SPOILERS AHEAD. You have been warned.
This is an in-depth review exploring my feelings on Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The first part is simply Overall Review of the movie. Following the Overall Review are the in-depth portions that I thought were worthy of note.
After my first viewing on Opening Night:
“This is NOT how I thought this day was gonna go.” -Han Solo, Star Wars: The Force Awakens
I walked out in disbelief. I thought I hated it. It was the first time I have ever actually been disappointed after a Star Wars movie. I wasn’t entirely sure how I felt about it, but I knew I was at least disappointed. My disappointment did not arise from some desire to want this movie to be everything I expected or some hope that it would mimic the Star Wars EU. My disappointment stemmed from the fact that once the opening scroll ended, this movie did not feel like a Star Wars movie outside of a few character moments.
What happened to the shots of entire rooms where you could see characters from head to toe? A lot of this movie was spent zoomed in starring at peoples faces and spent on reaction shots. Every other Star Wars movie zoomed out a bit, so the viewers could watch the entire scene unfold in a room or ship or cantina. How cool would it have been to see the entirety of Snoke’s throne room for a couple shots while Rey and Kylo Ren were fighting the red praetorian guards? Seeing Rey fighting on one end of the room with Kylo Ren on the other? Zoom out just a bit so we can see all of the choreography like with the Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi vs Darth Maul fight. Don’t get me wrong, some of these close ups are great and I want to see characters’ reactions and facial expressions. However, when I can pick out which of Luke’s beard hairs change from shot to shot, that’s a bit much. Also there were a lot of amazing shots of the space battles, on Planet Crait and on Ahch-To. Rian Johnson did a great job with these kinds of shots. Can someone say, “AIRSHIP SLICE!!”??? (Do you like the Avatar TLA reference?)
I felt like there was a lot of filler in this movie, especially the Rose and Finn story arc. It felt like they were just trying to give Finn and Rose screen time, not like they were actually trying to make their role an integral part of the movie. Boo animal cruelty. The Poe against Vice Admiral Holdo was a little odd to me during my first viewing. The whole time I was thinking that she should have been someone like Admiral Ackbar. That would have allowed me to connect to the characters more because it would have been a nod to the Original Trilogy. Also, why didn’t Holdo just tell Poe what the heck the plan was?
Leia’s “sky walking” scene made me cringe.
Luke? You mean the melodramatic, woe-is-me dude who is living in shame on a rock in the middle of the ocean? Please. Just dumb. Other than his scene with Yoda and his scene with R2-D2, I did not like his story. However, Mark Hamill did do an incredible job.
Lastly, in my first viewing, I was so disappointed by Snoke and Phasma each barely getting any screen time. We do not know a lot about them at all. Both story lines are a disappointment. I was left wanting.
It’s funny to me that the only outstanding Star Wars movies are the ones starring Harrison Ford.
After my second viewing a few days later:
“The Force will be with you. Always.” -Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars: A New Hope
I actually enjoyed the movie this time around. There were still too many up close shots for my taste. Star Wars has had a theme and a stigma of great outfits and clothing. We got to see peoples faces, not what they were wearing. Zoom out a little bit with the camera next time please.
The Holdo vs Poe story bothered me significantly less. I still was not a fan of the Rose and Finn story arc, but BB-8 was much funnier to me this time around.
Chewbacca might be my second favorite character in this movie. All of his scenes were awesome. The giddy and joyful kid came pouring out of me whenever he was on scene. Totally down with the porgs too. I don’t mind them at all.
Luke’s story is still not my favorite. But Mark Hamill’s performance was just so good to me. He did such a phenomenal job. He was only bested by Adam Driver as Kylo Ren and Ben Solo. I will talk more about this in my in-depth reviews of different parts. But good grief, Adam Driver was so stinking good. He played the part of a manipulative, young, dark Jedi almost to perfection. Daisy Ridley also was great. I think her performance here was much better than it was in The Force Awakens. She has come a long way as an actor.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for using puppet Yoda instead of CGI prequels Yoda. That pulled on my heartstrings quite a bit.
The best thing about this movie is how well they explored the Force. The Force bond between Kylo Ren/Ben Solo and Rey was definitely in reference to Revan and Bastila Shan from Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic. I noticed that the first time viewing, but I was even more impressed with it this time around. Leia’s “sky walk” scene was less cringy this time, and showed the power of the Skywalker bloodline, which is totally fine with me. Yoda using the force to control the weather and have lightning strike the tree? So cool! Luke’s Force projection across the galaxy was incredible. It’s something we haven’t really seen before outside of Force ghosts. I thought Luke portraying himself as the Luke that Kylo Ren would expect was brilliant. Great story writing in that regard.
Most of all, this story really sets up for the end of the Skywalker Saga. I think this was a great bridge movie that can even stand on its own merit. However, it still had trouble feeling like a Star Wars movie.
Kylo Ren: 5/5
I do not even know where to start with how impressed I am with Adam Driver’s performance as Kylo Ren and Ben Solo. I was totally drawn in every time he was on screen. He was so much better here than in The Force Awakens. Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens was like Anakin in Attack of the Clones and Luke in A New Hope. He was an angsty, whiny teen.
In The Last Jedi, he seemed calculated and aware. Driver’s delivery walked that very fine line between being on the brink of cracking and being evil. Kylo Ren became the lead villain in this trilogy and I think this trilogy is better for it. While I would have preferred to know more about Supreme Leader Snoke, the way Kylo Ren manipulates Rey and takes over the First Order is truly that of a Sith. I was so convinced he was going to turn to the light, especially after he chose not to kill his mother. I was rooting for him to beat Snoke and help Rey stop all the fighting.
Like Kylo Ren, Rey stole the show. Daisy Ridley did exponentially better in this movie than in The Force Awakens. I thought her acting was superb. She was much less of a Mary Sue in this movie. I felt in The Force Awakens her abilities were a bit overdone, and made Kylo Ren seem like this extremely weak villain. I mean, even Anakin, the Chosen One, needed training. Nonetheless, Rey was so much more lovable in this movie. I felt like we actually got to see some of her character. Her faith that Ben could be turned back from the darkside reminded me of the hope that Luke has for Vader in Return of the Jedi.
Daisy played masterfully with Adam Driver. their scenes together were the most enthralling of the entire film in my opinion.
Finn and Rose: 1/5
I do not really want talk about this story arc, but I believe I need to at least shortly address it. The only reason it even gets a 1/5 is because BB-8 was there.
B-O-R-I-N-G. I get that Rose was supposed to help Finn’s character development. But wow, this whole story line seemed almost entirely filler, just to get Finn screen time. I loved Finn’s story in The Force Awakens, but this story was a struggle for me to get behind. Rose has to crash her ship into Finn’s just to kiss him and tell him he needs to fight for those he loves rather than fight because he hates the First Order?
R.I.P. Phasma and her 12 parsecs of screen time.
Poe and Vice Admiral Holdo: 2/5
In my first viewing, all I could think is “Why don’t you just tell Poe what the heck is going on?” But then on my second viewing I noticed something. I noticed that Poe is in the military and he is being insubordinate to a superior officer. If this were to happen in any other movie outside of Star Wars, I would have been okay with it. You are supposed to trust your superior officers to get the job done. Often times, especially in this case, Holdo had info that Poe did not have.
I still think Ackbar would have been a better choice in order to get viewers to connect more with the movie rather than introducing a new character that almost seemed like a villain for a decent portion of her screen time. Ackbar sacrificing himself to save Leia and the Resistance would have been gut-wrenching. But ultimately Poe’s insubordination is probably more believable with a new leader rather than one Poe would be familiar with in Ackbar.
Even though Laura Dern played a character that was new and difficult to connect with for me, I thought she did a wonderful job. I love her work in October Sky and in the Jurassic Park movies. This performance comes as close to those as any other performance she has done. Oscar Isaac also does a great job developing Poe’s character and setting him up to lead the Resistance in the final film. I am excited to see where Oscar Isaac takes the Poe Dameron character.
Luke’s Legacy: 3/5
I am not one to hold onto the Star Wars EU which was de-canonized by Disney when it bought the Star Wars franchise from George Lucas. The way Thrawn has been portrayed in Star Wars Rebels and in the book Thrawn are extremely well done. New stories in the Star Wars universe are an incredible and exciting thing to me. However, in comparing Luke’s Star Wars Legends legacy to what was shown in this movie? Give me a break. He is but a sliver and a shadow of the great Jedi Master he could have been.
His legacy is that of a boy who becomes a hero of the Rebellion and ends up destroying the Emperor and the Emperor’s fear inspiring, right-hand man, Darth Vader. He tries to teach a new generation of Jedi. He freaks out and tries to kill his nephew (more on this in a bit). He is ashamed of this, so he runs away and hides from his family, Han and Leia. Then tries to take the teaching of the Jedi with him to the grave by shutting himself off from the universe. Finally, a girl with a map and a Yoda Force ghost have to show up and tell Luke to stop being melodramatic…by teaching him the same lessons Yoda taught him decades prior in Empire Strikes Back.
While this whole legacy of Luke’s is seemingly not that bad on the surface, especially considering his amazing Force projection trick to save the Resistance at the end of The Last Jedi, there is a glaring fundamental flaw in his legacy. Luke’s defeat of the Emperor and Vader was birthed through the idea that there was still good in Vader. That Vader could be redeemed and would turn back to the light. So you are telling me, Luke’s entire character took a 180 degree turn and out of the blue he decides to try to kill, yes kill, his own nephew because he might become evil? That’s ludicrous. His entire story of heroism was built on a foundation of hope that a little bit of good could save someone. That fundamental idea was not only neglected but utterly disregarded in The Last Jedi. Luke even tells Leia in the end that Kylo is gone forever and that he can’t be turned.
All that being said, after mulling over this for a few days and two viewings, I believe that the direction they took Luke’s character was actually somewhat refreshing. I still do not approve of Luke’s drastic character change, but the end goal is beautiful. The politicization of the Jedi into the Jedi Order was what caused the downfall of the Jedi Order in Revenge of the Sith. It was the reason Darth Sidious was so easily able to overthrow the Jedi Order. Their arrogance and dogmatic views caused them to fail and is part of the reason Anakin turned against them. Luke experienced the same failure in his attempt to rebuild the Jedi Order. Obi-Wan’s biggest failure was similar. He arrogantly thought he could bring internal balance to Anakin through training, so he ignored the flaws of the Jedi Order and ignored Anakin’s flaws. Luke’s failure is similar with Ben Solo. I am interested to see where this new view on the Jedi takes us.
The blatant, flagrant, and brazen use of our world’s politics in this movie had me cringing like Anakin’s rant about sand in Attack of the Clones. I do not want to go into details about this because, as is tradition on the internet, someone will certainly mistake my meaning. Just leave our universe’s politics out of the Star Wars universe, Disney.
Shout out to the Prequels: 5/5
For probably the first time since they bought Star Wars, Disney gave credence to the prequels. There were a few things that alluded to the prequels, but I want to point out two obvious allusions here.
First, when Luke is telling Rey about Sidious and the old Jedi Order. Using the name Darth Sidious instead of using Emperor Palpatine made my ears perk up. Palpatine is never referred to as Darth Sidious outside of the Prequel trilogy thus far in the movies and not that often in the other canon Star Wars lore either. It was an interesting usage, and I am so happy that Rian Johnson wrote that into the script.
Second, the slave children on Canto Bight at the racetracks. That was an interesting throwback to how Anakin was found at the podraces on Tatooine in The Phantom Menace. Some people strongly dislike the kid force pulling the broom at the very end of the movie, but I thought it was a great scene and showed that any person can have hope and can become a Jedi, just like Anakin did.
Porgs and Other Humor: 4/5
“Welcome to the Marvel Universe’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi!!!” – Disney, probably
Green milk from a sea cow?? Ummm….stupid.
Unpopular Opinion: I loved the porgs. Disney embraced the “lets merchandise this” attitude in a bold fashion here. The Star Wars movie planning meetings probably went like this:
Some Star Wars exec, “How can we make more money for our Disney overlords?”
Some rando in the Star Wars planning meetings, “Throw in a fluffy penguin/owl thing. Kids will love it.”
The Star Wars exec responded, “Brilliant! That probably won’t offend anyone either. Seems PC enough. Let’s do it.”
But to back it up, they actually made them pretty likable in my opinion. Their scenes with Chewy gave me a few solid chuckles. I thought they were a good touch. Speaking of Chewy, I know I have said it previously, but I think he was my second favorite character in this. He’s up there with Rey and Kylo/Ben. Breaking down the door to see Luke? I loved it.
The crystal foxes were interesting too. I can smell a decent amount of revenue coming from merchandising those as well. (For the tattoo lovers: the crystal foxes would make a pretty cool tattoo idea).
The theme of this movie is failure. Ironically, this movie is also a failure in a lot of respects. At least it is better than Attack of the Clones and The Phantom Menace. But don’t forget how low that bar is.
I do like the direction the story is going and there were so many really cool and Star Warsy scenes. Nonetheless, after two viewings with hopefully a third to come, I was pretty disappointed. But I guess that’s just it though, huh? “Hopefully a third to come” might be key there. Maybe I did like it more than I thought. I guess we’ll see.
One thing is for certain, I will never tire of the Millennium Falcon swooping in to save the day.
May the Force be with you.