I saw “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” for a second time last night and now I feel that I’ve seen enough to fully formulate my thoughts on the movie as a whole. If you read my original spoiler-free review then you know that I enjoyed the movie overall, albeit thinking it’s a mixed bag of a film. However in the time since posting that review, I’ve had time to process the movie and really think about it. After reviewing it, I wish that I had waited to write about it; “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” has gotten worse the more I think about it, and its flaws are even more apparent now that I’ve seen it again. I’m just going to come right out and say that I don’t like this movie as much as I thought I did. There’s a lot to talk about in this movie that I couldn’t go into detail about due to spoilers, but now it’s time to talk about everything in this movie in full spoiler-heavy detail.
This movie starts out promising enough with a grand space battle that genuinely does feel epic in scale. The Resistance, lead by General Leia and Poe Dameron in battle, are able to strike a blow against the First Order in destroying a dreadnought, thought at the cost of many Resistance lives. Leia personally blames Poe for the losses they’ve suffered and it starts out as a promising setup for Poe’s arc as a character. This sequence ends with Finn awakening from his coma that was induced in “The Force Awakens” and his first words concerning Rey and what she’s doing.
Going into Rey and her mission with Luke on Ahch-To, I really liked what we were shown regarding Luke’s way of life on this isolated planet. I actually liked that little moment where he just tosses his lightsaber over his shoulder in a very casual way. It pretty much said everything we needed to know about his character and his thought process at the moment, and I also liked seeing his daily routine on the planet. The movie goes out of its way to show how Luke has been living his life in isolation and we see stuff like him fishing and living in a little hut as a hermit of sorts. I personally could’ve gone without the moment of him drinking alien tit milk, but it was still a nice little montage to show where Luke is at in his life.
For a good portion of this movie, I was very much on board with Luke being as reluctant as he was in training Rey to be a Jedi. We’re lead to believe that he personally feels responsible for Ben Solo becoming Kylo Ren and he’s afraid that the same will happen to Rey. We see in their first training scene that even though Luke knows plenty about the Force, he still very much fears it in the wrong hands. His fears are confirmed when Rey appears to delve into the dark side of the Force without hesitation and he decides that he’s not having it anymore. OK, great, we’re seeing a side of Luke that we’ve never seen before and I’m fully invested in his story at this point.
However, this movie really starts to drop the ball when it goes into more detail about Luke’s past with training Ben. It’s revealed that Luke himself considered killing Ben in his sleep since he feared that he was being seduced to the dark side. It’s at this point in the movie that I start to get upset over how Luke is written by Rian Johnson. Mark Hamill himself said that he disagrees with with how Johnson wrote Luke and I completely understand why.
In “Return of the Jedi”, Luke is a wise Jedi Master who knows that the best way to confront Darth Vader is to simply talk to him about how conflicted he is. He refuses to fight Vader not only because he’s his father, but because he senses the light in him and now it’s up to him to convert the most powerful being in the Galaxy, aside from the Emperor. The decision to have Luke try to kill Ben Solo in his sleep goes against everything that Luke was at the end of his arc in the original trilogy. Rather than try to tap into Ben’s light side and address his conflicted feelings, he decides to pull a cowardly move by killing him in his sleep all based off of a slight hunch that he might be seduced by the dark side.
It also goes against Luke’s line of “It didn’t scare me enough then, but it does now.” Well, it obviously did scare you if you were considering killing your own nephew in his sleep. The entire backstory behind Luke and Ben’s past would’ve been all the more powerful had Luke actually tried to talk to Ben in the same way he talked to Vader. It not only would’ve stayed in line with Luke’s character, but it would’ve added more gravity to Luke’s reasons for going into exile. Him trying to carefully talk down Ben without a fight would add credence to Luke not being as afraid as he should have been and it also would’ve added layers to Ben’s supposed power, power that was enough to overpower the powerful master that is Luke Skywalker. And not only that, but it would’ve added more reasoning to why Luke questions the teachings of the Jedi. He’s been taught that the Force should only be used for defense and knowledge, but these teachings have now failed in trying to convert Ben Solo. Now Luke has a valid reason to question the Jedi ways and put an end to the Jedi Order, abandoning every lesson of old that should’ve worked. As it is, though, it just doesn’t make any sense that Luke would want to end the Jedi Order and desert himself all because of an out-of-character moment that contradicts his previously established character.
While we’re still talking about the stuff with Rey and Luke on Ahch-To, I will say that there’s still stuff to like. Whenever, we’re not seeing Rey with Luke, we see that she’s developing a link to Kylo Ren, one that is basically the Force telepathically letting them communicate with one another despite being in different locations. Kylo Ren does reveal the truth about how Luke tried to kill him in his sleep but more importantly, we start to see a connection between him and Rey that goes beyond them simply being able to see into each other’s minds. We see slight hints of what’s to come with Kylo Ren trying to seduce Rey into joining him and I thought these moments really added to both of their characters while also developing the Force’s abilities in a way that I enjoyed seeing.
But to speak more about how the Force is portrayed in this movie, there are also some moments when I don’t like the Force’s portrayal at all. This comes in the scene when the First Order launches an attack on the Resistance ship since they can now track through hyperspace. Kylo Ren himself nearly kills his own mother, Leia, but he backs down. Instead, other First Order fighters blast her ship and she along with many other Resistance leaders are blown into space. I honestly thought this was Leia’s death scene and it would’ve been a nice way to say goodbye to her and Carrie Fisher. We see her floating peacefully in space, supposedly dead, and what looks like her drifting off to never be seen again turns into one of the dumbest scenes in the entire Star Wars saga. He fingers start to twitch and out of no where she starts flying like Mary Poppins back to another Resistance ship and is successfully saved. When I first saw this scene on Thursday night, I had no idea how to feel about it. Then when I saw this scene again last night, my reaction was “That’s fucking stupid.”
It makes sense for Leia to use the Force given her family history, but have her use it in a way that makes sense and stays true to what the Force has been established as in previous movies. The Force is an omnipresent energy field that can be wielded as a tool by anyone who’s willing to learn its ways. It’s NOT some life preserver that can conveniently save someone from the vacuum of space and make them fly back to safety. The way this scene portrays the Force makes it out to be some deus ex machina that conveniently saves anyone in any given situation. That’s not the Force. The Force is something that can both guide and obey you, but only if you’re capable of learning it and tapping into its powers. Leia was practically already dead in space, but the Force decides to act of its own accord and magically save her. Leia’s usage of the Force would’ve been more powerful had it been Leia being trapped under rubble and calling out to the Force to help lift up the rubble. That, or anything that involves Leia actually being conscious and using the Force in a way that’s consistent with the saga.
Leia survives, but she’s placed into a coma and replaced by Laura Dern’s character, Admiral Holdo. Holdo is very secretive about how she plans on leading the Resistance and their plan to escape the First Order and that understandably paints her as a very shady character. Is she secretly working for the First Order? Is she a rogue who’s trying to sabotage both the First Order and the Resistance? Can she be trusted by the Resistance? Her being as secretive as she is alarms Poe and he ultimately decides to go forth with mutiny against her. The only problem is that she ends up being good after all and the conflict is a result of her not sharing her plan with any of the crew. Why? Why did she not simply explain her plan to go to the planet Crait? That would’ve saved a lot of trouble for everyone and it would’ve shaved some time off of an already two and a half hour film. As it is, it just comes off as a pointless subplot that only exists to add some unnecessary drama.
There’s another subplot in this movie that I just plain hated and it was the one involving Finn and Rose going to a planet called Canto Bight to find some master hacker. Finn and Rose have decent enough chemistry as characters, but the stuff surrounding them is the problem. Canto Bight is home to some fancy casino where rich people profit off of war and abuse animals and all sorts of bad stuff like that. The casino segment feels like something straight out of the prequels, what with the cartoonish alien designs and unoriginal planet aesthetic, but it gets even worse when Finn and Rose get captured and happen across Benicio del Toro who just so happens to also be a hacker who helps them escape. They escape in a ridiculous sequence where they ride on weird CGI horse-dog things, crash them through the casino, and even get help from BB-8 who can apparently tie up guards now. The stuff with Canto Bight is bad enough on its own, but everything involving Finn, Rose, and Benicio del Toro’s character of DJ is still bad even when they’re off that stupid planet.
The whole point of finding the master hacker was to get his aid in infiltrating Supreme Leader Snoke’s ship and hacking it so that it can no longer track the Resistance ships. But the actual master hacker is abandoned and he’s replaced by DJ, an annoying character with an unnecessary stutter and he conveniently knows how to hack as well. But to add to the problem, the actual hacking of Snoke’s ship is never done. Finn, Rose, and DJ end up being captured, DJ betrays them, and this leads into a conflict with a returning Captain Phasma, who ends up being bested by Finn and being given less screen time in this movie than “The Force Awakens”. The whole hacking subplot goes absolutely no where. If it had been a simple case of Finn and Rose sneaking aboard the ship to hack it themselves without going to the casino and finding a hacker, the end result is the same: They eventually get captured, BB-8 has that dumb moment where he controls an AT-ST walker, Finn kills Phasma, they escape, end of subplot. The whole casino/hacking aspect adds nothing to the story.
Meanwhile back on Ahch-To, Rey’s link to Kylo Ren is growing even more and this link is eventually discovered by Luke, who confronts Rey, but she bests him in a small duel and she decides her best option is to personally confront Kylo Ren aboard Snoke’s ship. After she leaves, Luke tries to burn down a Jedi library on the planet, but ends up talking with a Force ghost of Yoda. Yoda himself destroys the library, knowing that Rey has already taken the books for herself, and gives Luke a little pep talk. I honestly really liked this scene for a number of reasons. One, it was nice to see actual puppetry used for Yoda. Two, Yoda’s behavior is exactly how I remember it in “The Empire Strikes Back”. He’s portrayed as the wise Jedi Master who aims to teach, but also have some fun in subtly messing with whoever he’s teaching. And finally, the actual lesson he teaches Luke is very important. It’s basically about how we can learn from our failures and eventually grow beyond what we’ve failed in. The greatest teacher in life is failure and this lesson capped off a truly great scene.
The confrontation between Rey, Kylo Ren, and Snoke is something that I have mixed thoughts on. For one thing, I was put off by Snoke’s sudden change in demeanor. In Episode VII, he comes off as a very cunning, yet reserved and quiet presence. But now in Episode VIII, he’s talking in a very loud and grand fashion and even using modern terms like “spunk”. Snoke’s actual goal, however, is to get Rey to reveal Luke’s whereabouts and when that doesn’t work, he order Kylo Ren to kill her. So what happens next? Kylo Ren instead uses Luke’s old lightsaber to slice Snoke in half and what results is an awesome scene with Rey and Ren teaming up to take out Snoke’s guards. It’s a great action scene because the guards come off as an actual threat to them, but seeing them work together to overpower them was something else entirely.
The scene itself is a big risk in its execution. Killing Snoke was risky enough and even though I liked the decision to kill him in a surprise twist, it’s still a bummer that we didn’t get to learn more about him. I’m not one of those fanboys who wanted him to be revealed as some old character from the past, but I at least wanted some backstory on him. How did he seduce Ben Solo? What’s the story behind all of his scars and deformities? It looks like we’ll never get those answers now, so his role in these movies now appears to be nothing more than a placeholder. Him and Ren shared a great back and forth in the beginning of this movie, but it doesn’t look like we’ll be getting more of that.
The other risk in this scene is the reveal of Rey’s parents. After Episode VII setting her up with her hoping to find out about her supposedly important lineage, it’s revealed that her parents were nobodies. They were basically druggies on Jakku who sold her off and that’s it. Honestly, I liked the symbolism behind this reveal. Rey getting her hopes up and having the truth dropped on her like this is big for her character. It also adds to the idea that important people can still make a difference even if they’re born from nothing. It’s not about where you come from, but who you grow into and I really like this decision with the reveal of Rey’s parents.
Now this leads into the movie’s climax on Crait. The Resistance has arrived after Admiral Holdo sacrifices herself in an amazing scene where she uses the jump to lightspeed in order to cut through several First Order ships. Leia, Poe, Finn, Rose, and others are stuck inside a small base and the First Order has cornered them and now it’s time to fight. The battle is undeniably similar to the Battle of Hoth, but it’s still a fun scene nonetheless. My problem with the scene comes when it looks like Finn is about to sacrifice himself to the First Order’s large cannon. It looks like he’s actually going to die and it would’ve made for another big risk, but Rose saves him at the last second and she basically reveals that she loves him. Out of nowhere, we’re given a forced romance that doesn’t feel earned. I bought Rose as someone admiring Finn for defecting from the First Order and being a Resistance hero, but the romantic angle comes from nowhere. Their subplot is bad enough for reasons that I’ve stated above, but the romance makes it even worse.
When it seems like all hope is lost, Luke apparently appears in the base, has one final talk with Leia about confronting her son, and he presents himself to the First Order and its legion of walkers. Kylo Ren immediately orders all walkers to fire on Luke, which they do, seemingly killing him. But Luke isn’t dead. He walks off all walker blasts like they’re nothing and Ren decides to confront Luke himself. They both draw their lightsabers and after some supposedly killing blows to Luke from Ren’s lightsaber, it’s revealed that Luke on Crait is merely a projection of himself that’s been sent by the real Luke back on Ahch-To. Again, this was an extension of the Force that I liked seeing. It adds to the Force’s abilities without contradicting the Force itself and it also furthers Luke’s power as a Jedi Master.
After Luke’s projection disappears, the real Luke comes to peace with what he’s done, stares at a binary sunset, and fades away, basically dying and becoming one with the Force. Again, I have mixed thoughts on this part of the movie. I liked the projection of Luke simply toying with Kylo Ren and giving time for the Resistance to escape the base, but his death left me wondering what exactly happened. I’m willing to buy that the Force projection was a new power first discovered by Luke and he died from exerting himself and his abilities, but the movie could’ve done a better job of conveying it. Instead, it just looks like Luke died just because. I wasn’t expecting Luke to go out in a blaze of glory with him using his green lightsaber to take out the entire wave of First Order troops and vehicles, but some more clarity on his death would’ve been nice.
The movie finally ends with the Resistance EXTREMELY limited in numbers. There’s like twelve of them left aboard the Millennium Falcon and Rey has decided to lead this rebellion with Leia, Poe, and Finn, but also become the last Jedi who will take one final stand against the First Order and their new Supreme Leader, Kylo Ren. This does set up for more conflict between Rey and Ren seeing as how she turned down his offer to join him in ruling the galaxy, but I have no clue how Episode IX will handle what’s left of the Resistance. The final scene in the movie is of some random kid back on Canto Bight using the Force and we’re lead to believe that he’s going to play into the resistance against the Force Order, but the scene itself feels out of place. It feels like it should’ve been a post-credits scene and I think the movie should’ve just ended with the Falcon flying off as our heroes plan the rebellion against the First Order.
All in all, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is a movie that got significantly worse after a second viewing. There are some moments of greatness, whether it be an entertaining action scene, a badass character moment, or a big twist in the story, but it also has moments that are just plain bad. These include moments that contradict characters and ideas from the original trilogy, subplots that add nothing to the story, terrible new characters, and forced humor that doesn’t fit with the tone of the movie. (The Porgs were fine, but the stuff including the Kylo Ren shirtless scene and Poe and General Hux’s exchange at the beginning of the film weren’t needed)
Not only that, but I feel like having Rian Johnson be the sole writer was a mistake. With Episode VII, it felt like J.J. Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, and Michael Arndt had a vision in their script and they were clearly setting up certain ideas. With Johnson, though, it feels like he watched Episode VII and decided “Lol, fuck that.” and decided to write a script that undoes everything that Abrams set up. The stuff like where Luke’s old lightsaber was found, the meaning of Rey’s vision, and Rey’s connection to the Force isn’t addressed at all in this movie. I genuinely feel like Rian Johnson doesn’t understand Star Wars and I’m actually quite glad that Abrams is returning for Episode IX. I’ve seen some comments from people who like this movie and they say that the people who dislike this movie are just mad that the movie is “too different”. I personally liked some of the big chances taken in this movie. I just dislike it because it’s poorly written, poorly structured, and it seems to go out of its way to contradict stuff from previous movies from the saga. I don’t like “The Last Jedi” and to say it’s a disappointment is the understatement of the year.
The Last Jedi’s New Rating: Rental