Star Wars: The Last Jedi is perhaps the most emotionally driven entry yet, held back by shortcomings that damage an otherwise stellar experience. This adds to the copy-and-pasted ground that The Force Awakens built to create something new. It features an original plot with twists and turns that play with fan expectations in clever ways.
The Last Jedi picks up with Rey (Daisy Ridley) seeking training from Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). Meanwhile, Finn (John Boyega) wakes from severe wounds to face imminent death as the rebels are on their last legs trying to escape the First Order. There is a thick tension as the rebel cruiser ship runs on fumes, while Finn and engineer Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) race for a code breaker that could save them elsewhere.
Making it believable that everyone might not make it out is an incredible feat the movie achieves. The whole theater sounded like Darth Vader with all the heavy breathing happening in each seat. This wouldn’t work if not for the strong dialogue making you invested in what happens. When Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) gets fired up about Amilyn Holdo’s orders, you’re ready to fight her too.
Problems Keeping It Up
It wouldn’t be a Star Wars flick without hearing the buzz of two sabers clashing, which makes this a disappointment in that regard. The second of the trilogy having barely any lightsaber fights was heart-aching.
Every time a dueling scene gets good, it abruptly ends as if it has performance anxiety. I kind of wanted to take the movie aside, pat it on the back and say, “It’s okay. Take two years and we’ll try this again.”
The biggest letdown was the Luke vs. Kylo duel, being built up the entire movie and then ending anti-climatically. I almost wanted to wait for the after credits to see if that is where they misplaced the duel.
Luke’s subsequent death came as a “really?” moment. He basically just bested an entire army by himself, only to die of exhaustion. The joke about Padmé dying of a broken heart has nothing on the joke this ending pulled.
Episode 1 touts an epic score coupled by a gripping two-on-one fight against Darth Maul. Meanwhile, Episode 8 helps to cement the prequels being better in the fight department than the rest.
Luke is as charming as he ever was in the originals; his first scene picks up from the last movie as Rey quickly learns he is an old man who doesn’t give a damn anymore. That makes their dynamic fun.
Returning after decades away from playing Luke, Hamill brings a menacing undertone from his role as the Joker at points that make you wonder what broke him.
Rey is boring. The fact that she has no last name is fitting since her parents probably fell asleep while naming her. She is not a very compelling protagonist to follow. However, Ridley provides a great performance despite what she is given. Her conflicted expressions when Kylo tries to turn her were wonderful.
The Best of the Best
Unforgettable moments pop up involving people like Holdo. Her sacrifice in tearing the ship through enemy fleets has to be the most awesome use of hyperdrive ever. The move left the room speechless and deserves a sports play-by-play.
The cinematography is spectacular; there are so many shots that could be in an art gallery. There are strong images that tell a story without saying a single world. Luke tranquilly sitting at a twin sunset or Rey staring into a raging sea is simply beautiful.
The threat of the New Order is felt throughout the story. It’s not just said how dangerous they are; they show it. Stormtroopers may miss all their shots, but their numbers, cunning and weapons make it hard to see a happy ending. I’m glad they won this battle since their plan was ingenious and the rebels winged it.
There is a rich depth of characters utilized here that the last film didn’t. We get to know Poe for more than just a few slick lines. Poe grows in an arc more than anyone in learning to be a leader after costing lives at the start.
Cool characters are introduced like Benicio Del Toro’s DJ, who appears just enough to leave a lasting impression. The impression is neither good or bad, but merely neutral as his betrayal of Finn didn’t come off as malicious, or the parting words that spoke volumes on his past.
Del Toro describes him perfectly:
If you grab him by the blade, he’ll cut you. If you grab him by the handle, he can be very, very useful.
They Deserve Better
Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) returns to be a really cool-looking Star Wars toy and nothing more. It’s apparent at this point her shiny armor is meant to blind viewers from how she’s being wasted.
Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is the type of dude to send “rawr” texts and scream at his parents to get out his room like he pays the bills. The Last Jedi excels at showing he isn’t a threat. When it comes to him, we’re just told he’s strong. Jar Jar Binks is more of a threat in his accidental sabotaging of missions than Kylo has ever been to the Rebels in the past two films.
The movie is quite long; you might have to use your vacation days just to finish this. While never boring, there were some scenes that could have been shortened. Filler sections like Finn’s mission take up time. While the mission is important, the journey didn’t feel exciting. Seeing the rebels clinging to life made his mission vital, but the payoff being a “Who Let the Dogs Out” video wasn’t worth it.
The Last Jedi utilizes every character to its own detriment and tries to fit too much. They were so busy with if they could, they never stopped to think if they should.
Episode VIII: The Last Jedi is a Hard Act to Follow
Overall, I’m left thinking about scenes days later, which is a good thing. Yes, it has a lot of problems, but it is still a well-made experience I want to see again – if I had a week to give.
What did you think of the Star Wars: The Last Jedi? Where do you think the next entry will go? Leave your comments below with thoughts and theories.