When I first saw Guardians of the Galaxy I said it proved Disney could make a good Star Wars movie. Rewatching The Last Jedi I realized, in the immortal words of Force Ghost Ben Kenobi,
"I was wrong."I do like this film a great deal, and the idea of moving Star Wars in a new direction is cool and something I support. What I realized this time through them is how much darker both other trilogies are than the originals. The Force Awakens parallels Star Wars, certainly. But the 1977 movie ended with "a new hope" against an established Empire and the first major victory of the Rebels. While Starkiller Base is destroyed, the end of the first sequel film is far darker than even Empire. The Republic is over as the entire home system has been destroyed. Then the Last Jedi makes the situation far worse.
The Guardians of the Galaxy connection comes from how they were able to get away with making these films this dark, by having many small light and goofy moments mixed in. But the overall air of hope that infuses the original trilogy is missing most of the way through. Because of where they need to end up, the prequels have the same issue, except Phantom Menace. That's probably why it feels the most like Star Wars to me out of those three. I'd say the reputation of Empire as the "best" Star Wars film doomed the rest of the franchise to be much darker than it originally was. Oddly, the often spit upon Solo is one of the best at capturing that feeling of hope in the modern films.
Back to the movie at hand. Paying attention this time, and knowing she's not the enemy of the heroes, Admiral Holdo is pretty awesome. It is clear why she and Leia treat Poe as badly as they do.
Yes, crazy, risky flyboy tactics are what these films are built on. However, the story shows definitively that a single bomber has the ordinance to take out the dreadnought. Poe's strategy involves sending an entire squadron in against the First Order defenses, knowing most of them won't survive in order to insure the payload is dropped.
Those are not Rebel Alliance, hotshot pilot tactics.
Those tactics are straight out of the Empire's "overwhelm them with expendable numbers" playbook.
THAT is why he was punished and demoted. Holdo's plan is excellent because in EVERY SINGLE ONE of their plans and constructions, the Empire and the First Order ignore the possibility of small ships being an issue.
Holdo manages to escape from being held under guard and come out with her gun a-blazing. It's clear Laura Dern is "one of us" as a fan, and not only because you can see her saying "Pew Pew" behind her arm when she fires her blaster. The look of joy on her face when she says, "May the force be with you, always," to Leia is clearly the actress geeking out about it.
Her final act of piloting a capital ship all by herself...
OK, so maybe the whole rest of the crew is for support functions, weapons, hangar bays, toilet maintenance, whatever.
Her final act of piloting a capital ship all by herself, where a single person's sacrifice using a crazy concept takes out an enemy fleet, is a pure Rebel Alliance tactic.
The shout out to Hardware Wars in the Imperial laundry room was an Easter Egg of The Mandalorian level proportions.
Knowing what we know now from the next film (even though the film makers didn't) Kylo Ren comes off as an excellent manipulator. He tells Rey that he saw her turn to the Dark Side because of what he knows about her parents. (Who we later learn make her a direct descendant of the ultimate evil in the Galaxy.) Then later he tells her her parents were nobodies to shatter her self image and resolve. Their tandem duel is nicely epic, and they're both brushing with the other side of the force throughout their journeys. However, by the end of that fight, they've both made clear decisions.
Kylo is going for a new kind of evil.
I really would have liked to see the series go in a whole new direction with that. There were multiple opportunities:
Hux could have killed Ren after the fight, leading to a purely Military based version of the Empire.
Or instead of his short lived helping the heroes in the next movie, what if he broke off a whole faction? The follow up story line could have been a First Order civil war, with the tiny little Resistance trying to rebuild while playing the sides off each other.
Think A Fist Full of Dollars on a galactic scale.
By the end of the Last Jedi, Finn has faced and defeated his main enemy who is a former mentor, and does an attack run on a giant cannon.
Those are the main two climaxes for a Star Wars Film.
His character arc is finished.
Besides being the most surprising and unpredictable Star Wars film in decades, I have to hand it to The Last Jedi in one other area. Those skimmers, while exciting to watch, are excessively stupid technology even for that universe.
The ending leads back to the problem of using the original trilogy cast too much. I could believe no one answered the Resistance's summons...but no one answered Leia's summons?
Luke was used better than Han's and Leia's key action and leadership roles, though
His role was only as mentor, and his big attack was:
A) a distraction
B) an illusion
C) a way to capitalize on the expansion of Mark Hamill's awesomeness.
Losing him was still rough.
Yoda however, was used perfectly:
He was important, but tangential. His scene was short, filled with references to the past, and a hand off to the future. He was also, once again instilling him with real life, a Frank Oz performed puppet.