8.5/10 – SEE IT!
Despite some small storytelling problems, The Last Jedi gives fans a fantastic adventure without sacrificing its core story.
There’s so much hype that surrounds the Star Wars Universe. I wasn’t around for the original trilogy, but I vaguely remember when The Phantom Menace returned this beloved science fiction story to theaters.
*Cue nostalgic Star Wars theme*
Granted, TPM is still the lowest rated one out of them all, but I digress.
With The Last Jedi, we now have the third Star Wars movie since 2015 and both The Force Awakens and Rogue One have been solid additions to the series so far.
Rogue One gave us a fresh take by expanding on a piece of dialogue from A New Hope. TFA caused some fans and reviewers alike to criticize J.J. Abrams for his reliance on a A New Hope’s narrative, directly pulling themes and plot devices from that same film.
The Last Jedi does a bit of both. Rian Johnson gives audiences a few moments where it feels like the Empire Strikes Back, but he doesn’t hold back his own vision for the story. He goes for it, no holds barred.
Unfortunately, this also translates into a lot going on in this movie. While TFA followed a very formulaic approach, TLJ has a few main storylines going on at once – some more worthy of our time than others, IMO – and I feel that the film suffers a bit because of it.
So I’ll break it all down by addressing five things that didn’t work so well and six things that hit the mark, more or less.
🚨🚨 SPOILER ALERT 🚨🚨
Stop scrolling if you haven’t seen it yet.
I mean it.
🚨 STOP 🚨
Here’s what gave me some grief:
The entire “finding a codebreaker on Canto Bight” subplot.
The amount of time spent on this failed mission with Poe, Finn and Rose kind of disappoints me. When we see that their efforts are for nothing, it felt pointless and unnecessary, as if I was purely distracted from the more engaging storyline between Luke, Rey and Kylo Ren.
Some of what comes out of this subplot – the idea that we learn from failure and that the light and goodness in people won’t die – progresses the story, but so much of it could’ve been delivered in another way or edited down for a tighter story.
Leia surviving space.
Leia should’ve died at this point in the movie. That may sound harsh since we no longer have the wonderful Carrie Fisher (RIP) in our world, but it was the opportune moment.
Her death would’ve been a serious blow to the Resistance, really showing us their vulnerability and desperation while at the same time forcing a more convincing leadership struggle between Vice Admiral Holdo and Poe Dameron.
Holdo not revealing her plan to Poe.
The miscommunication between Holdo and Poe when she takes over command of the Resistance makes absolutely no sense to me. So many problems that arise from it could’ve been solved with a simple conversation.
It’s clear she’s doing what she’s doing for a reason, but it’s obvious Poe doesn’t understand it and needs a teaching moment – especially if she and Leia are looking to tap him as the next leader of the Resistance.
And since he’s causing discord among the ranks, wouldn’t you pull him aside and clue him in?
DJ, Del Toro’s hacker character.
Just, no. Why was this a cameo in the first place?
Finn’s character arc is weak.
This one is hard for me to admit. I want to like Finn because he is a likable character, but his development in this movie is flimsy, at best, and all over the place.
Literally, all he cares about is Rey. We see that early on in TFA and it doesn’t really change in TLJ.
After waking up from his coma, he takes the homing beacon connected to Rey’s bracelet, which was on Leia’s wrist, and attempts to flee in an escape pod… because he wants to make sure Rey is safe.
But we all know that Rey is a badass and is perfectly capable of taking care of herself. It’s getting tiresome watching Finn constantly try to be her protector.
At this point in walks Rose, a maintenance worker who’s just lost her sister in the opening space battle. She discovers him, stuns him and takes him to the brig, but not before Poe intervenes to send the pair on a wild goose chase to find a codebreaker, get on Snoke’s ship and disable the light speed tracking device.
Craziness ensues and by the end of the movie they end up on the ice planet Crait. Here is where Finn finally shows some depth and growth in a moment of true selflessness.
In order to save the Resistance and his friends, Finn plans to destroy the First Order’s laser cannon by flying directly into it.
But, Rose smashes into his ship with hers to save him instead.
This ultimate act of sacrifice would’ve redeemed Finn and washed away all of his previous selfishness. Did I want him to die? Of course not, but if he was to die, this would’ve been the noblest way to go.
Now, despite all of that negativity, TLJ is still a great movie. Here’s why:
The relationship between Kylo Ren and Rey.
YAAAAAAS! This is what this movie is all about!
Kylo Ren and Rey are the main reason I love this movie. TLJ is built on their relationship and the way it develops is absolute brilliance. Their Force conversations and Rey’s attempts to call Kylo back to the light work incredibly well… so well that when Kylo turns against Snoke, you’re half-expecting him to join her in the light.
And when he doesn’t, it hurts.
Plus, that lightsaber fight with Snoke’s red guards is perfection.
The amount of build-up dedicated to Supreme Leader Snoke as the big bad in TFA is a bit confusing considering he’s now dead – thanks to Kylo Ren.
So now what? I’m not sure if we’ll discover his true identity in the next film, but I do believe his death helped progress Kylo Ren and Rey’s relationship.
The Resistance’s desperation and the First Order’s hubris.
I’m not a big fan of Johnson’s use of the eternal space chase between the First Order and the Resistance as a plot device. It seems a little lazy, but I think it helps solidify the Resistance’s extremely low morale at the moment while simultaneously highlighting the First Order’s blind pride – even after Starkiller base is destroyed.
How many times have we seen the Empire, the First Order underestimate their enemies? It’s not that far-fetched for them to do it again, especially since the Resistance is running on gas fumes and they don’t have anyone they can rely on for help.
In a big moment, Kylo Ren reveals to Rey that he knows the truth about her parents. He chides her that deep down she knows it, too… her parents were nobodies, just people who sold their own child in order to get more drinking money.
I have two thoughts about this interaction.
Either Kylo is telling the truth and Rey’s parents are no one important. If they don’t have a legendary bloodline and are not part of some great destiny, it’s still a great story and character arc because it reinforces the idea that the Force chose her for her, for who she is – not for her family.
He’s lying about her parents in order to get her to join him in the dark side, which I still think is highly plausible since Kylo is desperate for Rey to be on his team.
Even though Rian Johnson has now said that this isn’t a misdirect, I’m still not sure. Given how Star Wars is known for big reveals, it’ll be interesting to see whether the next movie changes things.
This Luke is not the Luke we know from Return of the Jedi. He’s a grizzled former Jedi Master who’s cut himself off from the Force after failing Ben, Han, and Leia with the creation of Kylo Ren.
And we finally understand what happened with Ben’s journey to the dark side.
While Luke is attempting to train a new generation of Jedi, he’s confronted with the immense power Ben has and his potential to go dark.
We then see Luke standing over Ben sleeping. In a fleeting moment, he flicks on his lightsaber in an apparent attempt to kill him. Ben proceeds to freak out [a natural reaction], pulls out his own lightsaber to defend himself and uses the Force to collapse the building around them.
While some see this as a misconstrued portrayal of Luke, I see it differently. Luke is a Jedi Master who wasn’t formally trained himself trying to train a new group of young padawans.
He doesn’t have a mastery of the Force or training others as those before him so could he have been persuaded by the “dark side” to strike down Ben in fear? I think so.
Kylo Ren’s “let the past die” speech to Rey.
I think this moment should speak to a lot of fans, new and old alike. When Kylo is trying to convince Rey to join him, he explains that she should “let the past die.”
It’s a powerful line, which I think contributes to a larger theme in these films. It’s an extension of the original trilogy and with Han, Leia, and Luke(?) gone, we’re at a point where the new characters will carry the story.
As Luke says, it’s time for the Jedi [as they were] to end.
Other Random Thoughts
- Yoda’s ghost appearance made me so happy.
- Chewy flying the Millennium Falcon alone ripped my heart out.
- Luke’s “death” scene from his point of view was incredibly touching.
- Oscar Isaac is beautifully charismatic as Poe and I’m looking forward to what he does as the leader of the Resistance in the next installment.
- Porgs are cute, but, wow… way too many shots of them at weird moments. Ewoks were cute, too, but they did help progress the story in Return of the Jedi.
- I really hope Finn becomes a better character.
- Leia’s Force powers during her “Mary Poppins” moment made total sense. She chose to not use her Force powers in daily life. That doesn’t mean she CAN’T use them. People complaining about it need to calm down.
- Kylo Ren choking General Hux is truly a joy.
- Kylo Ren shirtless = 😍
- And, as much as I wasn’t a fan of the Canto Bight subplot, seeing the Force-sensitive child slave look up at the stars at the end made me feel something deep down.