Warning: Contains spoilers
The new Star Wars movie, The Last Jedi, has proved to be an incredibly divisive film. How much so? Well, according to Rotten Tomatoes, the film is scoring 93% with critics – 56% with the audience.
As Lili Loufbourow said in The Week, many fans are pleased the Skywalker dynasty is passing, whilst others see the destruction of the old ways of the Jedi as sacrilege.
There are a few things I would say broadly about the film, before I really launch into it (I hope you have time, we may be here a while).
Firstly, I really enjoy the characters in this movie. Some far more than others, but the characters and the acting is fantastic. Adam Driver (Kylo Ren) and Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), in particular, do the Star Wars universe enormous justice.
Ren is a hugely conflicted character, and the way Snoke plays with him is almost pitiful at times, adding to the “puppet master” role Snoke plays over Ren and Rey.
Rey, played by Daisy Ridley, is also a great character to watch develop and see her struggle to come to terms with her new-found power and quest for her family.
Overall, the story is solid, if a little muddled, and riddled with plotholes. If I was Rian Johnson’s scriptwriting teacher, he’d get a good C+ for story.
What some reviewers have said is that the new film redeems the prequels. Now, I love the prequels, and I didn’t need this movie to redeem them for me, but it did give us a great insight into the true nature of the Jedi Order.
The Jedi of the prequels are a hypocritical priest-class, intent on maintaining a ‘pure’ and high-minded version of the religion. This, though, is their ultimate downfall. In eschewing the human qualities of love and fear, the Jedi alienate the one person who was said to bring balance to the force – Anakin.
Their hypocrisy is reflected in Luke’s admission in The Last Jedi that he’d never read the sacred texts under the sacred tree on the sacred island, and Yoda burns the tree down as a way of saying, “Buck up your ideas, kid. Ain’t that special, are we.”
Adding to that purity narrative was the whole midichlorians nonsense, which was prequels pseudo-science to discover Jedi. George Lucas knew that all this didn’t smell right, I think.
In order to maintain control, the Jedi adopted a pseudo-science-based, elitist religion. However, Luke, in The Last Jedi, brings us back to the Force actually being a tension between all things, and the Jedi are simply individuals who can see and tap into that energy.
However, if Johnson gets a C+ for story, he definitely gets an F for execution, because this movie sure was woeful at points.
Despite the overall plot being quite strong, there were at least two occasions every five minutes where I would put my head in my hands and moan. To name the big one: Supreme Leader Snoke’s death.
After hyping us all up in Episode VII, Johnson decides that, in order for Kylo Ren’s journey to continue, he kills Snoke. In the build-up to that fateful moment, Snoke uses some pretty savage force lighting to propel Kylo Ren across the room, manages to link Rey and Ren’s minds together across the galaxy, can see into Kylo’s mind and turn him to the Dark Side – but cannot hear a 60 year-old, rusty lightsaber swivelling around on his arm chair that Kylo uses to kill him.
Unless, this is all part of Snoke’s plan, and he really isn’t dead. However, that might just make me weep even more with a mixture of despair and hysterics.
We were all looking into Snoke’s face, asking, “Is he Palpatine? Is he Darth Plagueis? Is he Mace Windu?”. Sorry to say, none of that matters anymore, because he was killed through the use of the Force by an Apprentice he was in the process of mocking by saying he can see into his mind.
I wondered if it was meant to be comedy. Just as comedic was when Rose (an engineer who gets a bit of haphazard backstory and a plucky sidekick role) “saves” Finn while he attempts to drive into a battering ram cannon by literally crashing into him – at high speed.
Before she goes unconscious (the two of them somehow still alive), she gives a great moral lesson in ‘We should save the people we love, not kill the people we hate’. As soon as she finishes saying this, the First Order breech the Rebel hideout right behind them, in almost comedic fashion.
The whole Rose/Finn arc was very bizarre. After deciding to mutiny against Leia’s stand-in, Admiral Holdo, upon the advice of Maza Kanata (who randomly appears in a hologram fighting in a “union dispute”), Finn heads to a casino planet with Rose to find a codebreaker so the First Order cannot track them through hyperspace. For some bizarre reason, Finn is totally smitten with the place, and Rose gives us a small bit of character creation by giving a backstory about her parents.
They sort of fall in love after 12 hours together, return with a different codebreaker (who turns on them, who could have guessed it?), and ultimately fail to do anything. Finn does manage to kill Captain ‘Useless’ Phasma, but otherwise they achieve nothing.
And that is the huge disappointment with this film: There is so little gusto about it.
One minute, they were going to kill off Leia, then they decide what would be better is to have Leia come back to life in space and then Mary Poppins herself back to her beleaguered ship.
Another minute, we have what was going to be an epic lightsaber battle between Kylo Ren and Luke Skywalker, only for Luke to troll Kylo by dodging all of his attacks and then melting into thing air. Why?
Because it was a Force projection – Luke wasn’t even there! What does that say about him? He’s a coward?
Another minute – in fact, for the entire movie – the First Order chases the Rebellion at the pace of a bantha. Literally, the slowest and most pointless chase ever.
The trouble was, so much was lost from the first of the new films. The film starts with Luke tossing Anakin’s lightsaber off a cliff, and from there you watch most of your expectations for the film fall towards the sea with it.
Why did Luke not even ask where Rey found this weapon that had been lost for 40 years? There was not even a single mention of the vision Rey had, either, and Maz Kanata was dropped into the movie only to be completely forgotten about.
Even Rey’s parents aren’t answered in this film. We get lead on and lead on until Rey eventually says, “They were nobody”.
We had so much build-up from The Force Awakens. Who are Rey’s parents? How can she fly the Falcon and wield a lightsaber? Who is Snoke? Who are the Knights of Ren? How did Maz get the lightsaber? What did the vision mean, which was analysed in such detail by fans? I could go on.
My opinion? Corporate nonsense. We got practically nowhere with this movie, really. Maybe Rey is actually born out of the Force, and JJ Abrams will salvage what Johnson has left in Episode IX.
In the end, this movie was hyped sky-high and that is where I think its biggest let-down is. We were fed this idea that Luke was going to turn to the Dark Side, that Kylo kills Leia, that Snoke has some bigger part to play, that Rey’s parents are revealed.
That is why the movie got such great revenue on its debut: it was spurred on by excitement and intrigue, and ultimately disappointed, and left us asking stupid questions, such as: Why did the First Order not just destroy the ship the Rebellion was evacuating to? Why did the First Order not send out an entire fleet of ships to destroy the Rebellion cruiser if Ren and his escorts managed to destroy their bridge?
How on Earth did the First Order get a whole bunch of AT-ATs and a battering ram onto the salt planet if their entire fleet had just been destroyed? How did Kylo Ren manage to cover up the fact he had helped Rey by saying she had killed Snoke, killed all his elite-trained bodyguards, knocked Kylo out and escape the First Order’s biggest ship ALL BY HERSELF?
How did Poe suddenly end up with the executive authority to call in the bombers to destroy the totally under-defendended after Leia told him to come back? Not to mention the fact the Rebel ships had practically impenetrable shields and the Dreadnought apparently had none.
And while the ewoks, wookies and even the gungans had some sort of role in the films, the franchise’s latest toy-ready creature – the porgs – didn’t even do anything. Perhaps what they were intended to do was show that we shouldn’t kill cute and indigenous animals, but that was very much lost.
It wouldn’t have surprised me if, as the lightsaber penetrated Snoke’s side, Disney took a leaf out of EA’s book and had a pop-up on-screen with ‘Pay £5.99 for the Leader Snoke backstory DLC’.
After a while of facepalming, I thought up a drinking game for The Last Jedi. Take a shot every time:
- Someone miraculously survives first-degree burns/organ damage from explosions
- A main character dies, then doesn’t die
- Someone says: “We’ve gotta destroy that [dangerous thing]”
- Someone says: “I gotta go save [whoever]
- The main characters are the only ones left surviving after a huge explosion
- General Hux looks butt-hurt
At least I managed to get something productive out of the film then.
What does Disney want us to do now? After such a shambles of a middle child movie, probably go see the next one, just to see if they actually answer the questions we asked the The Force Awakens.
Corporate, frustrating, insubstantial, wooly nonsense – and that broke my heart.
Oh! And throw out that Kylo Ren costume with the helmet. He destroyed that, so you won’t need it anymore.