It’s no secret that I walked out of The Force Awakens scratching my head thinking: That was shit! Rey, Finn, Kylo, and Snookie, did nothing for me. The plot was weak, uninspired and, puts on the gloves, – Max Landis was right – Rey was a Mary Sue. The leads didn’t have that spark that made, Leia, Han and Luke so damn loveable from the start.
Does The Last Jedi solve this? Not really.
For better or worse, the best way to describe The Last Jedi would be to say that it takes the best bits of Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi and mashes them into one. The film does answer some “burning” questions from The Force Awakens in a rather anti-climatic way (you wont be impressed by Rey’s parents). But it offers a nice cameo and call backs to the original trilogy without feeling too…forced.
Surprisingly there is a title crawl that isn’t just recapping The Force Awakens, but everything in the title crawl takes place while Rey and Chewie are on route to Luke’s Lonely Island. The Empire…I mean Fist Order have taken over, again, and the Rebels…I mean Resistance are crumbling rapidly. Meanwhile Rey is still standing before Luke waiting for him to accept his old lightsaber.
Though The Last Jedi does a better job handling the characters of Rey (less of a Mary Sue), Finn (has inside knowledge) and Kylo (little less emo), I still feel no connection to them. The movie spends too much time waiting for Kylo or Luke to just tell Rey what really happened when Kylo turned evil. Just as the film spends too much time with Rey wandering Luke’s Lonely Island waiting for him to decide if he’s going to help Rey or the Resistance. Sadly Rey and Finn’s narrative could be cut from the movie entirely and it wouldn’t have much effect on the plot. Chewie with a message from Leia asking for Luke’s help would have been the only spur he needed to return.
I did find myself enjoying a more expanded Poe. The way his character and Leia played off each other was great. Leia likes her stubborn hotshots. Also his back and forth with Admiral Holdo was fun. I liked Poe’s impatience and constant near screw-ups of the entire mission and misunderstanding of events orchestrated by Leia and Holdo, because he’s too ready aim fire. But what really sold me was that I felt his frustration. I felt as stuck in the story as he was.
Franchise new comer Rose was also good. Though her sister died pointlessly if you ask me. Rose helped Finn’s character feel useful in a subplot that was useless. These two play off each other much better than Finn and Rey. Rose felt like a well-rounded person. She was smart, sweet, funny and courageous. But Rose stopping Finn from sacrificing himself for the Resistance, by nearly killing him (and her!) when she crashed her ship into his, was frustrating and frankly stupid. The film missed a trick by not allowing Finn to sacrifice himself as it would have concluded his story of redemption and fear of death nicely. And I guess the new Star Wars trope is to have a near-dead hero at the end who may or may not live to the next film…i.e. Rose. But if she does not survive I’ll be disappointed. It’s just a waste her main storyline was unimportant to the film’s narrative.
The return of Luke Skywalker is much overdo. He needed to be in The Force Awakens. Mark Hamill is brilliant and perfect in this film. His aged and grumpy Luke Skywalker is spectacular. I loved every scene with Luke and I connected with his feelings. That said, I do understand Hamill questioning Luke’s direction in this movie. While Hamill is aces, and Luke does get to do some pretty great stuff, I felt he needed to enter the picture sooner and get off that damn lonely island. There is a cool Force trick that allows for this and for Luke and Leia to have a reconnecting. I do feel it was too soon to turn Luke into a force-ghost, as he does the Yoda disappearing act at the end; i.e. why it was even more frustrating he never left the island!
Where the film drags are the moments where Rey is crying about her parent, Kylo crying about Luke not liking him and Finn and Rose’s mission to space casino. I struggled to care about these threads. A big letdown is Supreme Leader Gollum…I mean Snoke. Without learning anything about him, Kylo kills him and assumes the title of Supreme Leader. Snoke offers nothing to the plot, or to Star Wars mythos, other than to be “evil deformed guy in the chair”. He’s redundant. It would have been more interesting had Kylo risen to power without the help of a deformed mastermind. The runtime is too long. 80% of the film is a slow chase through space (why can’t another Star Destroyer jump out of light-speed nearer the rebel ship and blow it up?) and Rey learning the force (it’s like the movie tried to make up for her being a Mary Sue). It needed to be trimmed down by a good 40min. There was a growing impatience by the end. There are about three points where the film could end but keeps going. Plus the closer it got to the real end the more frustrated I got Luke hadn’t turned up. And is it just me or is Chewie just terribly awkward to have around now that Han is dead? Finally, some of the jokes really did not land. The “Can you hear me?” gag and Finn calling Phasma (another redundant character) “Chrome Dome” were super cringe. I sighed and rolled my eyes in my seat at them both.
The Last Jedi offers some pretty spectacular battles and lightsaber duels. You won’t be disappointed by that, and it finally gives us a Leia who is in touch with the Force…which again makes her lack of involvement in the Force Awakens even more frustrating. Overall, The Last Jedi is better than the Force Awakens, but at times it feels a little too similar to Empire and Return. The plot lacks a certain logic and certain subplots are hugely irrelevant. There’s a lot of ‘this is here because it’s Star Wars,’ and doesn’t try to push the franchise into new territory. The music is beautiful, the aesthetic looks very Star Wars, and the Porgs and Ice Dogs were nowhere nears as annoying as I thought they’d be. So there’s that. In many ways, I wish this was Episode VII as it had enough call backs without being so weighed down by a complete plot rehash like The Force Awakens. Knowing JJ is back in the directors chair for Episode IX has me worried. His track recored for sequels isn’t very good. But ultimately, watching the Kylo/Rey lightsaber battle just made me wish I was watching a movie about the Solo kids off on space adventures unrelated to rebels, empire, and ruling the galaxy.
I reluctantly do recommend this movie. It’s not anything special, it is entertaining, some characters are fun, and I loved seeing Luke and Leia. But The Last Jedi is a firm reminder how limited Star Wars really is.
What did you think of The Last Jedi? Share your thoughts below.
Luke Kuhns is crime fiction author with an MA in Creative Writing from Kingston University.