Finally got around to seeing this. I apologize if I’m reiterating ponts that have been made many times over, but in general I thought the movie suffered from a finale that went on too long, a dearth of exposition, and incompetence on the part of the militaries that really made a farce of things.
I’ll start on the last part: They steal a shuttle and hope the codes lasted as long as they need to get through the shield: that was the plan. From there on, it should have been obvious they were effed, since they did not know the Rebels would follow up with a task force; they planned on blowing things up way before they knew they could get to the plans surreptitiously, and if doing that, had no plan once the Imperials pulled the sphincter shut. In short, their planning incompetence really should have spelled the end of the movie in failure. Good news! The Empire has no idea how to deal with a rebel attack. Sure, they landed a few Black Stormtroopers in kinda-sorta the right place later on, but otherwise it was one befuddled captain or another falling down over and over. Stormtroopers walk out of their bunker like a bunch of prisoners seeing the sun for the first time, minutes after the alert has sounded… were they all asleep? Tie fighters take forever to launch, but when they do, it’s an entire squadron… did the green light not get flicked or something? Why did those star destroyers sit there forever while the rebels drop bombs on everything? (Oh, because they need to crash into the shield generator… sigh.) And then the rebels. All we needed was a few lines like, “Y-wings, target the Tie hangars!” “Cruisers, encircle the SD’s! Keep them guessing! Frigates flank right!” or whatever. As it is the capital ships sat there and did nothing… until Vader shows up.
Ah yes, what is it that Vader did to suddenly destroy a pile of Calamari Cruiser, frigates, gunships etc? Pop out of hyperspace, was about all I saw. Okay, so if appearing a Star Destroyer in precise coordinates in exactly the right time in the right place to magically destroy an entire task force is Vader’s mastery of strategy and the Force, he couldn’t quite plan a little blockade to stop escaping ships? (all that was needed here were a couple of tie’s getting blasted out of the way or something and I’d forgive a little quicker).
Never mind that the battle on the ground was just a complete mess, no landmarks to sell the tension of their positions. There’s a reason a war movie tells you, ‘this is an important building, this is the bridge, remember them’, because you’ll understand how far they can retreat, where the last stand is, feel the attrition happening to your heroes. Originally I thought they had maybe twenty troopers on the shuttle? During the attack it felt like 50? Who cares! If this was Star Wars trying to be a war movie… it was a pretty bad one. War movies need visible strategy or tactics, or it’s just an action movie (yes).
Speaking of those rebel troopers… my twelve year old self can’t believe I’m writing this, but I’d trade twenty minutes of that final battle for more insight into the Rebel power structure, or how all those troopers were clandestinely convinced to join up. A montage jumping from the shower stalls to the gun range to the hangars, notes passed around, hey there’s action to be had, don’t miss it… etc. As it is we have a bunch of moon faced guys in garb suddenly right there on the deck and no one giving them a funny glance.
The details were just so dissatisfying.