Two years ago, J.J. Abrams reintroduced us to the Star Wars universe, mixing classic characters with the next generation. The stench of the prequels was washed away in one fell swoop as characters like Rey, Poe, Finn and BB-8 helped to usher in a new era. The Force Awakens left us with many questions, and The Last Jedi has finally arrived to answer them.
(Warning: this review contains spoilers!)
Before getting into my likes and dislikes, I want to mention that my expectations for this film were very high. I tried my best to avoid watching the countless number of TV spots that were being released and really only watched the first two trailers so that I didn’t have anything spoiled. Avoiding early reviews from the lucky film critics was also a chore, especially with Variety posting a careless review mentioning plenty of spoilers that drew the ire of other film pundits. With all of this out of the way, let’s get into my likes and dislikes.
There were certainly plenty of things to like about this film. The opening scene’s space battle immediately hooked me and brought me back to this galaxy that is so very far away. Seeing Leia onscreen again, especially after the death of Carrie Fisher, brought back “the feels”. Carrie’s presence is so much more pronounced in TLJ and Leia really gets a chance to shine.
We finally got to meet Supreme Leader Snoke in the flesh. His malformed features, creepy voice, and raw power had all the makings of a great villain. I really enjoyed how he served as a puppet master pulling the strings of Kylo Ren behind the scenes.
Speaking of Kylo, Adam Driver does a great job portraying this character. We saw his inner turmoil in TFA as he struggled with his temptation with going back to the light side, though killing his father, Han Solo, did him no favors. We see this play out even more in TLJ as his connection to Rey becomes stronger. I found it so interesting at how they were able to use the Force to seemingly astral project themselves during conversations. There were a few times where the audience was made to think he really was turning back to the light side, only to turn heel again. He had a lot of great moments with Rey and with Luke.
We got to learn about Luke’s and Kylo’s relationship, seeing the events of their training together play out further than the flashbacks shown in TFA. On the subject of Luke, he’s a beaten down shell of himself after the destruction of his Jedi Temple and the murders of his students at the hands of Kylo. I loved getting both Luke’s side and Kylo’s side of the story and how Rey struggled to find the truth in what actually happened. Luke’s character was very complex, going from an unwilling teacher to how he ends up at the end of the film. His arc comes full-circle from the original trilogy, but may leave fans upset or dissatisfied, which I’ll get into later.
Aside from the characters I mentioned above, there were also plenty of great action and battle scenes, character interactions, and exposition from Luke on his feelings about the Jedi, but there were also a lot of things I disliked or felt made little sense.
First off, I didn’t care for Finn’s part in this film whatsoever. If his role was removed from the film the outcome would have stayed exactly the same. His main mission with newcomer, Rose, was to travel to the casino city of Canto Bight to enlist the help of a code breaker to disable the tracking system on Snoke’s ship. They ultimately failed the mission and made things worse after being betrayed by Benicio Del Toro’s character, DJ. The amount of time spent on these sequences took away time that could have been spent further exploring Jedi mythology. Finn was also prepared to sacrifice himself to save the remnants of the Rebellion at the end of the film, but Rose stops his actions, allowing the First Order troops to gain access to the Rebel Base on Krayt.
With all of the buildup surrounding Snoke, his death at the hands of Kylo seemed out of place, especially since we didn’t get a lot of scenes involving Snoke. It’s difficult to understand Kylo’s true motivations for his actions. It all seems to boil down to him wanting to rule the Galaxy hand-in-hand with Rey, and his constant flip-flopping detracts from his ambitions. Snoke does reveal that he’s had a hand in developing the Kylo/Rey relationship, but it’s never really revealed why he was doing so.
Some of the other things that bugged me were the Porgs. They served no purpose other than to sell toys. I don’t understand why every time new creatures are shown they have to appear as cute, cuddly, big-eyed things. It’s distracting and unnecessary. There was also a lot of humor that fell flat for me, especially in the beginning when Poe sends his transmission to General Hux. It just doesn’t fit within the context of the universe this film takes place in. I also feel like Poe didn’t have much to do other than argue with Vice Admiral Holdo, though his opening space battle was fun.
Though we got to see some new Force-related actions like the astral projecting and Leia’s ability to survive an explosion and floating in space, nothing was explained. There were so many cool moments that could have had more of an impact if we had context as to how they were possible. We were shown the Jedi texts (Journal of the Wills) on Ahch To but weren’t told what was in them. Yoda’s cameo basically says they were boring.
Finally, we come to Luke’s apparent death. After astral projecting and fighting with Kylo on Krayt, giving the Rebels a chance to escape, we see Luke back on Ahch To where he eventually vanishes into thin air. It’s not clear if he truly died, but it was reminiscent of Obi Wan’s death in A New Hope, where his vanished after being struck down by Vader. If Luke is truly gone, it was an unsatisying, unceremonious end for arguably the biggest character in the Star Wars franchise. I have a feeling he will return as a force ghost, however.
After seeing this film for the first time, I found myself having mixed feelings. There were a lot of cool moments including the fight with Rey, Kylo and the Praetorian Guards, but other than that we didn’t get much lightsaber action. Kylo’s mixed motivations also make me fearful for Episode 9, as he will seemingly be the “big bad” with Snoke out of the picture. Yoda’s cameo was perfect, harkening back to his initial introduction in The Empire Strikes Back.
I just feel like this film could have been so much better if there was more of a focus on the Force-side of things. We should have gotten more interaction with Rey and Luke. We should have gotten more of Kylo’s backstory and his involvement with the Knights of Ren. And when Rey’s parentage was finally revealed, it was a huge letdown and really took away from the connection between her and Kylo.
I’m sure there are plenty of plot points that I haven’t mentioned, plots that I didn’t discuss, and things I flat-out missed, but this film will require additional viewings to really give me a clearer picture of how I really thought about it. Not a bad movie, but also not a great movie.