The Last Jedi
This is my first ever blog post. Naturally, I felt the need to write about something unique that hasn’t been talked about to death. Then I threw that idea in the trash and decided to write about The Last Jedi.
In all seriousness, I feel that everything has probably been said about this movie already. Regardless, I’ve really wanted to put my thoughts out there on the film and being that I’ve been on the biggest Star Wars kick of my life over the past few weeks, now is definitely a good time for that. So without further ado, here are my thoughts on the most polarizing installment of the franchise – Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi.
A Little Background
I’ve watched the movie a total of three times now. Once in the theater when it came out, a second time about a year after that, and most recently before writing this. When I first watched it in the theater, I remember disliking many aspects of it, but I preferred it to The Force Awakens. I appreciated the overall originality of the story, which I felt was a far cry from the almost beat-for-beat retelling of A New Hope that was Episode VII. Upon second viewing, many of my opinions on both movies have changed. I adore these movies. Yes, they are flawed, but in my humble opinion, the positives greatly outweigh the negatives.
Be warned – thar be spoilers ahead.
On Finn and Rose
I figured I’d get this out of the way to start off. The Finn and Rose storyline is undoubtedly the weakest part of this movie by far. The sequence on Canto Bight starts out in an enticing way, exploring an alien casino populated by the wealthiest people from around the galaxy, but descends into a gratuitous and unnecessary chase scene that serves no purpose other than to fill up screen time. Rose is an obnoxiously hollow character who does nothing of any actual significance in this movie. Hating on Rose is just beating a dead horse at this point, but I was honestly more invested in her sister, who dies at the beginning of the film. Rose’s only purpose in the movie seems to be to spit out pretty awful lines and to save Finn from sacrificing himself. More on that in a bit.
Finn and Rose’s storyline is made even worse by the side characters that are a part of it: BB-8 and DJ. Holy crap, BB-8 is atrocious in this film. He ascends to godlike status when it comes to plot convenience, shooting coins at guards and commandeering AT-STs. DJ is just as bad. He can just get the heroes out of anything because he’s “the hacker guy”. He’s a plot convenience machine just like BB-8, only he isn’t an adorable little soccer ball droid. The only reason I won’t say he’s even worse than BB-8 is because of the moment he talks about how the rich make weapons for both sides and the fact that he sells out the Resistance and gets the plot moving. And yes, Finn kicking Phasma’s ass is so ridiculously lame. Phasma has become such a wasted villain in these movies. Hopefully they do something cool with her in the next one.
Okay, so you’re probably expecting me to tear apart the moment when Rose saves Finn from sacrificing himself for the Resistance. Truthfully, I’m torn when it comes to this part. One of the themes of this movie, especially with Poe, is the idea that it’s stupid to put everything on the line to make big ballsy maneuvers. The film is big on rejecting the idea of heroes. Thus, Rose stopping Finn from sacrificing himself makes perfect narrative sense. And yes, so does Rose’s infamous line: “That’s how we’re gonna win. Not fighting what we hate – saving what we love.” The problem I have with this moment is the execution. Was Rose piloting her fighter directly into Finn’s an effective way of saving him? How did that not kill him? How did it not kill them both? And then, to add to the ridiculousness of it, the two of them kiss while we see the battering ram cannon blow the Resistance base wide open, which at this point means they lost. I don’t think this part would’ve gotten as much hate had the circumstances been different. And yes, while Finn sacrificing himself would’ve been impactful, did you really want to see him die after his role was almost entirely wasted in the rest of this film? I’d personally rather see him survive and hope he has a better storyline in Episode IX.
In Defense of Luke Skywalker
The handling of Luke is one of, if not the biggest criticism I see regarding The Last Jedi. You just can’t watch a clip of the original trilogy on YouTube now without seeing comments saying something along the lines of, “This is the real Luke!” So let’s take a quick look at the real Luke in the original trilogy.
Luke is probably the most human and relatable character in all of Star Wars. He starts out with a dream, but he is impatient, rash, and as Yoda says, he is always looking ahead and is never focused on the present. He fails to complete his training, instead choosing to try to save Han and Leia. In Return of the Jedi, he has matured, but he lets his anger take over in his fight with Vader. Luke has always been a flawed, human character. That’s why he is so great and that’s why we root for him.
How is he any different in The Last Jedi? He makes a colossal mistake, and he is ashamed of himself for it. He rejects his well-known and celebrated history, because he feels he isn’t deserving of it. The galaxy sees Luke Skywalker as a hero and a legend. So do we. But he isn’t. He’s a human being.
I’m not undermining the severity of Luke’s mistake. He sees darkness in Ben Solo, his own nephew, and he sees the destruction he would bring to the ones he loved, so he contemplates murdering him in his sleep. Luke drawing his lightsaber on his sleeping nephew is not something we would expect to see from him. But just like in Episode VI with Vader, Luke lets his anger, or in this case, fear, take over. He realizes the barbarity of his action, but it’s too late. He makes a mistake and pays for it dearly. He pushes his nephew to darkness and loses his temple.
People call Luke a coward in The Last Jedi for not facing his mistakes and not helping the Resistance from the start. And you know what? They’re right. But think about why he’s so afraid to help the Resistance. He pushed his nephew, the only child of his best friend Han and his sister Leia, to the dark side. He’s embarrassed. He’s ashamed. How can he face the people he loves after failing them so spectacularly?
Now let’s talk about Luke’s redemption. I’m sorry, but I really can’t understand how people can hate on Luke’s confrontation with Kylo Ren. It is beyond me. Here we have a character that was taught by Yoda that a Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, and never for attack. When he confronts Kylo at the end of the film, he does exactly that. He projects a harmless image of himself across the galaxy to stall the First Order, allowing the Resistance to escape. I’ve heard so many people complain that this is the first Star Wars episode without a proper lightsaber duel. Really? Why is that such a massive issue? I don’t know about everyone else, but I am far more invested in the characters of Luke and Kylo in this confrontation than I am with Count Dooku and Yoda in Attack of the Clones. Is that fight better just because their lightsabers touch?
I wholeheartedly believe that what Rian Johnson chose to do with Luke in The Last Jedi was fantastic. Instead of going along with the idea that Luke is a legend and he’s here to save the day, it rejects that and emphasizes his human qualities and failures. That makes his heroic move at the end of the movie that much more meaningful. After an hour and a half of watching him wallow in self-loathing, he redeems himself, saves the Resistance and solidifies his image as the hero everyone thought him to be.
Admiral Holdo and the Smaller Things
There is a lot of hate for Holdo in this movie, and I can understand why. She’s not a particularly interesting character, and her motives are intentionally left unclear until the end of her storyline in order to serve the plot. However, I think her initial actions towards Poe are warranted. In the opening moments of the film, he blatantly disregards Leia’s orders and gets several pilots killed in order to take down the Dreadnought. She’s understandably pretty pissed off at him for this, and he loses his need-to-know privilege. She knows through Leia that Poe needs to learn to trust his superiors, rather than just rush into combat. What I can’t justify, though, is why she wouldn’t reveal the safety of the evacuating ships after Poe leads the mutiny. Surely revealing to him that the escape ships will be cloaked would avoid the unnecessary infighting, right? Not that it matters all that much, given that the Resistance plan would’ve been sold out by DJ regardless, but it would’ve made a little more sense. Either way, I really like how Poe’s risk-all tactics end up wiping out almost the entirety of the Resistance. It’s a hard-hitting way to teach him a lesson, which he finally learns by the end of the movie when he tells Finn and the other fighters to pull out of the battle on Crait.
Back to Holdo, I don’t believe her sacrifice breaks the rules of hyperspace as everyone claims it does. The quintessential hyperspace sequence in all Star Wars movies consist of a jump to lightspeed (the stars zipping by the starships), hyperspace (the ship flying through a wormhole), and then a jump back from lightspeed (the stars returning to normal). Holdo clearly slices through the First Order fleet in the jump to lightspeed, as in the launch into hyperspace. Also, I’ve heard people say things like “okay so then why didn’t the X-Wings just kamikaze the Death Star then?” I’m fairly certain this is an exaggeration, but Holdo flew the biggest ship in the Resistance fleet through the First Order ships. The ship was also entirely empty. I really don’t think it would be feasible to use this as a combat method.
I don’t see anything wrong with the Porgs, or any other creature added to this movie for that matter. Every Star Wars movie adds crazy new aliens and animals. Why is this any different? I will say that I did not care for the milk moment but it was such a miniscule part of the film that I’m surprised I decided to bring it up in the first place.
General Hux’s role in this film is pretty depressing. He’s essentially just comedic relief. In The Force Awakens he was far more menacing. Hopefully that side of Hux will make a comeback in IX.
Lastly, I want to bring up the “Mary Poppins” scene with Leia. Do I understand the purpose of it? Yes. It was a way of showcasing Leia’s Force abilities. Do I like it? Not particularly. I think there could have been a better way to have her use the Force than having her inexplicably escape the cold vacuum of space with it.
The Problem with Rey
Yes, there is no denying it. Rey is a Mary Sue. There was no way I could write about the sequel trilogy and not write about this. She inexplicably flies the Millennium Falcon with ease in Episode VII and she practically masters the Force in this one. I will not say her battle with Kylo Ren in Episode VII contributes to her status as a Mary Sue due to several factors that I won’t go into here.
Just as a refresher, a Mary Sue is a character that seems to outclass and outperform the other characters in the story with little to no explanation for their superior abilities. This is Rey’s major issue. How can she understand Chewbacca? How can she fly starships? Why is the Force so incredibly strong with her? While I doubt we will ever find the answers for the first two questions, the last one will most likely be addressed in Episode IX. I really, really, really hope that J.J. Abrams does not undo Rian Johnson’s decision to make Rey’s parents no one of importance though. This was probably Johnson’s strongest decision, in my opinion. Rey shouldn’t be defined by her parents. She shouldn’t be special only because of her lineage. You shouldn’t have to be related to someone outstanding to stand out.
I sincerely hope the source of Rey’s power is somewhat explained in Episode IX. I also think it will somehow cause a problem for our heroes in some way. Maybe Rey will hurt someone she loves because of her overconfidence in the minimal training she received? I have no idea, and that’s really exciting to me. So yes, while she is a Mary Sue right now, Rey still has an enormous amount of potential that hopefully will be utilized in IX.
And now, onto the best part of this movie.
I was in 11th grade when The Force Awakens came out. I had dyed my, at the time, long and curly hair black for a Halloween costume. The dye was supposed to be temporary, but I guess it wasn’t because my hair stayed black for about six months after the fact. And not a day would go by that someone didn’t call me Kylo Ren.
Now, at this point, I took this as an insult. I wasn’t too hot about The Force Awakens, and I definitely was not a fan of Kylo. I remember my reaction when he first took off his mask:
But now, I would take being called Kylo Ren on the daily as a compliment. His storyline in this film is, I think, perfect. Here we have a character at conflict with himself, torn between the light and the dark. He is clearly affected by killing his father in Episode VII, and in The Last Jedi, we are given so much hope that we can, in fact, turn from the darkness. He can’t bring himself to kill his mother, and he is willing to leave behind everything he built for himself to team up with Rey, the first person he seems to truly connect with (pun intended). We have seen how evil and how good this character can be. But despite all of it, he embraces the darkness.
So many people complain about the death of Snoke. I’m so happy he’s gone. There was nothing whatsoever interesting about him. He was just another Emperor, a plot device to get the characters we actually care about to change. What did people want from him? Some big fight between him and Kylo and Rey? The real baddie should be Kylo, a character we’re genuinely invested in. Who cares about the Emperor in Return of the Jedi? It’s all about Vader. I’m glad that Kylo Ren has become the true villain of the sequel trilogy.
Would it have been cool to see Rey join forces with Kylo after the throne room fight? Absolutely. Am I angry that it didn’t happen? No. I am very much a fan of what was done in its stead.
I also love how Kylo destroys his mask, the symbol of his wannabe-Vader status. He decides to stop trying to be someone else, and he starts accepting himself for what he is. And when both him and the audience discover that he has decided to go full dark side, it affects us. It affects me, at least.
If I really wanted to, I could go on and on about Kylo. I genuinely think he has a lot of depth and I’m super excited to see how his story ends in Episode IX. However, I really hope it doesn’t become a repeat of Vader. I don’t want him to redeem himself at the end of the movie. And if he absolutely has to, it’s got to be in a new and refreshing way.
The Last Section
This came out pretty long, but I guess this is the product of a year’s worth of thoughts on The Last Jedi. I understand if you don’t like the movie. I certainly didn’t write this more than a year after the fact to try and get people to change their minds on it. Truthfully, though, I think this new trilogy will probably have to go through the same process that the prequels had to go through. At first everyone is really torn on them, and then later down the line people start to appreciate them.
The reason I am so incredibly excited for Episode IX is because I have absolutely no idea where the story is going. There are so many different directions the characters can go, and that, to me, is amazing. Here’s to hoping IX will blow VII and VIII out of the water.
Rated on a 5-star scale.