Stay away if you do not want to read spoilers.
See our spoiler-free review if you have not seen this film!!
(Though if you haven’t seen it by now, come on, what are you doing?)
Be sure to comment any points I may have left out.
So it is the long awaited arrival of the second installment of the new Star Wars Trilogy. There has been a large amount of hype for The Last Jedi and unfortunately for me I allowed myself to be dragged into the chaotic chorus of high expectations. After a nostalgic and interesting setup in The Force Awakens, an unrelated yet enjoyable Rogue One, and a tasty exhilarating trailer (with Porg goodness) I think we can all agree we were expecting good things. I, however, was less than fulfilled and found myself severely disappointed and close to anger on leaving the cinema. Probably not helped by the fact that my friends and I had been to the double-bill feature and had left the cinema at 3am after being there since 9pm!
Before I get into a laboured account of the negatives let’s start with something positive…
Yes they may be unnecessary and not at all relevant but it was an inventive solution to a problem and a creative reflection of the true location. Ahch-To, aka Skellig Michael, is just off the Southern Coast of Ireland and was the perfect location for the remote Jedi monasteries, what with the abandoned monasteries already present on the Island that were once home to Christian monks some 700-800 years ago.
Also present on the Island at certain times of year were PUFFINS! As the Island is a nature reserve, it would be wrong to remove the vast number of birds (not to mention logistically incredibly difficult), and to digitally erase the native birds would be hugely time consuming; so it was decided that they would have to roll with it and create a new indigenous species. Just like on the island, these birds get EVERYWHERE in the film (but thankfully not to an annoyingly obnoxious level) and even have an actually funny interaction with Chewbacca when he tries to eat one of them.
REY AND KYLO
This storyline was genuinely intriguing as you have a bridge between two characters who are still unsure of their paths and roles in the upcoming story (aren’t we all).
Each is trying to win the other to their side, while being slightly confused as to whether they are light or dark themselves. A mind bridge is created between the two characters by Supreme Leader Snoke, an ingenious plot to lead Rey to them and turn her to the dark side. Rey falls for this and seeks Kylo out as she still sees good in him. This plan back fires on Snoke, resulting in his death and an impressive fight scene between Kylo and Rey, and the Praetorian Guards. I personally enjoyed this fight, the style being a favourite of mine, mainly because of the way Rey and Kylo interact and fight alongside one another against the guards (however tentative the link between the two and how little they know of each other’s fighting style). Ultimately, they go their separate ways and leave the arc open to perhaps continue in Episode IX…
I liked it! Some people said he looked weird but I was glad to see him, being my favourite Star Wars character. Not only that, he is still schooling Luke even after being “dead” for decades and pushes him past this nihilistic stage of his life. Still the most subtle and natural laughs in the film and humbly awesome.
Well that’s me being nice…moving on!
SUPERMAN/MARY POPPINS/LEIA ORGANA
Right, I get she is force sensitive and there may be precedent for this scene in other obscure pieces of lore, games or series. But COME ON? Really? Also, I get this was filmed before she passed away (RIP, love and respect) but I really thought this was going to be it for Leia in the film. And it could have been so beautiful! I could feel myself tearing up as she gracefully floated through space in a dignified end to a powerful and forever rebellious character. But then she reached out her hand and force pulled herself back?!!? To a door that was not an airlock!! Which did not seem to bother anyone?! Except shields blah blah. NO! Some may say that it was an interesting twist and wasn’t expected but I believe it was just Disney rubbish and I wholeheartedly disagree with this scene. Not only that, now Leia’s death will either be reduced to a minor mention in the opening scrolling text, or some hurried and heavily CGI’d scene in Episode IX. I just can’t…
SLOWEST. CHASE. EVER
I think this was just a plot device whose sole purpose was to legitimise a pointless, convoluted and bloated sub-plot. I’ll get to this. A very long and drawn out plot device. Which also included an unnecessary deception from Vice-Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) again, purely a device to allow Finn and Rose to go on their redundant side-mission. They could have evacuated the ship and headed to Crait while the Vice-Admiral light-speed destroyed the First Order fleet, giving more time for a battle on the surface of Crait. This could have allowed more speeder vs. AT-AT battle, a ground siege of the base, and a more interesting utilisation of Phasma. Again, I’ll get to this.
I suppose Holdo’s light-speed attack came as a last minute realisation moment to save the fleet, and I will also submit that it was a visually impressive and made for an emotional scene. BUT even the prospect of an 18 hour snail-paced space chase when it was first mentioned made many people in the audience groan. It drew the pace of the film to a grinding halt and just seemed to me like a bit of a half-baked idea in order to give Finn a quest of his own. Speaking of which…
CANTO BIGHT SUB-PLOT
During the slowest chase in history Poe, Finn and Rose formulate a plan to find an individual named the Code-Breaker, stow aboard the First Order ship and destroy the tracking device inhibiting the Resistance fleet’s escape. Finn and Rose travel to Canto Bight for what turns out to be more of moral journey for Finn; as well as a display of the subtle effects of living under a fascist First Order and how easy it is to spread hope through the galaxy. I do understand the relevance of this scene and when Finn does take a closer look at his extravagant surroundings to the injustice lingering just beneath the surface it does pluck on a few heart strings. However, the execution felt forced, the message rushed and probably did not require as much dialogue as we were given, which collectively dampens the intended impact.
After exploring the casino settlement for a while, they manage to get themselves arrested ultimately due to a parking violation. In their cell they meet DJ (Benicio Del Toro) who they dismiss as some hack criminal. They escape with the help of children, fathiers (space horses), BB-8 and DJ who they then decide to bring along in place of the Code-Breaker. This backfires when DJ betrays them to the First Order, teaching them a valuable lesson about a) trusting strangers they meet in prison cells, and b) about the people who play both sides in war. The First Order Dreadnought is fortuitously destroyed seconds before Finn and Rose are to be executed, allowing a short face-off between Finn and Phasma. This is a gross misuse of both Benicio Del Toro and Phasma; who, although we were promised a grander role for this bad-ass Storm Trooper captain, was barely used and swiftly removed.
FINN AND ROSE
They had ZERO chemistry! And yet she decides to save Finn’s life and confess her love to him? No. Just no. He started out as a deserter and has a change of heart, wait…doesn’t that sort of happen in The Force Awakens? No, it’s all for Rey, always. Could we have a little character development please? The justification for most of his heroic actions is so that Rey is able to return to a safe and protected rebellion. Up until he calls himself “rebel scum”. I must admit I chuckled. Regardless, none of this explains why Rose would inexplicably fall in love with him. They never show anything resembling attraction to one another and yet she sacrifices herself to stop him from sacrificing himself. It felt forced and like so much of their storyline, unnecessary.
WASTED TALENT AND CHARACTERS
I have touched upon a couple of these points already but I think I should re-visit them in a little more detail. As the sub-title suggests, this film has failed to utilise both actors and characters that were presented to it. Top of the list for me, personally, was Supreme Leader Snoke. He could have been an immensely superior bad guy, resembling the Palpatine/Darth Sidious kind of presence; and yet, we learned nothing of his history, back-story or motivations. What makes this even more disappointing is that Andy Serkis gives a great performance, typical for his calibre. The scene where he finally meets Rey is interesting, he was at least given the chance to display some of his own power and I liked that he had orchestrated the mind bridge between Kylo and Rey. He’s a more stable villain than Kylo Ren and is way more sinister in my opinion. But he is killed-off in an instant in a way that an all powerful being should have seen. No matter how sneaky Kylo was being.
Speaking of Kylo Ren, I believe this character has so much potential but in both episodes VII and VIII he is a little whiny for my taste. I understand that he is conflicted about whether he is light or dark, but he could be played as a little less emo-teenager; having tantrums and hissy fits doth not make a Supreme Leader. I also understand that this is likely down to script and direction rather than Adam Driver’s portrayal, which is very good given the material he has received.
Another First Order character to lose out in this film was Captain Phasma, Rian Johnson has inexplicably risen her from the jaws of trash compactor only to give her an insufficient amount of screen time and a second apparent death. The new films are quite saturated with antagonists, what with Snoke (Darth Sidious), Kylo Ren (Darth Vader), General Hux (Grand Moff Tarkin), Phasma (Boba Fett?) is more in the background but then why hype up the character so much? Why put a prominent actress under the mask? And not just for the lulz like with the Princes and Daniel Craig. It was just a waste of quite a sinister, mysterious character, a great actress, and a waste of bringing her back.
Moving swiftly through to the next underused talent, Benicio Del Toro as “DJ”. Firstly, DJ isn’t even the “Codebreaker” Finn and Rose were sent to find, they decide that it would be a GREAT idea to recruit a man they meet in a prison cell and are then SHOCKED when he eventually betrays them to the First Order. Showing once and for all that War is an endless cycle with an area of grey between the opposing sides full of indifferent people profiting from the spoils. Although this is a great a message and something we haven’t seen before in the Star Wars movies, the creators could have focused more on the character’s back-story, motivations and given Del Toro more room to actually perform, rather than the over-edited scenes of Canto Bight we were actually exposed to. Again, I get the relevance of Canto Bight in Finn’s development from “I must help Rey” to “Rebel Scum”; but this could have been done using DJ as the “Codebreaker” to perhaps further delve into the deference, corruption and greed seen in that Casino town. But then where would we fit in space-horse racing?
CONTINUITY DOES NOT EXIST
J. J. Abrams gave us a nostalgic return to the Star Wars franchise with The Force Awakens in 2015; although many people criticised it due to it’s uncanny resemblance to the Episode IV plot (doesn’t seem so bad now does it?), I very much enjoyed this instalment and many times found myself squealing and fan-girling in my seat. Unfortunately, Rian Johnson has decided to ignore most of what the previous film gave us and almost create a stand-alone movie.
The fact that the Resistance destroyed the Star-Killer Base in The Force Awakens seems to be of little consequence to the First Order, as they are now chasing the Resistance to the ends of the galaxy. This is a recurring theme even within The Last Jedi, even though Holdo destroys much of the First Order fleet with her light-speed attack, the First Order still have an army with which they can launch a ground assault on Crait. Furthermore, we still aren’t really sure where the First Order have come from and why they arose. Sure we have the maniacal ramblings and speeches from General Hux in both films, and the Opening Crawl text describes them as “risen from the ashes of the Empire”, but no real explanation as to where they came from and how they have amassed apparently infinite numbers of followers in just 30 years since the Empire was destroyed. If you read a little bit deeper in to the story outside the movies, you find out that Hux’s father was part of the previous Imperial movement as an overseeing officer at Arkanis Academy. But you need to look online or watch the Star Wars Rebels series to find out any of this.
This sort of comes under both continuity and characters but I decided to put it here as it’s another example of Rian Johnson’s complete disregard for the events of The Force Awakens. Rey’s parents. Her family was introduced as a mysterious enigma, a premise that had the fan theories going wild all over the internet. Is she a Solo? Is she a Skywalker? Is it going to be another obscure character from the numerous films, literature, games, or series? Nope. They’re nobody. But we all knew that in our hearts, right? I, like so many other people, hope that Kylo was lying so that he might destabilise her and draw her to his side. Please J. J. Abrams??
I wanna just circle back to Phasma for one second. A trash compactor?! But it’s OK! She’s fine! The chrome suit is just that strong! It will probably save from that fire too…
DO YOU REMEMBER EPISODES IV, V AND VI? DO YOU? DO YOU?!
There are quite a few of these so I’m going to bullet points these:
- Rebels have been found by first order and are escaping their base aka Hoth
- Ahch-Too aka Degoba
- Black hole on Ahch-Too aka dark tree on Degoba
- Rey sees her reflection, Luke sees himself in Vader
- “I feel the good in you” spoken by Luke to Vader and Rey to Kylo
- Obi-Wan, A New Hope – “If you strike me down, I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine”. Luke, The Last Jedi – Pretty much the same thing
- The Emperor, Return of the Jedi – “Come, boy, see for yourself. From here, you will witness the final destruction of the Alliance and the end of your insignificant rebellion”. Pretty much the same as Snoke’s scene with Rey where he tells her to watch the destruction of the Resistance.
Over the last few weeks we’ve heard a lot about whether Mark Hamill loved or hated the film. Also seen a couple of “Not my Luke Skywalker” posts.
I didn’t hate the character entirely, again these points go across sections so I made a special section, but I didn’t appreciate the injection of comedy and the very uncomfortable space-cow scene. It also seems strange to me that he can be so trusting and sure of the good in Vader during the original trilogy, but toys with murdering Ben Solo (before Kylo) because he’s sees a little darkness. The real issue we’ve had is the inconsistency; in The Force Awakens, we are told that Luke left a map behind so that the Resistance can find him if they find themselves in great need. But now he acts stubborn and obstructive when he is found by Rey. I understand why he would be reluctant to train Rey (at this point I turned to my friend and said “Too old, yes, too old to begin the training” nearly right) but he should be more supportive of the Resistance. I see the shift from Hero to Hope they are going for in this film, but it doesn’t quite match up with The Force Awakens, and will it progress into Episode IX?
Last but not least SPOILER Luke’s death. It was very creative the way they hinted at his projection by not leaving the red indentations on the planet Crait; however, would it have been cooler if Luke had actually been there? Sure there might be a timing issue (how’d he get there so fast?! A la Batman in Dark Knight Rises) but if he’d have actually deflected that attack it would have been an incredible display of power! Or, if he’d had projected himself, then NOT died, that would also have been good. I think him allowing Kylo Ren to defeat him would have been way too similar to Obi-Wan in A New Hope.
Overall, I guess you could say I was disappointed. The Last Jedi looks and feels like a Star Wars movie but lacks conviction, continuity and emotion.
Looking forward to the next movie, in the immortal words of Master Yoda: Failure is our greatest teacher.
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Porgs story: Star Wars’ Official Site