Finally saw Star Wars: The Last Jedi
today. Although I have been an ardent Star Wars
fan and collector for decades, I have come to abhor crowds in my middle age and decided to wait a few weeks to catch a matinee.
While I now understand why many in fandom would be disturbed by certain aspects of the story, I see no reason for the outrage and divisiveness that The Last Jedi has triggered.
Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill were wonderful. I like Laura Dern, but she reminds me of a soccer mom and I didn’t completely buy into her character of Admiral Holdo.
I was relieved that they dialed back the petulant, callow juvenile that was Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) in The Force Awakens. His repeated temper tantrums and outbursts made him a weak and laughable villain in that film, hardly the intimidating Sith Lord he aspired to be. In the The Last Jedi, Kylo begins that way, but quickly learns to govern his anger during his dealings with Rey (the effervescent Daisy Ridley).
Rose Tico, portrayed by Kelly Marie Tran, was an immediately likable character with heart and determination. Shame they wasted her potential, as well as that of Finn (John Boyega) and DJ (Benicio del Toro). More on that below.
It seemed like they were trying to make Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) fill the void left by Han Solo. The brash man of action. It did not entirely succeed. His insubordination went too far. It wasn’t until the end when he realized that cowboy heroism was not going to win the battle. Otherwise, Poe was also a figure of courage and heart like Rose.
Now we come to the heart of the story. Luke Skywalker (Hamill) is now a different man who seems to have turned his back on the Jedi after years of training and dedication, and after telling Emperor Palpatine decades before, “I am a Jedi, like my father before me.”
In The Last Jedi, we have a disheartened, bitter—and fearful—Jedi master who wants nothing more than to die alone because he failed as a teacher. Obi-Wan also failed (and lived as a recluse as a result), but rather than turn his back when called upon, Obi-Wan immediately answered the call, knowing all too well that it would be his end. Here, Luke does just the opposite. He tells Rey to leave him alone and repeatedly refuses to return to the fight. It takes R2-D2 to break Luke’s resolve by showing him the old hologram of Princess Leia pleading to Obi-Wan for help. That was excellent nostalgia, but should not have been necessary. Were this my story to tell, I would not have taken Luke in this direction… but this was not my story.
It also seemed the goal of this film to tear down much of the esteem and awe granted to the Jedi in previous films and to tarnish their legacy. Yoda so blithely destroys the ancient Jedi texts and makes a flippant comment about them not being page turners. If they’re so irrelevant, then why were they preserved for so long? Why even include them in the story? That entire sequence seemed pointless. It served no purpose in the plot.
Rather, I was taken by Luke’s lightsaber breaking in half during the Force struggle between Kylo and Rey. That was a brilliant foreshadowing of Luke’s death (and foreshadowing is a familiar tool in the writer’s toolbox).
The lightsaber, once Anakin Skywalker’s, had been with Luke since it was given to him by Obi-Wan in A New Hope and was familiar to the audience. It meant more to us than a set of books that we never heard about or saw before until this film.
Also, Rey barely had any training compared to Luke, yet Yoda feels that she knows all she needs to. Really? It’s that simple? We were given the impression that it took a bit more. Apparently not. Is she a Jedi Knight or a Master now? Do those ranks even exist anymore?
And here we go again with young Jedi willingly surrendering to Sith Lord because young Jedi feels the conflict within said Sith Lord and thinks Sith Lord can be turned to the Light. So Young Jedi willingly surrenders to Terrible Baddies. Together, young Jedi and Sith Lord take the elevator up to face the Evil Uberlord (previously Emperor Palpatine, now Supreme Leader Snoke). Evil Uberlord takes possession of young Jedi’s lightsaber and taunts/threatens young Jedi. Young Jedi tries to cut down Evil Uberlord, but is prevented from doing so until, in the end, Evil Uberlord’s own Sith pupil kills him. Oh, and the Evil Uberlord’s personal guards wear monotone red outfits. Even that detail is unoriginal.
Yeah, we saw this before. Rian Johnson just put his own spin on it. I fully support paying homage (as with the old hologram of Leia), but while The Force Awakens ripped off A New Hope, The Last Jedi pilfered that throne room sequence straight from Return of the Jedi. As for Snoke himself, he has no backstory and no depth whatsoever. He is a shallow duplicate of Palpatine, at times regurgitating the former Emperor’s lines verbatim.
As for the rest, the First Order’s General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) is far too young, stupid, and incompetent to lead and his dialogue was frequently sophomoric. While Chewbacca, C-3PO, and R2-D2 had a few humorous and/or poignant moments in the film, they were mostly relegated to the background. The entire sequence at the casino was a waste. It added nothing to the story, and while Benicio del Toro is cool, he ultimately served no purpose? By the time Finn and Rose crashed into the old Rebel base, I felt their entire subplot was fluff. They did nothing for the story at all.
Overall, I consider The Last Jedi to be adequate, but not as inspired as it’s purported to be by many in fandom. Seeing it once was enough, which is precisely how I felt about The Force Awakens.
Rogue One, on the other hand, was excellent. I watched that again about three weeks ago and enjoyed just as much as the first time I saw it last year. Just didn’t want you to think I was an old, cantankerous purist hating on the new Star Wars films.
It’s only the prequel trilogy I can’t stand, and I’m far from alone in that.
ADDENDUM: A friend of mine brought up a few excellent points in an email exchange earlier this evening…
Whatever happened to the Knights of Ren as seen in The Force Awakens?
Why all the mystery surrounding Rey’s parents if they were nothing but junk dealers?
Why bother showing Luke’s X-Wing submerged beneath the water as if foreshadowing and then never follow through?
Why not allow a classic character like Admiral Ackbar crash the Rebel cruiser into the First Order ship instead of unknown Admiral Holdo? Let Ackbar go out a hero.
When confronting Kylo Ren, why would Luke bother to say: “If you strike me down, I will always be with you.”? Luke was not even physically present! He was merely projecting his image across the cosmos to trick Kylo so there was no way for Luke’s nephew to strike him down. Again, it’s a nice homage to Obi-Wan’s words to Darth Vader in A New Hope, but it no made sense this time around.