The long awaited eighth episode in the Skywalker Saga, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, hit theaters this weekend. It’s Rian Johnson’s first foray into the “Galaxy far, far away,” and with him slated to create an entirely new trilogy on his own, there’s a lot on the line for this film.
If you can’t tell, I’m mostly just trying to create enough text before the “cut,” so people who haven’t seen the film yet can avoid plot details. So, without further delay and probably a crap-ton of spoilers, here are my thoughts on The Last Jedi.
What I want to start with and what should be kept in mind throughout this is I genuinely liked this film. It’s not the film I wanted or expected, but it was a good entry in the series.
It all just happens so fast
The biggest flaw in The Last Jedi is actually one of the biggest problems in The Empire Strikes Back too — the timeline. Most of the film takes place over a couple of days, and while the ticking clock helps the Finn and Rose storyline, it compresses Rey’s training with Luke. This means that, just as Luke’s time with Yoda was brief, Rey’s time on the island is barely a thing.
If they had just started the film with Rey meeting Luke and not with the Resistance base, that wouldn’t be the case.
The best part of Rose and Finn’s plan is that it fails miserably too. I mean, it literally goes so far south that it sets up the entire final act of the film. This is not a movie about people succeeding remotely.
But also — Rose? You don’t love Finn. You’ve known him for like a day. You’ve got a crush at best right now. Get some perspective, kid.
Nothing goes the way you expect it to in The Last Jedi, and that’s the film’s greatest strength. The reason Snoke hasn’t gotten built up? It’s because he’s fundamentally unimportant to the story beyond serving as a launching point for Ben Solo’s fall. The villain of this trilogy is Kylo Ren, and this is a film primarily about his rise.
Johnson brilliantly teases the audience with what would appear to be a Vader-esque redemption story, but turns it on it’s head. He isn’t finding the light — he’s finding his true darkness.
Kylo Ren also tells Rey her parents were just junk traders, and no one special. While this could just be a lie, it’s clear Johnson intends it to be true. She doesn’t need to be descended from a great Jedi to be important. She doesn’t need to be secretly descended from some “special” lineage. Rey was born to nobodies and sold into slavery as a child.
You know, just like Anakin Skywalker.
Okay, so minus the immaculate conception stuff, but still. Rey is new, and while the Skywalker family (through Kylo Ren) is heavily represented in this story, the universe doesn’t hinge on it. If The Force Awakens leaned too heavily on nostalgia, The Last Jedi instead goes out of its way to break the expectations that nostalgia would give you.
Luke’s Redemption is Key
One thing it took me a minute to get over was not the fault of the film, but that of my Extended Universe drenched fanboy brain. The Luke Skywalker who walks on screen isn’t the Luke Skywalker I expected or knew. It was a version of the character who had his world fall apart, and once I got ahold of that idea, Johnson’s vision of Skywalker just clicked.
This version of Luke is a man who failed, and his primary journey is coming to terms with this fact. Through the film, he has to re-open himself to the force, accept his own flaws, and in a crowning moment of awesome pulls off one of the biggest Force-tricks ever seen in the films. Luke saves the day by confronting his past, and I love it so much.
In Moments, This Film is Unbeatable
This is a pretty, pretty film. Honestly, I can’t get over some of the visuals in the movie. The lightsaber scenes were incredible, and satisfying in unexpected ways. Rey and Kylo Ren taking down Snoke’s guards was one of the best melee scenes I’ve ever seen in the series. The “duel” between Luke and Kylo Ren was framed in ways reminiscent of Kurosawa’s greatest works.
And stealing from Kurosawa is what Star Wars does best.
While structurally this is a far from perfect film, it just gives you scenes which are perfectly executed. While The Force Awakens and Rogue One were more cohesive as narratives, The Last Jedi has vignettes which are on their own more satisfying than any scene in either of those two movies.
It’s time for the [Skywalkers] to End
I think it’s obvious, but the nine episode story that started with the immaculate birth of Anakin Skywalker is going to end with the death of his grandson, Kylo Ren. I mean, that’s where this is going, right?
With our protagonists disconnected from the Skywalkers, Carrie Fisher passing after The Last Jedi wrapped, and Luke becoming one with the Force, Ben Solo is the only one left to appear in Episode IX. It’s a sensible way to end the series, and I look forward to what J.J. Abrams does with it.
This was the film we needed
I honestly don’t think The Last Jedi will end up being anyone’s favorite Star Wars film, but it was the film the series needed. It was a film about accepting failure and moving on from the past, because that’s the only way we can move forward. Our villain wants to deny the past, while the heroes want to learn from it… but in the end, both want to build something new going forward.
And it’s exciting to see what comes next.