Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
This movie is receiving incredibly mixed reviews. Some folks praise this as one of the best Star Wars films to date, while others call it an absolute abomination. Let’s see where it falls for me.
Almost immediately following The Force Awakens, this movie begins as the last few ships of the Resistance are fleeing from the armies of the First Order, led by General Hux (Domnhall Gleeson) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). They’re both following orders from the mysterious Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis). On the Resistance side, we have General Leia (Carrie Fisher) and her second-in-command Holdo (Laura Dern). Hot-headed pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) has a plan to help them escape, tapping into Finn (John Boyega) and newcomer Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) for a daring adventure.
We also join Rey (Daisy Ridley) as she seeks out the legend Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to get further training.
We also have Gwendoline Christie, Anthony Daniels, Benicio Del Toro, and Lupita Nyong’o.
I really enjoyed The Last Jedi but it’s not perfect.
The best parts for me revolved around Rey and Kylo Ren, a constant struggle between them. This movie features an interesting mechanism for them to share scenes together and those scenes are always intriguing and manage to add nuance to the light side versus dark side debate. These characters are constantly moving and swaying their allegiances, not so clear as “he’s a Jedi so he’s good” that we’ve gotten before. You’re never quite sure who will end up where, which is a nice change of pace.
Rey spends much of her time on-screen with Skywalker and Hamill is a blast to watch, stepping back into his role effortlessly. He’s not the same Luke though, after 30 years away, so learning what his journey has been since then is one of the best parts of this film.
I was also impressed with the new addition of Kelly Marie Tran, who goes on an adventure with Finn (Boyega). While that storyline derailed the movie in some unfortunate ways, her performance added some much needed heart to the movie.
Let’s talk about action, because most of you want epic space battles and some badass fight scenes. Does this deliver? Yes. The movie opens with a space battle that is one of the series’ best, while we also get some exciting and innovative lightsaber fights, though I don’t want to spoil who’s involved. The visuals are great throughout, luckily continuing to focus on practical effects when possible.
What doesn’t work?
The biggest problem in this movie, for me, was the pacing. It’s a long movie, with several detours that were ultimately unnecessary. Finn and Rose have a substantial story arc that is absolutely unimportant and unnecessary, taking away screentime from the more fascinating characters. One of the movie’s most important plot lines is a slow-moving chase through space, an absolute crawl, until one ship runs out of gas. Yet, while this “chase” is happening, entire other stories happen, leading you to wonder how long they were really flying through space. The decision to use that mechanism for suspense was a weird choice, considering how unsuspenseful it was.
There are also a few moments that felt unearned. Epic moments, that leave you shaking your head and wondering “Wait, what?” afterwards. This felt like it should have been the culmination to the trilogy, if slightly tweaked, and I wonder how they can really continue on after this, in a way that is still satisfying.
Some folks are upset by “answers” and changes to the canon, though I don’t share those complaints. Some people feel betrayed, I don’t. I thought it was unpredictable and some bold choices were made, that’s totally fine.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi isn’t near the top of my list of best Star Wars films but it does a great job of offering nuance and complication to something that was very black and white before. Driver, Ridley, and Hamill steal the show, with some intense action sequences and plenty of cool moments. If you’re upset by changes to the canon or character development in complicated ways, you might find yourself frustrated. The movie’s also incredibly long, it could’ve benefited from some restructuring or cutting, but I ultimately had a great time and can’t wait to watch again to catch new little details.