Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) Review
Major Spoilers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi will be below.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi carried a lot of legacy and a lot of fan hype on its shoulders in this release. The first movie in the current trilogy, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, was widely well received, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story had a lot of mixed reviews. Coming up to the second movie, there were a lot of expectations about what was going to be revealed and what twists the movie would take us on. Did this epic live up to the hype? Keep reading for this reviewer’s thoughts.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi follows continues the Star Wars story, as legendary jedi Luke Skywalker is finally found after years of isolation on a remote island. In the mean time, the rebels continue to resist the sith-controlled Empire’s grasp, but times get tough when they cannot simply jump away, and begin to run out of fuel. It focuses in large part on the relationship between protagonist Jedi-trainee Rey, and Sith apprentice Kylo Ren (previously Ben Solo). Filled with fiery passion and moments that’ll have you on the edge of your seat, this film is certainly bred out of years of tension, waiting for more Star Wars.
To start, there was a lot good about this movie. It was filled with emotion so tangible you could feel it yourself. As always in a Star Wars film, the acting was superb on the part of everyone; particularly Daisy Ridley as Rey, who goes through such a deep and spiritual journey over the course of the film. Visually gorgeous, every scene kept alive the authentic feeling of Star Wars. For some, like me, the visuals alone were enough to bring back a nostalgic feeling of watching the first movies. The crew was able to keep the unique theme of the brand alive with fresh twists, like new robots and new animals. In addition, the new important character included in the film, Rose Tico, is nicely not Caucasian, and is an awesome representation of bad-ass women fighting for the cause. The inclusion of Carrie Fisher as Leia was also extremely well done, and had everyone in the theatre missing our passed Princess. She wasn’t animated; clearly they had filmed all of her scenes before she had passed. And it was nice to see her daughter, Billie Catherine Lourd, in such a prominent role; and wearing her mother’s iconic double buns.
However, there were plenty of problems with the film too, from awkwardly placed comedy to a strange rhythm and rhyme with the rest of the series. But before I get into the nitty-gritty below the spoiler warning, I’ll say that regardless of anything, this is a need-to-see movie. Problems with the movie are very individual, and if you’re a Star Wars fan, you’ll like it even if you have problems with it. It’s the kind of thing you need to make your own opinion on. And besides, it’s Star Wars. The nostalgia would carry it even if it was as bad as the Christmas Holiday Special.
Review is continued below, spoilers for the movie will be found here.
Something I noticed before even going into the movie, was Poe Dameron’s placement on the official poster.
Notice that Poe is on the right, with the rest of the film’s antagonists: Kylo Ren, Phasma, Hux, etc. One can only wonder if this was a deliberate move. In the film, Poe is impulsive and angry, making snap decisions about what is best for the entire rebel fleet without consulting his leaders when he sends Finn and new character Rose to attempt to remove a tracker placed by the Empire on their ship. Though this is presented as a good, heroic decision to the audience, the traits that led to it are all typically dark side ones. Sure, it could simply be that there wasn’t enough room on the left side to include Poe, but it seems to me that with the massive Star Wars budget and all their expertly designed promotional photos and posters, that if they wanted Poe with the rest of the heroes, they could have found a way to put him there. Is it instead indicative of Poe’s future for future movies? Only time will tell.
Let’s address the elephant in the room. The big reveal everyone was anticipating from this movie was who Rey’s parents would turn out to be.
The daughter of Luke or Han and Leia were two of the largest running theories, but some people even thought she might be the grandaughter or great grandaughter of Obi-Wan Kenobi or Qui-Gon Jinn. Regardless, few really anticipated the reveal in this film; that Rey’s parents are no one. Deadbeats who, in Kylo’s words, sold her for drinking money. The scene in the film is heavy and climatic, a large – and the movie’s final – confrontation between Rey and Kylo. Yet the reveal as Kylo tells Rey she already knows who her parents are, and forces Rey to say it, kills the moment. They’re no one. That is, of course, if you believe that story. Many do not. If you consider the series, it both makes little sense, and makes much of the symbolism from this movie and The Force Awakens useless.
Personally, I went into the movie hoping that she would be Luke’s daughter. The Star Wars Series has been the heroic tale of the Skywalker family from the beginning. Though Kylo Ren is technically a Skywalker by blood, he is not our protagonist, nor does he carry the Skywalker name. It would also explain why the lightsaber called out to Rey in The Force Awakens, and Maz’s cryptic words to Rey seem less meaningful. She talks about how “whomever [Rey] is waiting for on Jakku, they’re never coming back… but, there’s someone who still could.” To which Rey replies, “Luke.” To me, it seemed so obvious that between this and Rey’s powerful force vision upon touching Luke’s lightsaber, that this meant they would be father and daughter. It would also explain the intense reaction that Kylo has to the storm trooper about the “girl,” pulling him into a force hold and declaring “What girl?!” As the daughter of Luke Skywalker, she would have been being trained at the temple along side Kylo at a young age.
However, that line would also be explained if Kylo and Rey were brother and sister. This is what I began to suspect as I watched the film. Kylo and Rey have force visions of each other in real time. Clearly they are connected by something incredibly powerful. I thought maybe this was some brother sister connection. It could be said that Luke and Leia never explored this sibling ability because Leia was never trained to become powerful enough. Especially when they showed Luke and Leia having similar visions of each other, and then cut right to Rey and Kylo having their visions of each other, I was sold. I remember sitting in the theatre and thinking, “This is it. That’s the proof.”
But then there was the glass shattering disappointment that came with the actual reveal. However, many aren’t sold on that. How would Rey be so powerful in the force if she came from nowhere and nothing? Kylo is powerful because he is the grandson of the Chosen One. His great grandfather is literally the Force. They show Rey as having incredible innate powers and abilities with the force. Where did they come from. This is an example of how the audience is also left with some serious questions at the end of the film. Some of which are understandable as cliffhangers, such as why Kylo and Rey are still having visions of each other, if Snoke was connecting them. Since he’s dead, shouldn’t the visions have stopped? To claim that they’re now just connected through the force seems a little flimsy. Maybe it’s because they’re brother and sister, as I mentioned. This is likely a question that will be answered in the next film.
However, others seem more like they’re just trying to escape the questions. Questions like what even is Snoke? Where did he come from, what was his motivation, even what race was he? He was always just a large ominous figure that everyone bowed down to. This occured with the Emperor in movies 4, 5, and 6, but eventually we got backstory, motivation for his character. We wanted him dead. Snoke just seemed like a unevolved and not fleshed out background character to create conflict between the real antagonist, Kylo Ren, and his protagonist, Rey.
The Rey question is unclear if it’s just a good cliffhanger or a question that really should have already been answered. Regardless, the internet isn’t convinced. Posts on IGN, Vox, Collider, Den of Geek, and more show their doubt of the identity of Rey’s parents. If Star Wars isn’t already planning to make Rey’s parents someone of note, they may want to hit the breaks now, because it doesn’t really seem that anyone is too happy with that decision.
Rey and Finn have been another big thought on everyone’s mind, especially with the introduction of Rose Tico as a new possible love interest for Finn. I was pretty dissapointed to see so little interaction between Rey and Finn, who I thought were one of the best relationships in the Force Awakens. But this was probably because they wanted the room to introduce Rose. Who, I actually really enjoyed as a character. Her relationship with her sister as a driving force, her STEM woman brain, and her POC representation was all brilliant. I actually thought while watching her and Finn, “Hey, look at this guy and girl doing stuff together without having to be in a romantic relationship! Feminism!” Unfortunately for me, near the end of the film Rose kisses Finn as a rather large explosion goes off in the background. Personally, I didn’t see it coming. There was nothing inherently romantic in any of the exchanges the two had had. So the kiss felt forced, and so at the end as Rey looks on Finn and Rose with a hint of jealousy felt absurd. Only time will tell the outcome of this love triangle, but the fact that they felt a night triangle was necessary, or that Rose had to be a love interest just because she spent so much time with Finn, seems inherently unfeminist.
There were lots of little issues with the film that took away from the general feel of it. This included the comedy placement. It often didn’t land and felt forced and unrealistic, and unnecessary, for the universe. A scene near the climax that is very intense, when Rey is finally standing in front of Snoke to confront him, had a moment where Rey attempted to force pull Luke’s lightsaber back to her. Snoke instead takes control and the lightsaber whips around towards him again – but not before knocking Rey in the head first as Snoke laughs. Though it was vaguely amusing, all it really did was diffuse the tension that I was enjoying and rip me out of the scene I was so enthralled in. It definitely was not amusing enough to justify ruining the scene, and that’s the case for a lot of the jokes. Movies have been including more and more comedy of late, with the success of films like Guardians of the Galaxy. One only needs to see Thor Ragnarok and compare it to past Thor movies to confirm that. But the jokes in Star Wars before have never come from such obvious ploys and grabs. Whatever your opinion on Jar Jar Binks, you can agree that it was amusing how ridiculous he was. But that wasn’t out of character, or obvious; it didn’t feel out of place. Jar Jar fit in with the universe. The kind of comedy in this film really feels inauthentic, a copy. Which was never what Star Wars was known for; Daisy Ridley and John Boyega were hired because they were unknowns, like Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher at the time of Star Wars 4, 5, and 6’s casting. Star Wars has always been original and innovative, and this movie did not carry that with him. It says a lot about the industry, I think.
Nor was the pace of this movie particularly good. The first hour and a half was fine, but once reaching the last hour, it starts to drag. There are at least 3 times you think that this is the climax – and then it keeps going. The scene where Snoke confronts Rey, Rey and Kylo’s daring and dramatic turn against Snoke, or their intense talk as Kylo tries to seduce Rey to the dark side with him. Then as the resistance is escaping on the pods, and then severals times as they are holed up on the very Hoth-like planet. It doesn’t seem to end, and eventually the feeling that a movie’s climax should give you just sorta… wears off. You’re not begging for the movie to be over already, but neither are you really enjoying the scenes in the way you feel like you should.
Despite all the negativity I have given The Last Jedi above, there were good things about it. My favourite of which was the developing relationship between Kylo Ren and Rey. As they continue to speak in force visions, the tension grows and an understanding develops between them. Whether or not they are brother and sister, I love how complex their relationship is, and how each one comes to develop a new opinion of each other.
I’ve heard the movie is better the second time. I would definitely be watching it a second time regardless, but this is good to know. Shouldn’t a movie as big name as Star Wars make a good impression the first time, though? Go see The Last Jedi and make an opinion of your own, or if you’ve already seen it leave a comment below with your thoughts! Regardless of flaws, this is a must-see movie.