I know I wasn’t the only one who shelled it out for the midnight iMax showing of The Last Jedi–the eighth film of the most iconic sci-fi series of all time. And I also know I wasn’t the only one who found it a little bit disappointing upon closer analysis in the taxi home (spoiler-free review).
It is a visually stunning film and it’s Star Wars–don’t get me wrong, I liked it. If you’ve not seen it, you should.
But I did have a few issues with the complicated plot.
I considered trying to write a spoiler-free review, but that would make it difficult to get specific about the plot from a literary viewpoint–the entire point of this post. So prepare yourself.
(WARNING–contains spoilers. A lot of them.)
Synopsis of The Last Jedi:
Rey finally meets Luke and attempts to get him to train her in the ways of the Jedi, whilst Leia Organa and the rest of the Star Wars Rebellion flee from the First Order.
My overall impression is that it has an excellent start, with a space battle between the First Order and the rebel fleet, but then dissolves into a foray of sequences which, whilst many of them are important and bring something to the plot, fail to fit together as neatly as most of their predecessor films. The Last Jedi is a fast-paced film, almost too fast in some places, where I felt the emotional tone of the scene would have benefitted from a longer pause before cutting to the next action sequence. But I can almost excuse that because it’s already a long film. Luke throws multiple surprises at us throughout the film, with his opinions on the Jedi, his past actions, and what he chooses to do about it. It is very much his film, just as The Force Awakens was Han’s. It had more comedy than I’m used to seeing in a Star Wars film, some of which I liked, some of which I hated.
What they did right:
- The weird Force connection between Rey and Ben/Kylo. This was an excellent way to show the conflicting feelings in both characters. It was a new way for the Force to work, but it built on old rules, so I feel it was entirely believable. It added a tense aspect, whilst giving much-needed moments for the audience to breathe in-between the fast action sequences. I liked the ambiguity as well–was it truly Snoke doing this or was he just taking advantage? Was it Rey? Or was it the Force trying to say something? Whatever it was, it was also a good choice giving these two powerful actors more screen time together–their tense energy arguably made the entire film.
- The mirror sequence with Rey in that spooky hole. I liked the link to The Empire Strikes Back, one of my favorite films in the series, and I think there are many ways the mirrors could be interpreted. Who is Rey? Is it true what they said about her parents in a later scene? Do the many Reys symbolize that she’s not alone, or that she is–simply a sheep following in the steps of every Jedi before her?
- The back and forth discussion between Poe and General Hux at the very beginning. It’s a nice moment for Poe, reminding us of his quick wit and fearless nature–taking the mic out of General Hux–before his mutiny went terribly wrong and resulted in a blaster shot from our favourite princess. Technology always works in Star Wars, so I found Poe’s ‘faulty connection’ game surprising and hilarious–I think this was a bold decision on the director’s part, and I think it was executed well.
What they did wrong:
The comedy. I love laughing. I love comedies. Most people do. But Star Wars has never struck me as a comedy. The humour comes from well-timed lines, C3-P0s slightly faulty social skills, and the occasional beautiful slap-stick moment. There were some of my favourite Star Wars funny moments in The Last Jedi, but there was just too much comedy for such a serious-seeming story.
- Leia’s ‘suddenly I have power’ moment. Yes, it would have been a bit odd killing her off so early. The moment itself was beautiful from a literary point–we see Kylo’s inner struggle and his inability to pull the trigger–but it’s well known that you can’t just suddenly give a character special powers for a single scene and then never mention them again. It pulled me out of the story and made me question what was going on. It was also a weird CGI moment, as well, in my opinion.
- They killed Phasma. This one’s just a personal complaint. I simply wanted to hear more of Phasma’s story. There’s never been a ‘shiny’ stormtrooper before–why does she get such status? Are there more like her? And how did she get to be in her position? In a way, she seems like Bobo Fett from the original trilogy–cool character that causes occasional annoyance for our protagonists and then dies. But it worked for him–he didn’t raise so many questions and we actually do get to hear his story in Attack of the Clones. I want to know Phasma’s story, and I wanted to see her interact with more of the characters.
- They didn’t kill Fin. Okay, I know this is controversial and don’t get me wrong–I love his character (and saving him resulted in a very cute kiss scene). The Force Awakens engineered a beautiful character arch for Fin, and who doesn’t think he’s the sweetest ex-storm trooper of all time? But that’s just the problem. He had his character arch. Call to adventure (or abandonment), meeting the mentor (Han Solo), refusing the call (choosing to abandon Rey and run from the First Order instead), starting the journey (flying with Han and Chewie to disable the shields), and selflessly getting light-sabered in the back by Kylo to protect what matters most to him–his friends. Now what? Did he show something new to us in The Last Jedi? No, I don’t think he did. He escaped with a mechanic on a slightly pointless mission to find ‘the codebreaker’. Sure, it was interesting–it was Fin. But just when I thought we weren’t going to get any new developments from him, he surprised us by flying his ship straight into certain-death. I was on the edge of my seat with bated breath, watching the gorgeously done shot of his face with the rebel base in the background–you could tell in his eyes, he was ready. This was how it was going to end. And because he was ready, I was too. Ready to see the director do something I thought they wouldn’t ever dare to–ready to even shed a tear, maybe. But no. Oh no. Haha–thought we were really going to kill Fin, didn’t you? I was disappointed, not because I wanted him to die, but because I wanted to be shocked, and by saving him, the plot became predictable.
- The whole wild ‘codebreaker’ chase. Why was this entire sequence even in the film? Besides being the most Disney thing ever, it brought nothing to the plot. Yes, I loved the llama/fox-horse things and I want one (falthiers–I just googled), but I’m not even sure why they were searching for a codebreaker in the first place–what happened to the good old art of blowing things up?
I’m willing to admit that my frustration with this sequence could be partly due to disappointment. At first, I hoped this ‘codebreaker’ would turn out to be Lando. Nope. Okay, wait–they’ve run into some homeless guy… I wanted that dude to be Lando Calrisian so much–it would have been such an ironic twist that would have made the entire sequence of events more worthwhile. But no, what are we left with in the end? A handful of random jokes and a ‘lesson’ that sometimes people are neither good nor bad, just opportunistic. In my opinion, this isn’t Star Wars. I don’t want rooms full of glittery people and some hobo who ultimately proves you just shouldn’t talk to strangers. I wanted spaceships and… well–meaningful character encounters.
All things considered, The Last Jedi was a brave installment that overall did feel (mostly) like Star Wars. Unfortunately, they didn’t manage to pull off a lot of the director’s decisions, and they just became moments of bad storytelling. Also, if we look at the overall character stories, most of them are in the exact same place, character-wise, as they were in the beginning.
But, would I see The Last Jedi again?