film in the sequel trilogy was clearly set up to revolve around Leia Organa. Of the three original main characters, the first film was Han's, the second Luke's, and here at the end we come down to a tiny handful of rebels with nothing but hope to keep them going and Leia to tell them to hang onto it. Now, she won't be able to do that. It seems a bitter irony of the kind Carrie Fisher would have been quick to see - women are always made to wait too long, promised that their great moment is coming, until it becomes too late. Doubtless creative solutions will be found, but I wish she and we could have had the Leia-centred film she always deserved.


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