DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVE NOT WATCHED “THE LAST JEDI” OR YOU WILL BE SPOILED!
For two years, I waited for “The Last Jedi.” After “The Force Awakens” ended with Rey offering the holy grail of lightsabers – the weapon of both Anakin and Luke Skywalker – to the self-exiled Master Luke Skywalker, I could only imagine Luke would respond to seeing his long-thought-lost weapon.
Everything I thought was wrong.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’m not saying I didn’t like ‘The Last Jedi” either. There were parts of the movie I absolutely adored, but there were parts I didn’t like at all or thought just plain weird. At times, I was on the edge of my seat, very nearly nail-biting moments, or there were also moments where I couldn’t see how this contributed to the overall story. So, my feelings towards this movie are complicated. It is definitely not my favorite of the Skywalker saga – but at the same time, I don’t see anything wrong with that because they all can’t be the favorite! I can see how some people absolutely loved the movie, but I can also see how some people hated the movie. I seem to be in the minority to think that it’s okay – not the best, not the worst.
One of the first issues I had with this movie is the hype. I definitely think that was part of my problem and why I felt a little bit letdown. There was so much hype build up for a movie that sells itself. Adam Driver is right; you could release no trailers for a Star Wars movie, and we’d still come in droves. Once I heard reviews that said it was the best since “Empire Strikes Back,” my expectations went through the roof. I made a crash landing back to Earth. Like I said, it doesn’t need to be the best “Star Wars” movie. I’m totally okay with it not being the best. It was just a little disappointing to have such high hopes.
Rian Johnson made a movie that felt different from other “Star Wars” movies. I can see why some people loved it and others absolutely hated it. Some people are saying that Kylo Ren’s line, “Let the past die. It’s the only way to become who you were meant to be,” was a jab at just that – its time for Star Wars to change. To which, I am conflicted on. I can see why Disney gave him his own trilogy, and if they’re all made in that same vein, awesome. The problem I had with “The Last Jedi” is that it didn’t seem part of a trilogy, and I felt like it disregarded some aspects of “The Force Awakens.” On its own, it’s great. As the second in a trilogy, not so much.
The obvious humor was something else that seemed out of place. All the “Star Wars” had humorous moments, but in the past, for the most part, they were much subtler. The humor in this movie made me feel like I was watching a Marvel movie. At times, it felt cheesy. Again, I believe if this was a standalone or part of a separate trilogy, it would be fine. It doesn’t fit with the Skywalker saga. It didn’t work with Jar-Jar, and it doesn’t work now. Also, what was with Luke milking that creature and drinking it? Other than being an extremely awkward moment, I can find no purpose to it.
I want to talk about hype again. There was so much hype surrounding certain supporting characters that there actual stories ended up as a letdown. I was very excited for Laura Dern’s Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo after reading Claudia Gray’s “Leia, Princess of Alderaan.” The character in the book versus the character in the movie were shockingly different, not that one is better than the other, it just raises some questions. As to why Holdo wouldn’t reveal that she at least had a plan to the desperate Resistance is beyond me.
The casino scene on Canto Bight and character of DJ (Benicio del Toro) were disappointing. Canto Bight was visually pleasing and very well made. However, I can’t help but wonder if it wasn’t a little bit of a waste for such a short and insignificant scene. And the fact that Finn and Rose were thrown in jail for illegally parking is absolutely ridiculous – and they just happen to find a code breaker in their cell? I don’t know, I expected more of DJ. When and how did he make a deal with the First Order? I don’t know if I just missed that, was it on the way to the ship? And then, we’re left not knowing what the hell happened to the guy. Did he escape in time? Or did he die as well? Also, this entire subplot seemed unnecessary, even more so when Rose declared her love for Finn. They’ve known each other for less than two days. Two days. The entire subplot seemed to be a waste and really did nothing for Finn’s character growth. I also hope we aren’t going to have a Rey-Finn-Rose triangle, if certain glances are to be conisdered (Team Finn/Rey all the way).
I was really disappointed with the roles of Maz Kanata and Captain Phasma. Maz was literally in one scene, to give Finn, Poe, and Rose the name of a code breaker. I had wondered where Maz was going to fit in this movie and this kind of surprised me. Finn knew her for about an hour, and for as well as I know, Poe didn’t know her at all, but talked like they were friends. It was disappointing for such an interesting character. I felt that she could’ve been an ally to the Resistance. Yet again, there was potential wasted in Captain Phasma. I feel that they were really trying to make a Boba Fett type character. I expected the feud between her and Finn to be drawn into the next movie and was disappointed to see her die. Also – Admiral Ackbar deserved better.
Finally, I hate to bring it up, but I have to. The Leia in space thing was weird. I really think they missed an opportunity in not killing her in the explosion. It would’ve been so shocking so early in the movie and really set the tone of desperation by the Resistance. But what do I know? Regardless, her floating in space first was weird – how was she not harmed at all by that explosion? Second, how was she still living? And third, what was the Force pull she did and how did she manage it when she should’ve been dying? I’ve heard some say that it was to showcase her powers in the Force, but I’ve felt that we’ve always known that Leia was strong in the Force. In both “Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi,” Leia is able to feel Luke’s presence. She also seemingly communicates with her son in this one. We didn’t need a spacewalk to prove she’s Anakin Skywalker’s daughter. The whole thing was just weird.
Now, what I liked about the movie. Like I said, it was very visually pleasing with the sets and characters, all vividly detailed. Rian Johnson was meticulous in his vision. The unpredictability of the movie was something else I really enjoyed. I had no idea what to expect, which is something that makes this trilogy as a whole interesting. There were moments that were so intense I couldn’t tear my eyes away even if I hadn’t wanted to. Despite its flaws, it’s still a fun movie to watch. I felt that the acting was superb and only adds to the intensity.
One of the most intense moments has no dialogue at all. During the first space battle, Kylo Ren has his trigger ready to destroy the majority of the Resistance. However, he senses his mother’s presence. It flips between Kylo Ren and Leia Organa. While they aren’t saying anything, you know that they can feel the other there. Kylo Ren struggling with what to do, Leia has a look of fear. Despite having just murdered his father, Kylo Ren cannot bring himself to cause the death of his mother. For a moment, he lets himself slip. There’s even a tear that falls from his eye. Someone else takes the shot. His mercy doesn’t matter. I thought that this was a fascinating and intense scene. “The Force Awakens” focused on Ren’s hate for his father, “The Last Jedi” mainly commented on his hate for his uncle, but for a moment, we are privy to the relationship with his mother. There’s still something there, something that calls to Ben Solo, not Kylo Ren.
There were also two moments that may appear insignificant overall, but I just adored. First, on Ahch-to when Rey first meets Luke and is trying to convince him out of his hut. Suddenly, the door is off of its hinges. At first, I was trying to figure out what the hell Rey did to accomplish that. Then, it was revealed to actually be Chewbacca who physically ripped the door off. I was ecstatic. We finally got to see Chewie rip something apart (I know there’s a deleted scene in “The Force Awakens” where he rips the arms off of Unkar Plutt). This probably pleased me more than it should, but I loved how in some ways, Luke seemed utterly unsurprised that it was Chewbacca tearing his door off, as if he was thinking “I should’ve known.”
The other moment also involves Luke. When Luke goes on the Falcon and is reunited to R2-D2, I absolutely loved it. For the first (and practically the only) time, Luke seems somewhat happy. However, he tells R2 that nothing can get him off that island. R2’s response is to show Luke a plea for help from another young woman to another Jedi master in exile, many years prior. It is, of course, his sister’s Leia’s speech to Obi-Wan Kenobi that set Luke on track to his destiny forty years prior. Leia would be the only person who could convince Luke to get off the island. Although Luke tells R2, “that’s a cheap shot,” I thought the moment tugged at the heart strings and also made me wonder why R2 kept that message for forty years. It also shows the parallel of the moment.
Luke Skywalker is a broken man. Mark Hamill had told Rian Johnson that he “fundamentally disagreed with everything he did to this character,” and in some ways, I can definitely see why. However, Hamill portrayed the role magnificently. Much like Obi-Wan before him, he is racked with guilt over his fallen apprentice. Unlike Obi-Wan, he’s not watching over the new hope for the Jedi. He has denounced the Force and the teachings of the Jedi. He wants to walk away from the legend of Luke Skywalker. Luke is also, for lack of a better word, rather quirky in this film. I felt that he had become the “crazy old hermit” his uncle had warned him about so long ago and saw irony in that. I thought that was great. He also was reminiscent of Yoda when the two first met. It is hard to believe that this is the same Luke Skywalker who saw Anakin within Vader when no one else could, as Luke believed the only option for Ben was to kill him before he fell to the Dark Side. His nephew. Leia’s only son. Luke, if only for a second, considered killing him. That just seems so unlike the man who was still trying to save Vader as he took his dying breath. What changed? While I don’t understand this, I will say that it is very interesting that Luke’s split second of a mistake and awful timing for Ben to wake up is what caused Ben to truly turn and become Kylo Ren. It is rightly so that Luke shoulders much of the blame.
Adam Driver’s acting is probably the best part of the movie. You can see the conflict within him as the Dark and Light struggle. You can see that he does care for Rey in some way, if only curiosity. When he declares himself Supreme Leader of the First Order, his authority is there. His hate for Luke Skywalker is also very strong, and really, knowing that his uncle thought about killing him, it’s not hard to fathom. The fight between Ren and Luke was intense. I thought it was a great balance of the Dark versus the Light, as Kylo Ren was aggressive in his fighting and Luke was calmer, almost egging him on. I also feel that Luke’s attempted murder factors into Kylo Ren’s issue with his parents. He must have felt betrayed that his parents sent him to learn from Luke, and Luke then turns around and tries to kill him. However, I can’t figure out Kylo Ren’s hesitation towards killing his mother.
The biggest shock of the movie was probably Kylo Ren killing Snoke. In some ways, I was really disappointed that they killed Snoke with so many unanswered questions. I understand that we didn’t have the entire story with Palpatine either when the Original Trilogy finished, but I did feel like he was a little bit more established, and now I feel like they ruined the chance to explore more with Snoke. He’s gone, Kylo Ren is the new leader. Kylo Ren made a point of not focusing on the past (Let the past die), so I don’t see much reflection on Snoke’s origins and how he seduced Ben Solo to the Dark Side. That is a shame. However, I was so excited when Snoke was killed because I thought for sure that Kylo Ren was on his way back to becoming Ben Solo. I was SO hopeful for him in this moment, and then SO disappointed when it was revealed he hadn’t turned back. The movie knew how to play your emotions. I also found it interesting that Rey would only call him Ben. This is in contrast to Obi-Wan and Yoda who referred to Anakin as Vader and Anakin as dead. It is similar to the hope that Luke saw within Anakin. I also really want to know what Kylo Ren and Rey saw in each other’s future. The two of them are great foils to each other, I loved the parallels as they saw each other through the Force bridge. I hope that continues in IX. I also loved Kylo Ren offering Rey a role of power in ruling the galaxy. It was so reminiscent of Vader offering power to both Padme and Luke, as was Rey’s refusal. That’s really the only thing Ren’s character was missing – no mention of his obsession with Vader.
The lightsaber fights were good, they were very well choreographed. I liked how in sync Rey and Kylo Ren were, I think that added to their connection. As I said previously, I liked the contrast of Kylo Ren and Luke during their fight. With that, I thought Luke’s Force projection was amazing. It really showed the scope of Luke’s powers. I was also very glad – and thankful – to see Luke and Leia share a scene. It was very bittersweet, with Luke coming to terms with his failure and Leia coming to terms with all she had lost. I was shocked, but okay, with Luke’s death. Showing the twins suns was a beautiful choice; it completed Luke’s journey.
The sweetest surprise of the movie was Yoda. It was great to see him in the movie. I also wondered if Luke had ignored visits from Yoda when he renounced the Force, as Yoda stated he had missed Luke. I just thought it was an interesting comment as Yoda obviously had the ability to visit Luke before and during his exile. The movie didn’t necessarily need this scene or his involvement, but I’m so glad that they decided to it. Also, I loved that Yoda can still use the Force in the physical world even as he’s dead. This movie, we also got our Leia and Chewbacca reunion hug.
All in all, it’s a decent movie. There are some definite flaws including a lack of character development and unnecessary subplots. I also found it odd that Han wasn’t really mentioned more, at least by Leia. But this is a Skywalker saga, and the roles of two Skywalkers, Luke and Kylo Ren/Ben Solo, are highlighted and the best parts of the movie. I do believe I would like this movie a lot more if it was a standalone and not part of a trilogy. It didn’t feel like it was continuing the story of “The Force Awakens.” Luke tossing his former lightsaber over his shoulder after the dramatic stare-down between him and Rey at the end of “The Force Awakens” cheapens that moment. It sets Luke’s character up for his movie, but lessens the significance of the last one. I’m interested to see where the story goes from here. But I have to say, although I’m glad it is JJ Abrams at the helm, I still will look forward to Rian Johnson’s trilogy.