A new Star Wars film, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, is the third entry in the series made in the past three years. With Disney saturating theaters and TV networks with Star Wars goodness, I went in to the film worrying about the magic Star Wars brought to movies forty years ago. That magic, in my opinion, was largely absent in The Force Awakens. I haven’t yet seen Rouge One, so I can’t make any comparisons there. Fortunately, some of the magic returns with The Last Jedi. I’ll try not to spoil too much of the film, but there will be spoilers because there’s a lot I want to talk about. The good, the bad, the nitpicky; and that requires giving away key plot points.
First off, the bad, just to get it out of the way. The movie runs a little long at almost two and half hours. There are scenes in the middle with Finn (John Boyega) and Rose Tico (played by Kelly Marie Tran) in a rich person’s version of Mos Eisley that could probably be a good five to ten minutes shorter. While it was fun getting to see Rose and Finn interact, and it gave the audience time to learn Rose’s backstory and why she’s fighting the First Order, some of the scenes felt more like padding.
The other bad parts were, admittedly, two of the bad guys. Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) and General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) suck as characters. Snoke, while manipulative and grandiose in his cheap, yellow lounge suit, is not that intimidating. He was intimidating for all of a minute or two in The Last Jedi during his interaction with Rey, but that’s it. The rest of the time I saw Snoke on screen, I was apathetic. I’m not sure if it’s all the CG or his utter lack of presence that ruins what could have been a great villain, but Snoke is just awful. I don’t like him; probably never will. He’s no Vader. He’s no Emperor. He’s no Count Dooku. General Hux is the other character I dislike, and I blame that on him acting just generally incompetent. He has a full on conversation with Poe Dameron (Oscar Issac) at the beginning on the film and instead of taking the opportunity to shoot, it takes him too long to realize he’s being toyed with and his ship takes some pretty severe damage. Any time something bad happened to Hux, I laughed. I just don’t like Hux.
One thing I have a problem with is Rey’s (Daisy Ridley) character development. She learned about the Force from Luke, and came to terms with her parents abandoning her, but she didn’t get as much development as I would have liked to have seen. I wish we could have seen more time devoted to her development, especially regarding her training as a Force user.
We also need more Captain Phasma. Just, uh, need more of her. She’s cooler than Boba Fett. I said it. Deal with it.
The good parts of the film mostly revolve about Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), and the primary plot involving the Resistance’s retreat from the First Order.
A lot of people either love or hate Luke’s character. Some people see his gruffness, his rejection of the Force and the Jedi, and rather alienating personality as character assassination. He’s not the heroic star fighter pilot that blew up the first Death Star, nor is he the person who faced and helped to redeem Darth Vader. After the end of the Rebellion and the founding of the New Republic, Luke took on the responsibilities of teaching the ways of the Jedi to a new generation. We also get some backstory about what happened between him and Kylo Ren.
To catch new readers up to speed, Kylo Ren is Ben Solo, Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Leia Organa’s (Carrie Fisher) son, and was one of Luke’s original students. Luke sensed darkness in Ben and Snoke’s influence on him, and in a pivotal scene, he and a young Ben Solo clash. I’ll try not to spoil anything else about it because it’s something worth seeing on your own.
Reading in between the lines, and I don’t mean this pretentious, Luke is a changed man due to his failures as a teacher, uncle, brother, friend, and guardian. When Luke acknowledge’s his failures to Rey, he mentions that he failed Leia and Ben. That’s just his outward acknowledgment, though. Internally, Luke probably believes he failed his best friend Han Solo, and what happened to Ben could have caused a falling out between the two. While Han certainly blamed himself for allowing his son to grow distant, Luke blames himself entirely for failing Ben, and therefore, failing his best friend because he, the Jedi Master, was supposed to keep Ben from falling to the Dark Side of the Force. Luke is also someone who takes family seriously, as demonstrated by his zeal to protect Leia from Vader and the Emperor in Return of the Jedi. It’s also arguable that Luke is still haunted by his inability to protect his Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru on Tatooine before coming under Obi-wan’s wing. Luke was also unable to protect the rest of his students from a Ben Solo turned Kylo Ren, and the burning of his new Jedi Temple eerily reflects the destruction Luke saw of his childhood home and throughout his journeys across the galaxy in his fight against the Empire. Luke obviously wanted to protect his nephew from the Dark Side, but ultimately failed, and that single failure carried dire consequences. After thinking about how all of this would affect Luke, I can understand why the writers went in the direction they did.
I also had a conversation with a friend shortly after initially publishing this review, and he came from a different perspective. He says they should have had Luke step up and be the hero he once was, or at least show why and how Luke justified putting himself into exile in greater detail. I can honestly see where he’s coming from because I was expecting Luke to be a hero once again towards the end of the film, which he kind of does.
Kylo Ren also goes through his own development. He starts off conflicted, unsure, just as he was in The Force Awakens. When he has the chance to kill Leia, he doesn’t take it. However, when given the chance to kill Snoke (man, was I happy to see that happen), Kylo takes it. He assumes the mantle of Supreme Leader of the First Order in true Sith fashion. It’s possible that Kylo now rejects all light within him. He’s gone from being a big peon that throws temper tantrums (which he still throws) to being the big dog in charge and he’s not afraid to use that weight. Good direction for the character.
Probably the best of the plot threads in the movie centered around the survival of the Resistance. It’s tense, gripping, and it looks like they won’t survive. It’s not perfect, but that’s due to Poe Dameron and Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) feuding and not sharing critical, tactical information with each other. Admittedly, Admiral Holdo grew on me closer to the end of the film, but I still find her and Poe’s unwillingness to work with each other grating and kind of stupid. The rest of the plot about the survival of the Resistance is pretty good.
The final act on the planet Crait also pretty much saves the entire movie, and that’s where most of the movie’s magic is. The stand off between the remnants of the Resistance and Kylo’s First Order army is nothing short of epic. Pretty much every single beat during the last act feels earned, except for one little bit between Finn and Rose, but I won’t spoil it.
Now, I have four or five nitpicks with the movie, but will only include two because only two of them feel valid to me in the broader context of Star Wars and the movie itself.
1: General Hux didn’t suffer nearly enough. He needs to suffer more in the next movie.
2: The thief/hacker character that Finn and Rose find in Rich-Person-Mos-Eisley was just an ass with no redeeming qualities. At least Hux’s suffering made me laugh.
Overall, the movie is pretty good. It’s not perfect, but it’s worth watching. I’m giving it three Porgs out of five.