It’s here! The Last Jedi is finally in theaters, and of course, I couldn’t wait until Friday to see it. I’ve been waiting desperately for… well, two years since it’s only been that long since The Force Awakens. But one could argue I’ve been waiting my whole life for this movie… and I’m glad it’s here!
As a die-hard Star Wars fan, I’m predisposed to like the movie no matter what. And there are some really great aspects of The Last Jedi. That being said, there are also some points where the movie misses.
So let’s dive right in!
First up, let’s look at what The Last Jedi gets right, which is a lot.
In terms of tone, Star Wars has always been more of a serious franchise. Sure, there are funny moments in all the movies, but in general, the tone has been one of drama (and a good deal of angst). Oftentimes, when humor was inserted into the movies, it felt out of place.
But in The Last Jedi, they finally get humor right. There are a lot of funny moments in this film, but rather than relying on slapstick or body humor; The Last Jedi focuses on subverting expectations. At one point, we revisit the famous “cliffhanger” from The Force Awakens where Rey hands Luke his old lightsaber. It’s a tense, dramatic moment… until Luke takes the saber and tosses it over his shoulder.
It’s satisfying to see Star Wars finally find their footing in this regard. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has made clear that a movie can be serious and dramatic without sacrificing humor. Rian Johnson proves that Star Wars is capable of finding this balance.
Up the Cute Factor
Cuteness in Star Wars is a very controversial factor. People are still mad about the ewoks over thirty years later. So it’s not too surprising that people are up in arms about the porgs, either for or against. Personally speaking, I’m very pro-porg. They’re super cute, I love them, and I even carved my Halloween jack-o-lantern into a porg.
But I don’t appear to be alone in my porg-love. Other people in the theater laughed at appropriate moments and cheered to see the porgs in the Millenium Falcon at the end. At one point, Chewie is having dinner by the fire… where he has roasted several porgs! The audience found the other porgs’ reactions humorous, though I personally was distraught at the cruelty to porg life (but I love Chewie, so it’s okay).
Other cute animals pop up and play a major role. The ice-type Pokemon shown in the trailer turns out to help the Resistance find an alternative exit to the base. On Canto Bight, Rose and Finn find some fathiers, adorable horse-like creatures that are used in races. They save the fathiers from their cruel handlers, and the fathiers help them escape their pursuit. It’s a cute quid pro quo, and I loved seeing the fathiers run free.
Rose Tico, My Sweet Summer Child
Speaking of Rose, she was definitely one of the high points of The Last Jedi. I already loved Kelly Marie Tran, who has been having an absolute blast with her newfound fame. So I was excited to see that Rose was actually handled very well and given a good role.
Rose starts off mourning her recently deceased sister and is starstruck to meet Resistance Hero Finn™. But she quickly gets over her hero worship when Finn tries to desert… straight up tasering him to keep him on board. Later, she agrees to help him infiltrate a Star Destroyer to try and save the Resistance.
Rose’s best moment is on Canto Bight. Finn is awestruck by the glittering beauty of the city, but Rose points out the dark underbelly. She relates her past, mistreated by the First Order. Later, she saves the fathiers. Another great moment for Rose occurs when she sacrifices herself to save Finn. Her line — “that’s how we’ll beat them… not by fighting what we hate, but by protecting what we love” — is one of the best in the whole movie.
It was super exciting to have a Vietnamese-American actress play a major role in Star Wars, but it’s even more exciting now that we know Rose Tico wasn’t a wasted character. This is a big deal and shows that Star Wars can be more progressive, and still good.
Happy Beeps, BB-8
Also coming in strong is the ever wonderful BB-8. He has the time of his life in The Last Jedi, not standing down and playing droid-in-distress. In fact, BB-8 actually saves Finn and Rose more than once as he accompanies them on their reckless quest.
On Canto Bight, an alien mistakes BB for a slot machine and loads him full of coins. Later, when police forces capture Finn and Rose, BB uses the coins as a weapon to take down the guards. On the Star Destroyer, BB saves Finn and Rose from being executed by stormtroopers by hijacking an AT-ST walker. I didn’t even think a droid could do that!
BB-8 was there for a lot of the comic relief, but he wasn’t just a caricature (like, say, Jar Jar Binks). He played a major part, helped the Resistance, and made the movie all the better.
Poe Hot Dameron, That’s My Jameron
Obviously, we all know I love me some Poe Dameron. I was worried, going into The Last Jedi, that he would be relegated to a minor role. We already knew going in that Finn was up to something with Rose, and Rey was off with Luke. So where did that leave Poe?
Up to trouble, apparently! Poe starts off the movie sassing General Hux. This was the moment when the audience realized it was okay to laugh at Star Wars. Poe literally makes a “yo momma” comment and sends Hux crazy. It was great.
Later, Poe is demoted (and slapped) by Leia for acting against orders. He gets into a fight with Admiral Holdo when she takes over after Leia is injured. Then, Poe Dameron, the hero of the Resistance, stages a mutiny! It was completely unexpected and wonderful.
I’m glad to see that, even without his best buddy Finn, Poe is still a character worth screen time and plotline. Poe was one of my favorite parts of The Force Awakens, and I’m glad The Last Jedi didn’t toss him aside.
It wasn’t all fun and games, however. The Last Jedi did a lot of things wrong.
Mo’ Movie Mo’ Problems
The Last Jedi is the longest Star Wars movie, clocking in at 2 hours 32 minutes. I was a little concerned going in, after looking at previous movie lengths. The previous longest was Attack of the Clones, at 2 hours 22 minutes. Attack of the Clones is considered one of the worst Star Wars movies, an assessment I would agree with.
Conversely, the shortest movie so far is Empire Strikes Back, at 2 hours 2 minutes. Given that Empire Strikes Back is often considered the best Star Wars, I was worried that there was an oppositional relationship between length and quality. I’m sad to say I was sort of right.
The Last Jedi is nowhere near Attack of the Clones in terms of quality. That being said, the movie was definitely too long. There was too much story in the plot, and it often felt disorganized and jumbled. There was a natural stopping point towards the end when the Resistance reaches a hidden base… only The Last Jedi kept going.
Stop Sinking My Ships
I went into The Last Jedi hoping against hope that StormPilot would be made canon. It would be a little crazy for Star Wars to feature a mainstream, same-sex, multi-racial relationship, but I still hoped. Finn and Poe had crazy chemistry in The Force Awakens, and it would have been a great step forward in terms of representation.
But, hate to burst the bubble, StormPilot still isn’t canon. It’s still not precisely not canon, but in this case, Finn appears to be moving on. I was worried about FinnRey, but suddenly, out of nowhere, comes Rose Tico! When Rose tells Finn she loves him (albeit obliquely) and kisses him at the end, I was stunned. I almost hoped Rose was dead, so that that avenue would be closed, but looks like we’ll be seeing more Frose(?) in Episode IX.
Likewise, The Last Jedi seems to be pushing a definite Reylo angle. I’m not precisely anti-Reylo. I’ve seen enough good fanfictions that play around with the pairing to know it has potential. But I’m still not sure I’m comfortable with it, and it seems that the filmmakers have chosen to take that route.
Toward the end, there was a strange moment when it seemed like Poe/Rey (pray?) might be a thing. This might just be my shipper’s brain going crazy, but there’s a moment when Rey and Poe finally meet (really? just now), and it felt a little charged to me. It’s not StormPilot, but hey, it’s not Reylo either.
Rey is Nobody
Of course, Reylo can now be canon because it’s finally revealed that Rey is not related to Kylo Ren! This was one of the most pressing questions after watching The Force Awakens. Such a big deal was made about Rey’s family that it was setting us up for a great reveal.
Fans had theories, of course, and there was much debate. Was Rey a Solo? It would explain her connection to Han. A Skywalker? That would explain her powers and her importance. I personally liked the theory that she was a Kenobi and that something of Obi-Wan lived on.
So it was with bated breath that I waited for the big reveal. The Last Jedi was still teasing fans, mentioning the mystery… only to throw it back in our faces and reveal that Rey is nobody. Her parents were drunks who sold her for booze money. Where is the key word, as they are also revealed to be dead? What a rip off!
Supreme Leader… Ren?
The whole deal with Supreme Leader Snoke was the other big question. Who is Snoke? Is he Darth Plagueis the not-so-very-wise-after-all? Did he use his control of the Force to save himself when he was murdered by his traitorous apprentice Darth Sidious? Or is he someone else altogether?
Well, it looks like we’ll never know now. What Snoke is dead. We get no answers to the mystery, and this big baddie dies very unceremoniously. He’s literally sliced in half and his ugly head thunks to the ground. Like the Rey issue, this felt like an instance where the filmmakers didn’t care for audience expectations.
Instead, we get a new Supreme Leader in Kylo Ren. Ren is the one to kill Snoke, and the whole scene mirrors when Darth Vader turns on Sidious to save Luke. It seems that Rey was successful in turning Ren… until he reveals he just wants to take Snoke’s place. In this, he succeeded where Vader failed, so I guess that’s something. But it was a bit of a let-down, as well as not what I expected.
Also, at one point, Ren is shirtless, and I’m just not okay with that. Adam Driver is swole af. That’s not what I was expecting from whiny manchild Kylo Ren.
Uh, Bye Luke?
Luke Skywalker is back! Another old favorite of mine, I was happy to see Luke return. After his very minor appearance in The Force Awakens, I was excited to see him have his big moment. I wasn’t even too upset that Luke is angry and contrary. He’s been through a lot, cut him some slack.
And I always believed that Luke would come back, in the end. I knew, despite his protests, that he wasn’t done for good. I was right! Luke comes back, at the end, when Leia has given up all hope. He sacrifices himself to save the Resistance and give them time to escape, confronting Kylo Ren one-on-one.
It was definitely a twist when we learned Luke wasn’t actually there — but a good one. Instead, Luke is using massively impressive Force powers to manipulate Ren. This is the moment when it’s clear just how powerful Luke is, and it was a great moment… until Luke then died anyway. What the heck!?
I went into The Last Jedi expecting a major death — I even made sure to bring tissues — but I was certain it would be Leia. Knowing it was Carrie Fisher’s last movie, it made sense to have Leia die. To watch Luke die instead was super confusing. I get that we’re supposed to “let the past die,” but did we have to? There was so much more he could have done!
So What’s the Verdict on The Last Jedi?
The Last Jedi was good. I’ll say that clear out. It was a good movie, I enjoyed it, and I will certainly see it again in theaters.
It’s only in comparison to other movies that The Last Jedi suffers. I’ve spent a lot of time ranking all the Star Wars movies because I’m a huge nerd and it’s what we do. So I can confidently say that, in my opinion, The Force Awakens is a great movie. It has some serious problems, like the fact that it’s a direct rehash of A New Hope. But The Force Awakens proved that the new trilogy could be just as good as — if not better than — the originals.
In comparison, The Last Jedi is too long, too cluttered, and too dismissive of fan expectations. The Last Jedi succeeds in the fact that it is not a rehash of Empire Strikes Back, but it goes too far in the other direction in some ways. Why not make Rey a Skywalker? That would have been super cool! But, to dismiss her as a nobody feels like a slap in the face.
The Last Jedi struggles under the burden of its legacy. It is the eighth movie in a series, with all the baggage that implies. The movie has to stand alongside giants like the original trilogy while avoiding the pitfalls of the prequels. While The Last Jedi certainly has its problems, I think it does an excellent job of forging its own path and creating its own place to stand. I’ll definitely watch it again… and again… and again.