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Let’s Review: The Last Jedi

 

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is here and the #WaitForVIII is finally over. Clocking in at 2 hours and 32 minutes, this movie works to embrace its epic status in pop culture with the continuing growth of Rey’s Force abilities, Kylo Ren’s inner struggle against what’s left of Ben Solo, and the dire assault against the Rebellion by the overwhelming might of the First Order.

While many reviews and reactions to the film are divided, I felt the movie was a solid addition to the franchise and mythos. It’s by no means flawless, but definitely worth the price of admission. And for me personally, worth that price multiple times on opening weekend.

From here on out, I may reference specifics from the film, so if you’d like to stay spoiler-free, please come back after seeing it and let’s talk about if you agree or disagree with the review!

You’ve been Spoiler Warned!

 

It’s virtually impossible to not draw comparisons to other Star Wars movies when trying to decide on how The Last Jedi should be considered. The original trilogy broke new ground and found its way, the prequels had their ending already written, and that leaves the most recent trilogy in strangely uncharted territory. The Force Awakens was very much a homage-filled love letter to the original films and drew heavy comparisons to A New Hope. Did that mean that The Last Jedi was going to use The Empire Strikes Back as its roadmap?

No, and in all the ways that were designed to leave you a little uncomfortable and maybe a bit confused. Empire was considered the thematic “low point” with the heroes being so beaten down that hope was at its dimmest point. There’s also a training sequence. These are also true in The Last Jedi, but that’s largely where the similarities end. Let’s just say it:

  • Luke dies.
  • The established guidelines for what it means to be a Jedi are abandoned.
  • Snoke dies.
  • Kylo Ren’s rise to power is no longer with the goal of being a great Sith Lord like his grandfather.
  • No one lost a hand or other appendage.

Clearly, there are risks being taken here to completely alter what you theoretically know and love about the fundamental building blocks of the Star Wars mythos so far and I completely understand that not sitting well with many fans. However, I think we can reexamine things and see that drastic change makes sense and is even necessary for the story.

In the original trilogy, an uprising that destroys the status quo of the Dark Side’s rule was needed. In the prequels, we saw that an uprising had to bring down the Jedi and the rule of the Light Side. Both times it was to keep a balance, to change and make way for growth and evolution. In this new series, the ways of the Jedi AND Sith are now legend…and the new status quo.

When we first met Luke in the original trilogy, he challenged the ideas of his training to become a Jedi in a non-traditional way. Anakin does the same in the prequels, going so far as to start a family which is forbidden. Quite possibly to avoid the power level we now see in Kylo Ren. Now, we have Rey. She knows what she thinks a Jedi should be, but in not falling into line she is, in fact, becoming the future of the Jedi Order. If it can even be defined as such anymore. Qui-Gon knew this, Yoda eventually embraced this during his time on Degoba, and now Luke is forced to accept it, too. Luke telling Rey “This is not going to go the way you think” is the most foretelling line in the film.

Adam Driver’s take on Kylo Ren is still that of someone who can’t control their emotions. It’s labeled childish by others, but he has equal moments of utter calm balanced by irrational rage that hint that there’s something more than just a tantrum being thrown. Daisy Ridley’s Rey may seem to be much more composed, but as Luke says, she goes “right to the Dark.” They literally complete each other’s movements in the massive saber fight in Snoke’s throne room. Balance.

It might sound overly philosophical up to this point, but there’s something else that’s surprisingly prominent in The Last Jedi – humor. It seems strange, but the “end” of the Jedi is a lot easier to handle when Luke has developed a similar sarcasm towards his unwanted pupil as Yoda had with him. (Mark Hamill is pitch-perfect in delivering annoyed-old-man jokes.) The Rebellion being so totally out-gunned is not as depressing when Poe, sitting in an X-Wing, still has the fire to insult Hux while facing off against his Star Destroyer. And at their lowest point, when there seems to be nothing left, no one has earned the right to crack a joke about her hair more than Carrie Fisher as General, Doctor, Princess Leia Organa.

Jedi Master Luke Skywalker doesn’t make Dad Jokes…he trains them.

 

To be fair, the movie is far from perfect. And that’s OK! It should not be expected to either be the best of the franchise or the worst. It’s not all or nothing. There is a balance…

Sorry, got carried away.

But I do want to point out a few moments that, personally, felt like they worked against the movie’s quality. I like Finn, he as a character is interesting and John Boyega as an actor is charismatic. I like the new addition of Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico. However, their entire sub-plot of going to the gambling planet felt outright pointless. As much as there were homages paid to the original trilogy, this scene felt like an homage to the prequels (and not in a good way) with the overly-flashy CGI, the heavy-handed message of money and corruption, and the introduction of Benicio Del Toro as the codebreaker DJ. I’m sure he’ll probably come into play in Episode IX, but here it was just a way to extend the movie and became its weakest point.

Additionally, the death of Laura Dern’s Vice Admiral Holdo, while awesome in execution, felt like an error. She was a powerful and highly intelligent leader, you come to learn, and I wanted to see more of her clashing with the headstrong fighters like Poe Dameron. It simply felt like wasted potential in both a valuable character and a skilled performer.

Laura Dern as Holdo. Holding the door open for the Rebellion.

 

Finally, and I actually can’t believe I’m saying this, but while I always wanted to see Leia embrace her own Force abilities, seeing her come back to life while floating around outside of the damaged cruiser and doing a strange witchy-flying thing through the vacuum of space and back to the safety of the ship just did not feel like the right way to express those powers. There was obviously no way to know what would happen in real life at the time, but had Leia died and Holdo risen, that would have been a great way to go about the story. However, I also can appreciate that killing off both of the remaining members of the original three (human) heroes might make the Nerd Rage become Nerd Revolt.

On a final personal note, I want to briefly talk about the ending. The only redeeming factor of the gambling planet was the introduction of a group of slave children, one of which Rose gives her Rebellion insignia ring to. We see him again, listening to the story of Luke Skywalker before being hustled off to do chores. When alone, he reaches for his broom and it comes to him. It maybe moves only a foot, but it’s definitely the Force. He does it casually with no seeming realization that this is a Big Deal. He then looks to the sky and in his hands the broom is held like Luke holding a lightsaber. I can’t tell you how many times growing up I turned brooms into lightsabers. I loved that.

Please, sound off on what you liked and disliked about The Last Jedi and let’s talk! If you’d like more of a detailed breakdown of the movie and its ideas from us, let us know.

I give Star Wars: The Last Jedi a solid 4.5 of 5 stars. I felt that it was well-shot, well-acted, and took some needed risks. It wasn’t perfect, but still has earned its place in the Star Wars universe.

 

Our General, our Doctor, our Princess. Oh, and on her left is Jedi Master Luke Skywalker.

Matthew Wells

I was born at an early age. It didn't last. I once was almost punched by one of Jackie Chan's bodyguards - which probably means I wasn't ready for the Final Boss. I was also an extra in two episodes of LOST. The catering was phenomenal.