This weekend saw the release of easily the most anticipated movie of the year. I know a lot of people say that or like to put it in their TV spots to hype up their films, however this time it's not simply a catchphrase. Star Wars The Last Jedi was the most anticipated movie of the year. Its opening weekend saw a staggering $220 million domestic and $450 million worldwide opening weekend release. That's insane. There is only one other movie that out performs those numbers, and it was The Force Awakens. It's safe to say that the movie was a hit, however the content of the film caused quite a bit of controversy within fan communities across the globe. Now, if anyone knows me at all, you will know I'm a massive Star Wars fan, so of course I can't help but add my voice to the mix, so this review is going to be full of spoilers. All of them. If you have not seen this movie yet DO NOT READ THIS REVIEW. You can skip to the bottom and see what I scored it out of 10 (because a simple 5 star scale cannot accurately depict this film) however do so with extreme caution. Things happen in this entry to the saga. Big things.
Still here? Good. Now I'm not going to give you guys a shot for shot retelling of the movie so I may seem all over the place as I address things, but there's a method to my madness that will factor in near the end when I justify the score and placement I give this film among its brethren. First let's talk about the structure of this movie. I was truly wondering how they were going to pull this off considering the negative reactions The Force Awakens received for it's unoriginality when compared to A New Hope. You see, for this part of the trilogy to work the bad guy has to come out on top and it needs to leave the ending ambiguous in order for the hero to win in the next film. You can't have all three movies with Rey just tooling Kylo every time she sees him. There's no stakes when the hero is just better. However if it ends in terrible defeat fans will cry Empire knock off. Then there's the issue with the narrative in general, Empire opened with a big battle then put the heroes on the run with a mix of training montages, obviously we cant do that again. What the film did to cover these bases was clever and leads us into our first big spoiler; They put the giant Hoth battle at the end but did it while the Rebels (Resistance, whatever) were still on the run and not on even footing. It was sort of like a reverse Empire with the space chase happening at the front end and the ground action towards the end. Fair enough, original to a degree, but what about the heroes? Well, they avoided having Rey stomp Kylo again and Kylo defeating Rey a la Empire ending by not having a lightsaber duel in this film. First one of the series. Now, there were battles that involved lightsabers, and those were amazing to be sure, but unfortunately for continuities sake, no two lightsabers crossed blades in this movie. It makes sense, but kind of left me feeling teased.
While were on the subject of structure, the space chase in the beginning was interesting to me only in it's inception and end. I really didn't care for Finn and Rose's plight throughout the film and it all felt wasted anyways when the plan didn't work. Beyond this, I felt the entirety of the situation could've been resolved if Holdo didn't get into an immediate dick measuring contest with Poe and just told him her plan at the beginning. Oh, I get it, she's his superior in a military and he should follow orders to a T but come on. "There's a rebel base on Crait we're going to beat them to and send a distress signal from there". How hard is that really? We can argue back and forth on whether Poe would've gone with the plan or not even if she had told him, however my point is that I felt the entirety of the Resistance conflict could've been solved inside the transport ship making Finn and Rose's plot feel shoehorned and unnecessary. Also predictable. I saw the double cross coming. It was very telegraphed even in the context of the film.
On the other side of things, I very much enjoyed Rey and Luke in the film and their story, and enjoyed seeing how Kylo turned. I wished some things were expanded upon, but there's still plenty of room in the next film to do so. I agreed with Luke about Rey through most of the film. How eager she was to hand herself over to the dark side with absolutely no resistance, how she wasn't listening to him and had a very naive outlook on things, and how her perspective of how Luke redeemed his father and she could do the same with Kylo was askew. Also, how the Force was displayed in this movie makes us rethink what we think we know about some things. Yoda has a cameo in the film when Luke goes to burn down the remnants of the Jedi, and he was able to physically touch and interact with the world around him. Luke was so strong in the Force he could project an astral image of himself across the entire galaxy. People can verbally communicate and see people through the Force and in a more intimate way than visions or premonitions. The Force still has plenty of room to grow in this universe which is something I find completely refreshing about the series as a whole and a highlight of this film particularly. If you didn't catch it, Rey had stolen the original Jedi texts and has them with her aboard the Millennium Falcon at the end, so there's still plenty of opportunity here.
Lets move on to the major spoilers. Kylo kills Snoke like halfway through the film. I had mixed positive feeling about this. Mixed because I feel like Snokes character was wasted and unexplained. Where did he come from? Who was he? How did he create the First Order and influence Kylo in the beginning? All these are unanswered as it turns out his character its a patsy for Kylo's character development. That being said, the positive part of the reaction was because I felt that aspect was a good idea. Kylo was a highlight of the film and receives a lot of character development. We really see more of his fall and rise to the dark side and now ruler of the First Order. He and Hux still have plenty to work out, as it seemed Hux was on board at times with Kylo's rule, but Kylo has serious Moby-Dick complex about Luke that Hux calls him out on repeatedly and it ended up costing them in the end, which leaves Hux's loyalty still ambiguous. Look, I liked that they killed Snoke. I think it was totally necessary for Kylo. I just wish they made me care about the character beforehand.
The next major spoiler is Luke dies. Ugh. Why did they have to do this. They had a slam dunk here and it really has everyone up in arms when they were willing to forgive most if not all of the other things here mentioned. Okay, here's the thing. I'm not necessarily upset Luke died. I see why the movie did it, I thought the shot was beautiful, and think it was a good send off. However I also uphold that it really walks all over his character if you're a fan of him personally, and I think it was super unnecessary. So picture this, Luke gets up after the astral projection scene, exhausted, sits on the bench, stares into the dual sunset, waves crashing below and the audience draws in the fulfillment of his life, the parallels between emptiness and the sands of Tatooine to the redemption and fulfillment of where we are now over the shores of Ach-to, however instead of Luke fading away the scene leaves it at that and fades out the shot. To me, that's where the emotional impact comes. The nostalgia, the implied progress and the completeness of his mission and beginning of a new journey for the next generation. Him dying was not why I teared up at that scene. Luke dying came off as dramatic shock value that cheapens the moment and reaction from the viewer. You could've gotten the same emotional reaction from the audience and kept him alive for the next movie instead of inevitably bringing him back as a force ghost like everyone and their dog called when the first image of the title card "The Last Jedi" surfaced on the internet. So I'm not mad because he died, I'm mad at how they decided to go about his death. Some parting thoughts on this; if you're a fan of Luke it really doesn't do his character justice. After Return of the Jedi he basically failed at life, had one moment for like 30 minutes at the very end of 20 years then keels over. The other thing, and I know this seems counter intuitive to what all I've just said, but Mark Hamill's performance was amazing. He really sold every moment even if you didn't fundamentally agree with the narrative of the scene. Bravo sir.
That's most of the criticism. Everything else is really good. The battle of Crait made me think I was a kid watching Hoth again. The First Order is menacing and believable. The Resistance sells hope and nails aspects that all of us rebel scum would be pleased with. Perhaps above all, the film was shot BEAUTIFULLY. I'll say it right here this was one of if not the definitive best shot Star Wars film. Rian Johnson can frame a shot and sell a scene. The tension felt real. The stakes were high. It seemed like there was no escape for the rebels this time. Hope pulls through. A fan of Star Wars will come away liking this movie. Over all the whole thing was a positive experience. Adam Driver and Mark Hamill are the standouts. I'm super excited to see where they go with Kylo from here. I'm very excited to see what happens to the Jedi after this. I'll call it right now, Poe will lead the resistance from here on out and I can't wait. The movie nails character development and relationships. The series has room to breathe after this one and can really do some amazing things even after all this time. I liked The Last Jedi. I'm still on board Disney's crazy train porgs or no porgs. The only reason anyone cares so much and wants to discuss all the controversial aspects of this movie is because it's a series we all continue to love and want to see grow, and honestly the film did an excellent job of taking the series in a new direction even if some fans don't agree with how they got there. I hope to see more Luke in the next film. They made such a point of having Force Ghosts be able to physically interact with the real world that I believe all hope is not lost and will be blown away by the next installment just as I was with this one. If you haven't seen this film yet then I expect you are going to very soon because you're missing out on a LOT.
So here we are. At the end. Where does this film go in my ultimate list? Here goes;
- Return of the Jedi (hush you blasphemous Empire nut jobs this is the grave I'll die on)
- Empire Strikes Back
- A New Hope
- The Last Jedi
- Revenge of the Sith
- Rogue One
- The Force Awakens
- The Phantom Menace
- Attack of the Clones