So I’m told a little movie came out this week? You might have heard of it- Star Wars: The Last Jedi. This latest edition in the Star Wars saga has pleased most people and critics while disappointing a small, yet always with the internet, vocal minority. So, what do I think you ask? Well, I think it is the first Star Wars movie to 100% embrace its fantasy origins, and I liked it fine. I guess I’m somewhere in between masterpiece and worst movie ever- as most films are. Let’s put it this way- it’s no Force Awakens, but I was entertained enough (ps. I love the Force Awakens. I think outside of Wonder Woman it is one of the most rousing, fun blockbusters in recent memory).
I guess the problems with the Last Jedi didn’t bother me like some people because I have already dealt with a disappointing film in Rogue One and came out of it still loving the franchise. I think Last Jedi is a step up from Rogue One in pretty much every way but it does have some of its problems (and some new ones all its own).
Let’s talk about it:
In Force Awakens we left Rey meeting Luke on the island of Ahch-To, and that’s where things pick up for her in Last Jedi. She wants to be trained by Luke and recruit him to help the rebellion but he is not interested. Luke is a confusing character in this film. Much like Saw Gerrera in Rogue One I felt the screenplay couldn’t quite decide if he was a monster or a hero. It swung a lot, which was more frustrating than intriguing. Mark Hammil is up for the challenge of the role and does a great job but it was confusing. I hope repeated viewings will clarify that character arc for me.
The best part of The Last Jedi by far is the performance of Daisy Ridley as Rey and her interactions with Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren. I was nervous about this from the trailer but it completely worked for me. I never would have thought those characters would have had such chemistry, but I was honestly rooting for both of them. The energy and connection between them was palpable and really worked. We also learn things about Rey that I have no doubt disappointed fanboys with their elaborate theories, but I thought it was cool. It’s very impressive that director Rian Johnson was able to move me from hating the killer of Han Solo to rooting for the guy!
At the same time Rey is having her adventure several other plotlines are going on. We get more information about Poe Dameron and find out that he operates on gut instinct, which can be both admirable and reckless. General Leia is concerned about his behavior and even demotes him. This is great because we see both the strength of Leia and the loyal, fearsome nature of Poe. Oscar Isaac has charisma in spades and is so great as Poe. I could have watched him all day.
Finn is back from Force Awakens and is joined by a new character named Rose who challenges his lack of loyalty to the Resistance (at times the modern resist messaging felt a little heavy handed). The two of them are sent to a planet by Maz Kanata to try and find a code breaker who can help them disable a First Order tracking device. I liked these characters but it is probably the weakest part of the film. I didn’t hate it as much as some but it was weak. I loved scenes in this section of children playing with dolls and telling each other the story of the Rebellion. This is the true essence of Star Wars- inspiring young kids to be better and dream more.
There is also action in Last Jedi that should make any Star Wars fan happy. A couple of light saber battles in particular are exhilarating. Rey and Kylo face off against Supreme Leader Snoke and my jaw was on the floor. It was awesome (I’m telling you anything with those two was amazing. Note to Lucasfilm- don’t abandon that pairing!).
BB8 returned and was completely adorable once again. Some may call it fan service but I don’t care. I thought it was delightful. Also C-3PO and R2D2 were used more effectively in this film than in The Force Awakens.
The last act of Last Jedi has some problems and makes confusing choices but it still entertained me. I didn’t care for Laura Dern as Admiral Holdo and felt her dialogue was very clunky. It reminded me of the prequels to be honest. I also felt that she took away moments of strength that Leia should have had. I also felt the way things finish for Luke should have been the ending for Leia. It was emotional to say goodbye to Leia for sure, but I don’t know if the movie really allowed me to say goodbye the way I hoped.
The biggest issue for me with Last Jedi is like I said the full embrace of fantasy over science fiction. There is literally a scene where a character uses the force to stay alive in space and float/fly back to a ship remaining alive. I used to see the force as more of a priesthood than a super power. It was the kind of strength the prophets of the Bible had which allowed them to part seas and destroy evil idols. However, it did not allow them to fly or go unharmed into blaster fire or combat. In Rogue One we saw the force being used as a super power and this has continued in abundance in Last Jedi.
In the end, with Last Jedi it comes down to what you like from Star Wars. My favorite was always the original Star Wars (now coined ‘A New Hope’) because it was a rousing space adventure that made you cheer at the end. This is why I loved Force Awakens so much. It was tightly paced and edited with a true heroes journey that inspired me.
However, if you love Star Wars for the world building, mythos and lore than Last Jedi will be more up your ally. I enjoyed it and look forward to seeing it again but it was a more challenging watch than I anticipated. It’s messy and long but if I was a big fantasy person I would probably love it, flaws and all. I will keep pondering particularly Luke’s journey and my grade may rise over time but for now I give the Last Jedi:
Overall Grade- B-