Somewhat Spoilery Thoughts on Star Wars The Last Jedi
Has it really been two years since The Force Awakens? Time flies when you’re getting old. It feels like only yesterday when viewers were saying how much that film reminded them of A New Hope. They weren’t wrong, there were many similarities, but it was reintroducing a franchise packed with issues to a new audience while trying to make old-timey fans happy. It makes sense they’d play it a bit safe.
So, given the lack of love for the filmmakers ‘playing it safe’ in TFA, I’m a little surprised to see so much negative feedback about The Last Jedi today. It doesn’t play it safe, it takes the franchise in different and new directions and yet many people seem to be shouting about how this goes against what Star Wars is.
I’m not saying everyone has to love this movie, or that some don’t have perfectly valid criticisms, but it’s not an unreasonable assessment that Disney and Lucasfilm are essentially damned whatever they do.
Anyway, lets get to the film itself. I only saw the movie tonight so it may be a bit soon to write about it with any coherence but there's so much to unpack that I may end up writing more once I've had a chance to absorb it all.
I’m going to assume anyone reading this has seen it or doesn't care about spoilers. If you haven't seen the film and don’t want to see spoilers, go away now and watch it.
The opening scene gives us one of the best space battle scenes in any movie. Ever. It isn’t long but it’s action packed, and while some may argue that the moves pulled off by Poe Dameron border on the absurd we have to remember we are watching a Star Wars film, it’s not Apollo 13. Hand-break turns in space probably don’t work but hell that’s a sweet move when you see it on screen and you’re fully on board.
The fight scenes in this movie are almost as equally enthralling. There’s a brutality not seen in a Star Wars film since the rage-filled slashing of the lightsaber by Luke against Vader. Where that scene is pure emotion, there’s more technical skill applied here. The fight in Snoke’s throne room stands out for me, there was no bouncing around or flying and spinning, and no windmilling four lightsabers at once. It’s just pure lightsaber-wielding action. Similarly for the final showdown between Luke and Kylo, it never starts to become a parody of itself like I feel the prequel trilogy had so many examples of.
The death of Snoke was a bit of a strange one for me. Kylo being able to trick Snoke seems like a bit of a stretch given how powerful he has been built up to be. Either Snoke wasn’t all that powerful after all or Kylo’s abilities seem to be very flexible with whatever the narrative requires. His mental strength in TFA wasn’t very strong at all but in this he was able to trick Snoke pretty easily. I get Kylo’s cover was Snoke seeing his intentions but just didn’t detect who he was directing them at - which makes sense as a tactic - but Snoke not being able to see that seemed odd. Maybe Snoke's arrogance blinded him from seeing what was in front of him, I’m willing to use that to justify it for now.
Snoke getting killed off was a little disappointing but I am willing to go with it, I don’t need everything explained about him. Having such a powerful figure coming in a sequel to a pre-existing franchise of movies without any backstory seemed a little strange. With him out of the way, I’m curious to see whether Kylo is the big bad. We know he’s conflicted, as we found out Vader was, but he doesn’t have the gravitas or fear-inducing presence of Vader.
Now lets get on to some things that really bugged me. First off, how did Finn and Rose get out of handcuffs magically after the main resistance ship kamikazes into the ship they are on? If I missed something I’m happy to concede but to me it seemed that they had their wrists tied one minute, then they were coming around from being in the wreck the next without any cuffs.
Leia’s Star-Lord impression in space was something I almost laughed out loud at. It seemed ridiculous at first but I trust that if there’s a narrative reason for Leia’s powers saving her then it would be explored in the next film. However, now that Carrie Fisher is sadly no longer around, I have no idea how or if we will get an explanation. I feel this was meant to tease a reveal of her powers in Episode IX - there were rumours that she would have an even larger part in that film.
The entire storyline of Poe being considered as hot-headed and not being included in the plan to save the rebels was just idiotic. This decision to not share this information with him was stupid. I don’t know what the writers were thinking. Why would the rebels put themselves in a situation where they are actively fighting amongst themselves to a point where they put their own lives in danger? The only good things to come from this are the conflict between Finn and Fasma (though there wasn’t enough of this) and there was the introduction of the kids so there was a groundwork for the reveal at the end of the movie about the stable boy being a force user. Was this the best way to do this, I’m skeptical.
Next, the kamikaze ship. If crashing the ship like that would have rendered the enemy ship useless, why not do that as soon as the shuttles were off? Vice Admiral Holdo was going to die on the ship anyway, she stayed behind accepting her fate and even had a heartfelt goodbye with Leia. This made no sense. She watches shuttle after shuttle filled with rebels get destroyed and then only chooses to act when there’s a handful of shuttles remaining. So many lives lost for no reason.
I was put off by the pacing at some points of the film. There was a decent chunk on the island with Luke and Rey when I was wondering when or if things would kick into gear. After such an action packed start to the film, I wasn’t sure what I was watching. And then you see Luke milk Nessie and drink it giving himself a green tinged milky moustache whilst grimacing at an inquisitive Rey. What the hell is happening?
Overall I actually really enjoyed The Last Jedi. There’s so much to love about this movie. Some of the best fight scenes in any Star Wars. Some of the best space battles on screen. Force projection Luke. Puppet Yoda is the Yoda you remember from the original trilogy, he has a personality and a sense of humour. And finally, it takes the franchise in a new direction and leaves the future open for the new generation led by Rey.
While I’m currently not fussed about the upcoming Solo movie, I am excited to see what happens in Episode XI in 2019.