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Me and Star Wars go back a long way. I'd like to say 39 years but to be honest I'm not 100% sure. For Star Trek, I know since I was 4 but SW....well suffice to say I've loved it the vast majority of my life. I tend to ramble about movies and franchises that are near and dear to me, so while this review will be longer, I'll try to keep it to a reasonable length. Suffice to say there was never any doubt I would see this in theaters, I hope the day never comes where I don't see a SW movie that way. Oh, this will be a SPOILER FILLED review, you've been warned!
So here's me doing my duty
All here we go, I can be objective and I'll state right away that this is certainly not the best SW movie. Rogue One has set a standard that no other movie has lived up to (and yes I'm including Episodes IV-VI). That said this movie has lots of great action, some moments of levity, a few touching scenes (Leia dies of course), a lot of fan service (which isn't necessarily a bad thing) and some really good surprises.
Daisy Ridley is excellent as Rey once again and cements her place in Star Wars history. There are also some solid performances by Mark Hamil (force ghost of course), Carrie Fisher (old footage not used from Last Jedi), Billy Dee Williams and Ian McDiarmid (along with everyone else of course). I thought that a little more explanation for how the Emperor comes back (one character just says "dark science").
The movie is so full of Easter eggs that it's hard to even keep track at times! I'll put a few here I caught. I'm fairly certain that a character from the cartoon "Star Wars Resistance" is here, I enjoyed that one. There is a reference to the old Star Wars non-cannon (now called "Legends") comics that were cool. The Mandolorian gets a fairly early nod when Rey heals a snakelike creature. They return to several iconic SW locations throughout the movie (and yes we not only see Ewoks but also Luke's home on Tatooine). Anthony Daniels gets a role where he is not C-390 (it's a quick one, look closely at the X-wing pilots toward the end of the movie). Of course, there are references to Vader (and his mask/helmet is shown several times), a mostly destroyed Death Star is on one world and if you listen closely you hear the voices of not only Snope and Vader but also a lot of the fallen Jedi, including both Alex Guinness and Ewan McGregor versions of Obi-Wan.
Another notable cameo (and surprise) is Harrison Ford who shows up (we assume) not as a force ghost but as a figment of Kylo Ren's imagination. All right back to the good, some excellent lightsaber duels, new and creative uses of the force, cool new gadgets, new Stormtroopers, new kinds of ships, new vehicles, and I must say really cool new force powers and uses for the force. I thought when Leia does die Chewbacca has a great emotional moment kudos to the new guy playing him,
Joonas Suotamo, who does a great job. The final battle (and the moments leading up to it) are excellent and again we get to see the true power of both the Jedi and the Sith when they are amplified by using the energy of other force users. Rey uses two lightsabers to fully reflect (and hopefully kill for good) Emperor Palpatine and the Emperor shows off some incredible use of force lightning, these parts were a thrill for me. Speaking of surprises I must say I was impressed that Rey actually dies (and is brought back to life by Ben Solo) and in the end, Ben Solo (who has redeemed himself and is no longer Kylo Ren) along with his mother become force ghosts. Also, the fact that for a few minutes you think Chewbacca is dead (he isn't) was a nice bit of tension.
Ok, this has gotten really long so I'm wrapping it up. I love Star Wars, always have, always will. I can, of course, see the flaws in anything though. J.J. Abrahams tries too hard to please the fans with all the references and throwbacks to earlier material. He also relies too much on nostalgia appeal and is a little too concerned with wrapping up every loose end from all the movies. There are even a few moments where I did find the movie a little long/dragged out. So what does all that mean? For me it's still a solid 7.5 out of 10, I'm a bias of course. Please don't bring children, due to violence I would say ages 13+. I would, of course, recommend this to any SW fan (I think you'd be foolish not to go if you truly are one) and I think lots of other people could enjoy it as a sci-fi/fantasy fan. I'll miss all of the old characters but I do believe it's time for the movies to shows us new characters and new directions. I was happy with the ending of this and both the Skywalker saga, thank you to George and J.J. Abrahams for letting me return to my childhood if only for a few hours at a time. I'm sure there will be more SW movies and I'm excited to see where they take me.