When Star Wars The Force Awakens brought back that galaxy far, far away, there was a bit of divisiveness from the fanbase. On one hand, this felt like a “pure” Star Wars tale, one that had shaken off what the “prequels had done”. Yet, on the other hand, there’s no doubt that a lot of the plot was rehashed from A New Hope, with only certain changes in characters and other aspects. So, with the latest film now out, you have to wonder, will this film fall into the same trap? Well, the answer is no on the trap part, but as you’ll see in this The Last Jedi review, not everything is balanced in the Force.
WARNING: We are going DEEP into Star Wars The Last Jedi plot, and so if you DON’T WANT spoilers, stop reading!!
Let’s start off this review with the following, The Last Jedi is NOT The Empire Strikes Back. Yes, there are callbacks to it, including the opening sequence which features the First Order closing in on a Resistance base. But, once that gets out of the way, things turn for the better. One thing I read in an article about the film is that this movie was really going to prove just how much of a disadvantage the Resistance was, and by the end of the film, the Resistance is in a place the Rebel Alliance honestly never found themselves in during the original trilogy: close to defeat.
This may sound like a small thing, but in fact, it’s important. For the Rebels always had a large fleet, and they were scattered across the galaxy. Here, though we know about other members of the Resistance, we only see the main fleet here, and when a certain distress call goes out…no one answers. That’s huge. More on that later.
So, with the Resistance under threat of being destroyed by the First Order, Poe sends Finn and new character Rose out on a special mission that if it worked would allow them to escape. I must say how happy I am to see Poe Dameron get more screen time here. He had some key scenes in The Force Awakens, sure, but it was never really “character growth”. Here, he slowly transitions from ace pilot to true Resistance Commander, and I look forward to seeing his position in the final film in the trilogy.
Then, of course, there’s Rey, who we pick up with in the same spot she was in The Force Awakens. She’s met Luke Skywalker, and has given him his lightsaber. But what happens after might surprise all. Not only has Luke abandoned the desire to recreate the Jedi Order like he did before, he’s separated himself from The Force entirely! This was a bold move for sure, but it’s one that really feels true to who Luke is in this timeline (expanded universe stories had much different tales of Luke before they were retconned).
A fascinating element with his “training” of Rey was that his “lessons” really hit on some interesting truths about the Jedi, the Sith, The Force, and everything else. My personal favorite line was how he noted that The Force was still alive even without the Jedi. So to say that the universe NEEDS the Jedi just because they can use The Force is vanity. The Force endures, it lives through everything. But also, he called out the events of the previous films, how the Jedi had become so complacent in their power and abilities that they let Darth Sidious rise to power and create the Empire, which then led to the First Order.
Mark Hamill puts in a powerful performance here. You believe him and his wisdom, and understand why he doesn’t want to be Rey’s teacher. And when they pull out a certain revelation about his training with Kylo Ren, you feel even more sympathy for him. Then, at the end, that confrontation with Kylo? One of the coolest scenes in the series bar none. As well as his very touching scene with Leia.
Something I honestly didn’t expect in The Last Jedi was the budding relationship between Kylo and Rey. Yes, there was something there in The Force Awakens, but it felt more like curiosity, as if Ren couldn’t tell who or what Rey actually was. Here, both sides felt a connection to the other, and tried to turn each to their side multiple times over. These “Force conversations” were very insightful on both sides, and a very interesting touch to the film.
Which brings me to the “sidequest” of Rose and Finn. These two have a good chemistry on screen, and their meeting at the beginning was hilarious. As was their team-up throughout the film. Yet, another surprise came when they had to find someone on a planet full of rich people. Not so bad, right? Well, these people profited off the war itself. Both of them actually. It was very powerful to see this, that there was a alliance of people about to be wiped off the face of the galaxy…and there are people who are going to be rich because of it. Rose was a real breakout character here in the film, she has an innocence to her that’s really endearing. Finn wasn’t bad either, he wanted to get back to Rey, and even considered desertion in order for her to find her way back. Yet he wasn’t afraid to jump at the chance to save the Resistance, it shows how far he’s come.
Also, there was Kylo Ren, who evolved his character in an interesting way through the film, showing more personality than he got to in The Force Awakens, while also further distancing himself from the path that seems “obvious’ for his character. And, of course, there is the greatness that is General Leia. She was a standout in this film from start to finish, and I’m truly going to miss her now that Carrie Fisher has become one with The Force.
Again, there was a fear here that the film would follow the path of the Empire Strikes Back and try to mimic that in a big way. And while there were nods (including a cameo I will NOT spoil), the plot took many shifts that left me shocked, and in the good way more times than not.
Before I note the things that took away from the film, I have to acknowledge some of the beautiful set pieces that lined The Last Jedi. There were numerous moments of greatness that were nothing more than scenes that were beautifully rendered. This includes the final battle on the salt fields, a callback to the binary sunset of A New Hope, a sacrifice of an Admiral that might just be the coolest death scene of all time, and more.
Yet, as I write this, I can’t help but think of all the things that have held the film back from true greatness. Including several key deaths that felt hollow. The biggest one being Supreme Leader Snoake. He was teased in The Force Awakens, shown in all his glory here, and then…he gets killed by Kylo. Done, dead. That’s it for him. That felt so weird. Yeah, it was an AMAZING twist, showing that Kylo isn’t above killing his master. But…it now leaves a void of unanswered questions. Including, “Who the heck is Snoake? How did he find out about Kylo? How did he become the leader of The First Order?” all these and more likely won’t be answered, and that’s sad.
There were also new characters that didn’t have as much as an impact as the team at Lucasfilm might have thought they did. Vice Admiral Holdo, for example, had several excellent scenes, but her plan for the Resistance fleet could’ve worked much more cleanly if she had actually explained it to Poe when he asked. You can’t blame her for not trusting him like Leia did, and especially after the first mission of the film, but to not tell virtually anyone the plan caused a mutiny, caused Finn and Rose to go on a mission that basically was pointless, and then backfired when a traitor blabbed her plan to the First Order, causing hundreds to die.
Which…brings me to Benecio Del Toro’s character, the “master codebreaker”. He was weird, and left almost as quickly as he arrived. This was a big deal that he was being brought in, and yet, he was forgettable. His best scene was when he told Finn about how war is a machine, and to “not get involved with it”. Everything else? Eh.
Oh, and how about the return of Captain Phasma? You know, the character that was hyped up because of her status in the First Order? Then got dumped in a trash compactor? Had a mini-series comic detailing how she got out of that situation? Then The Last Jedi arrives and she’s in it for all of 5 minutes? How is that good?
Then, there’s the “revelation” of Rey’s parents. Which many have noted that we don’t know if we can trust the information based on who gave it. But, the fact that they did that scene at all was both good and bad. I liked the idea of it, as Rey “came from nothing” and now has a chance to change the galaxy, which is the basis of rebellions and resistances all over. But, after all the buildup of it, if this is the truth, it’s just a sad resolution of it all.
Also for Rey, her training with Luke was virtually non-existent, and yet at the end, she was able to do a major Force feat that Luke could barely have done after his training with Yoda. It was a bit too soon in my eyes. Grabbing a lightsaber is one thing. Clearing a rockslide? Eh.
Finally, and not surprisingly, there’s the humor of the film. Now, while it’s FINE for there to be comedy in a film, even one as dark and depressing as The Last Jedi can be at times. Humor helps lighten the mood, and humor can sometimes be the best solution to scenes. But, there is a limit here. Let me get this out of the way, I HATE the Porgs. I know they’re meant to be cute and adorable, that’s fine, that doesn’t mean they belong in The Last Jedi as much as they did. Furthermore, certain one-liners and scenes riddled with humor just made me roll my eyes.
I hope that as you read this The Last Jedi review, you’ll understand that I did like this movie. I have seen every Star Wars film to date, and the animated series as well. I LOVE this universe. And while The Last Jedi was a good film, I don’t feel it’s as great as some of the critics have made it out to be, and I know I’m not alone in that.
There were some truly amazing scenes and character moments in The Last Jedi, but there were also some big moments that made me question what they were doing here in the first place. With all eyes now on the final film of this trilogy, it’s going to be interesting to see how it all gets resolved.
No matter what though, remember this, my The Last Jedi review is just one opinion. ONE! If you want to see this movie, go see the movie. For it’s your opinion that matters. Not mine.