It’s been a week since the eighth installment of everyone’s favourite space opera hit the theatres, and while critics have generally concluded it’s one of the best Star Wars films ever, Star Wars: The Last Jedi has fans divided. Many point to Rian Johnson’s writing and vision for the film, which took on a new approach than we’ve previously seen. While a large majority of fans expected to see an Empire Strikes Back rehash much like the New Hope revamp we saw in The Force Awakens, Johnson went a completely different route, creating what almost felt like the conclusion of a trilogy rather than a bridge-gap film for the next installment.
WARNING: There will be spoilers mentioned in this article, I’ll begin with my spoiler-free review first.
First off, this is the best shot Star Wars film ever. It’s not even close. From the mirrors scene with Rey on Ahch-To, to the stunning red salt on the crystal planet of Crait, there are many scenes that are visually stunning. There’s also a scene where there’s about twenty seconds of dead silence, leaving the audience to gaze at the spectacular scene unfolding in front of them. Even the settings where stunning in their own way. Snoke’s lair was intimidating, while many fans are divided about the gambling planet of Canto Bight, there are also some pretty fascinating interior shots of the casino, definitely unexpected from a Star Wars film.
What also makes this film standout, is the incredible acting from Adam Driver as Kylo Ren. While he wore his mask for a large chunk of The Force Awakens, Rian Johnson decided to let Ren ditch the helmet in The Last Jedi, which was a brilliant move, as we once again saw the inner conflict within Kylo Ren tear him apart. Also, me and fellow contributor Nathan Hutton agreed that Kylo Ren is the best written Star Wars character, ever. While we’ve still got one film left to ultimately figure out the conclusion of Ren’s story arc, to this point, it’s been nothing short of fantastic. Once I get to my spoiler part I’ll be able to elaborate on this more, but at this point this entire trilogy feels centered around Kylo Ren, not Rey, which is where some people might be falsely accusing the film.
I went back and watched The Force Awakens last night, and I’m torn whether I prefer J.J. Abrams film or Rian Johnson’s newest take. What I believe it really comes down to is; Abrams’ whole vision was for The Force Awakens to be a crowd pleaser, and drew back from the well of A New Hope in order to satisfy both old fans, and the younger fans as well, intertwining call backs like Han Solo and the millennium falcon while introducing our new heroes like Rey, Finn, Poe Dameron and BB-8. As mentioned before, Johnson didn’t follow suit and went his own path, which will forever be a controversial decision. I still think The Force Awakens is more fun to just sit down and watch whenever, but The Last Jedi makes you focus much more on the story and dialogue compared to the previous film.
I went back and forth about how I felt about Finn and Rose’s adventures in the movie, it often felt a lot like filler while Rey and Luke’s story line carried a lot more weight and had a better chemistry as well. There was certain points in the movie where I was done with Finn and Rose’s part in the movie, and simply wanted to go back to Luke and Rey or Kylo instead. I also had a couple “why” moments with the pacing of this film as well. It feels like the First Order is just letting the Resistance get away from them for a large chunk of this film, why wouldn’t they just send another fleet in the opposite direction to catch the last of the Resistance? Why doesn’t the Resistance come up with a plan until half way through the movie? There was a lot of questionable motives in the movie, and I’m sure they could’ve cut out 15 or 20 minutes of a lengthy screen time just by shortening some of these scenes.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD, STOP READING IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED THE FILM YET.
Okay, I understand certain people’s gripes about The Last Jedi. I cringed when I saw Leia fly through space like Superman, I’m not going to lie to you. Most fans are up in arms about the comedy in the film, but I had no problem with it. It was Disney comedy, don’t get me wrong, some of the lines felt like they were grabbed straight out of the Avengers’ films, but I think a bit of humour isn’t a bad thing, especially with the Caretakers on Ahch-To. While some people cried foul about Luke making some jokes and being “different than the Luke we all know,” the writing was on the wall since the first scene where Luke throws the lightsaber off the cliff. I for one was glad we didn’t have the goody-two-shoe farm-boy Luke from the original trilogy, Mark Hamill’s latest take on the character was very well done, and he plays the damaged hero to a tee. Some people have called the new Luke a “coward” for hiding away and refusing to go back to the real world, but it all makes sense the way Johnson spins it.
On top of that, Luke’s actions of trying to kill Kylo Ren on an instinct gives Kylo more of a reason for being against Luke and the Resistance. Add on top of that, Kylo killed his own leader in order to be with Rey and rule together, just for Rey to turn her back on him and throw away everything he just did. It’s such a fascinating conflict between Kylo and Rey, and Luke for that matter, it has to be one of the best story lines in Star Wars history.
I thought the final battle was well thought out, and it makes sure that Mark Hamill will return in Episode 9, which they’ll need since they won’t have Carrie Fisher to reprise her role. Some people were hoping for one last big hurrah from Luke in an intense lightsaber battle, but instead we got the exact opposite, a diversion for the Resistance to escape, much like what Ben Kenobi did for Luke and the gang back in A New Hope, had the same feel to it minus a few hacks.
Snoke was another downside for me in this film. It really did feel like Rian Johnson simply didn’t care for the character that J.J. Abrams created, so he just decided to kill him off rather than save him for another movie. All that mystery created in the Force Awakens about Snoke’s background and his rise to power, completely gone with one swift trick from Kylo Ren. And while Nathan pointed out that they’ll probably explain his importance in a book at some point, it wasn’t good enough for me. It was supposed to be a major twist in the plot, and because I didn’t really care about Snoke or see his major importance rather than just being “that big bad guy,” I didn’t really get the full impact of the moment as I maybe should have.
Another writing issue people have, is Rey’s background, which I don’t actually have a problem with, although I get why fans are upset. All throughout The Force Awakens, Rey talks about waiting for her parents to return to Jakku, and while Maz tells her that deep down she knows they’re not coming back, for Kylo to flat out tell Rey her origins, and that she knew it the whole time, kinda feels a little bit like a let down, just because it now comes across as a waste of time if you re-watch The Force Awakens and spend ten minutes sitting there while Rey tries to figure out her past, when she actually knows it the whole time. Movies are fun.
Now, people are upset that Rey has no heritage that ties in with famous jedi or sith that have been previously highlighted from the past trilogies, but I’m fine with her origins meaning nothing of importance. Honestly, I’d feel it would be a broken record for Rey and Kylo to be siblings, or Rey be a Kenobi or Skywalker somewhere down the line, just because George Lucas has gone that direction so many times before. And for those who gripe about that, just look at Kylo Ren. He’s the one who has all your heritage, and that’s another point of why I truly believe this trilogy is centered around Kylo Ren, not Rey. Also, not sure why they cast such a big name as Benecio Del Toro to play such a minor role, really felt like he didn’t get enough screen time or impact he probably should have.
I’m still trying to figure out where I’d rank this film amongst the rest of the Star Wars films, but I can already tell you I enjoyed it more than any of the prequels or Rogue One. The Last Jedi has it’s issues, but its story arc between Luke, Rey and Kylo Ren makes up where it faltered, and continued the momentum that the current trilogy has built since arriving back in 2015.