Star Wars: The Last Jedi review: Star-tlingly Average

Foreword:

Back in 2012, in a move I like to call the “Star Warsaw pact,” Disney purchased Lucasfilms. That, combined with their 2009 acquisition of Marvel, and the recent news that they’re getting their hands on all of the Fox assets, pretty much guarantees their role as our new media overlords. Not wanting to go against the establishment, my original instinct was to give this movie a perfect 8, along with some description that they could throw on the blu-ray cover, like “courageous,” or “bold,” or “some good-ass shit right there.” However, I have journalistic integrity, and Disney hasn’t paid me shit (couldn’t even get an invite to the premiere smh) so as revenge, I’m gonna give this movie a comprehensive, thorough, Bod-awful review.

 

When I saw that the new Star Wars movie was getting more praise from critics than general audiences, I knew for sure that they had either killed off some beloved character, or brought back Jar-Jar. Either way, I knew I had to see it for myself.

 

Premise

 

A young british woman seeks out a senile old man to teach her the ways of his (former) cult. Meanwhile, a group of space nazis tries to genocide a rag-tag team of diverse, photogenic aliens.

 

Plot

 

The movie opens with Poe Dameron juking a bunch of space-turret things, before prank-calling General Hux and sending out some bombers to destroy a “dreadnaught” (it’s like a big cannon). Back on the rebellion ship, Leia chastises him for taking too many losses in his fleet. Already this doesn’t make sense to me. At the end of The Force Awakens, the rebels were actually doing really well, but two sentences of text scroll later, they seem to have been beaten back into submission. Now all they have is like one ship? But why? Needed an underdog to root for, I guess.

 

Anyway, The First Order then sends a fleet of TIE-fighters at the rebel ship, destroying the rebel fleet, as well as a section of the bridge. Leia is blown into space, where she just floats for a few seconds, before doing a black power salute and force-flying her way back into the ship. While I don’t have a problem with the whole “anyone can use the force” idea (in fact, I actually really like it), this specific scene didn’t make a ton of sense. I mean, Leia never really used the force in any of the other movies (besides occasionally sensing Luke), and she never really uses it again in this one. So like… why? And how? Also Admiral Ackbar dies an incredibly undignified death, which is v. sadbois.

 

On the rock island thing from the end of Episode 7, Rey tries to give Luke his lightsaber, but he throws it away. Rey and Chewbacca inform Luke of Han’s death, which makes him kind of sad but not enough to actually care about their problems. We get some weird scenes of Luke just doing random shit around the island, like milking an elephant-giraffe thing, and fishing with a comically oversized spear-pole. Rey and Kylo Ren start FaceTiming each other (or I guess ForceTiming?), but the connection keeps dropping (probably because the First Order repealed Force neutrality, SMH). Eventually, Luke agrees to train her.

 

Back on the rebel ship, Leia’s being comatose leaves a power vacuum (so that makes two vacuums that she’s left), which necessitates naming a new leader. Poe gets cucked when some lady named Admiral Holdo is promoted to General over him. Poe goes to Holdo and asks her what the plan is, and she basically tells him to shut up and leave before calling him a “fly boy.”

 

Finn, realizing that the rebellion’s totally fucked, tries to leave the ship with an escape pod so he can rescue Rey. On his way out, he’s stopped by the sister of one of Poe’s deceased bombers, who berates him for deserting the alliance. Finn explains that the First Order can track their ships through light-time hyperloop space (or some shit) and there’s no use fighting. Rose (the sister) then immediately figures out that they can rectify the problem by haxing into some device on the Imperial ship and shutting off the thingamajig. This scene bothered me for a few reasons, namely: a) why does the entire crew of the ship not know the particulars of the current situation, and b) why did they not at least bother telling the competent technicians about the problem so they could try and come up with a solution, instead of just moping around and giving up? But whatever, we really needed that Finn + Rose subplot in here. Speaking of….

 

After explaining their plan to Poe (who shares Finn’s general sentiment), the trio call up Maz (the alien chick from the bar in TFA that let that movie pass the Bechdel test), who tells them there’s a hacker on a casino planet called Canto Bight (fitting because I Canto stand this part of the movie). Finn and Rose hit up the casino, where they walk around for a few minutes and eventually find the guy they want. Unfortunately, they get arrested for illegal parking or something, and are thrown in the jail. While in there, they meet Benicio del Toro, who happens to, by chance, be a really good hacker guy who offers to help them. He breaks them out of prison, and after a dumb five minute sequence where they ride some hammerhead horses through the casino and break some shit, Benny-T swings around with a ship and picks them up.

 

Luke gives Rey a few lessons, but gets turned off when he feels that she’s too tempted by the “dark side.” Luke explains that he believes the Jedi should die off, as the force requires a balance, and for every great Jedi there must be an equally great Sith to balance them out. To me, this was actually a really interesting concept, but unfortunately it gets discarded pretty quickly. Rey talks to Kylo some more, before learning that the reason he turned on Luke at the Jedi temple was because he tried to kill him. Rey confronts Luke about this, who explains that while he was considering murdering Kylo in cold blood for fear that he was gonna turn to the dark side and become a Sith lord, he wasn’t, like, actually gonna go through with it. (Of course, Kylo still thought that Luke was gonna kill him, and so actually did end up becoming evil as a result.) Rey, in a fit of Rey-ge (heh), flies off with Chewie in the M-Falc and goes to meet up with the resistance.

 

Rey lands on the Imperial ship, where Kylo takes her up to Snoke’s throne room. Snoke (more on him later), tries to get Rey to reveal Luke’s location, before telling Kylo to kill her. Kylo double-crosses him and uses his force powers to cut Snoke in half with a lightsaber. Kylo and Rey fight off Snoke’s guards. After defeating them, Kylo asks Rey to join him so that they can rule together. Rey demands that he saves the rebels, but he asserts that it’d be better to let all of the old stuff die off (which I think was Rian Johnson’s motto for this movie). Kylo reveals that Rey’s parents were drunks, and that while the world didn’t see any value in her, he does (awwwww <3). Unfortunately, the power of love < the power of friendship, sisters before misters, and all that, so Rey runs off to help out her friends.

 

On the rebel ship, it’s revealed that Holdo’s plan all along was to jettison everyone from the main ship on cloaked transport ships, and hide out on an abandoned rebel base on a moon. Why she didn’t just tell everyone that from the get go I still don’t really understand. Anyway, the entire rebellion gets on a bunch of transport ships but Holdo stays behind because “someone needs to pilot the cruiser,” even though she doesn’t actually do anything except walk around kind of. Whatever.

 

On the imperial ship, Finn and Rose get captured by The First Order. In a shocking twist, Benicio sold them out for some money. It’s almost like he’s a man of few morals who does jobs for whomever will pay him the most. If only there was a word for that… Guess we’ll never know. The pair get taken to Captain Phasma (remember her?) who takes like ten minutes setting up an execution. BB8 comes in with an AT-ST and stalls for time. Hux, now armed with knowledge of the rebels’ plan, starts shooting down their transport ships. Holdo witnesses this, and decides to kamikaze herself into the imperial ship to save the others. She turns the rebel cruiser around and light-speeds through the ships, destroying pretty much all of them in the process. Finn, Rose, BB8, and the remaining rebels get down to the planet. They hide out in the old rebel base, but see that the First Order is setting up a mini Death Star cannon to destroy the blast shield. Finn tries to suicide-run himself into the cannon on an old rebel fighter, but gets intercepted by Rose, who knocks him out of the way.

 

Luke magically arrives on the planet, and walks out to confront Kylo. Kylo stops the First Order’s advancement and hops out of his ship to fight Luke. After an extended lightsaber battle, it’s revealed that Luke was back on his rock island all along, and was simply projecting himself onto the battlefield. He collapses from exhaustion, and fades away, presumably becoming one with the force. Rey and Chewie arrive on the Millenium Falcon and rescue what’s left of the rebellion (which is like 10 people). The End.

 

Characters

 

There were 2½ characters that I really liked in this movie, and 2½ characters that I really hated. I’ll explain.

 

Liked

Kylo Ren: Kylo Ren is by far the best written character in this movie, and probably the best written character in all of Star Wars. His central theme is conflict, and he’s written pretty perfectly for the part. He’s torn between following in the footsteps of his parents or his grandfather, having to choose between the murderous Sith, or the Jedi who tried to murder him. And honestly, I agree with him for the most part. Like Luke, he believes that the Jedi are an archaic force, and that he and Rey could do a much better job of ruling than any of their predecessors. He generally has decent intentions, but often lets his anger get the best of him. Not to mention, Adam Driver fucking kill it in this role. As much as I love some of the other actors in this film (Oscar Isaac <3<3<3), he absolutely carried the movie.

 

Poe Dameron: Oscar Isaac is dangerously close to peak-Harrison Ford levels of charming. Every time he’s on screen I want to root for him, regardless of what he’s doing at that moment. He just naturally has the charisma that makes him so much more captivating than every other character in the rebellion. Not to mention, as hard as this movie tried to manufacture Poe’s imperfections, he was pretty much always in the right. He did successfully take down a dreadnaught (which posed a pretty big threat to the rebels), and while the Finn/Rose plan was unnecessary and kind of stupid, from his perspective he didn’t really have much of a choice, as no one ever really told him anything. IMO, Poe did nothing wrong (#poedidnothingwrong).

 

Luke in the second half of the movie: A lot of people seemed to think that his heart-to-heart with Ghost Yoda was the turning point for his character, but I actually started to like Luke when he explained to Rey why he felt that the Jedi needed to die off (instead of just acting like a whiny bitch to her). The lightsaber fight between him and Kylo was really, really cool, and while I know some people found his “death” controversial, I actually really liked how he went out.

 

Hated

Admiral Holdo: God she’s just the worst. I don’t know why they put Laura Dern doing an Effie Trinket impression in this movie, but I do know that we didn’t need her. Every time she was on screen for the first hour and a half I just hated her. Not only is she mean to Oscar Isaac (a capital sin in and of itself), but she doesn’t tell her crew anything. And not just Poe, either, because we know that Rose had no idea what the hell was going on. And don’t come at me with the whole “oh but commanding officers don’t need to tell their subordinates anything” thing. Look, when your army is in tatters and you have a few hundred people left, max, it seems like a good idea to actually, y’know, let people in on what’s happening. But nope, Holdo does what she wants cause whatever. Gah.

 

Snoke: When I saw the big goofy head hologram in The Force Awakens, I thought for sure that it would be a Wizard of Oz situation, and “Snoke” would just be a persona for someone working behind the scenes. But nope. Snoke’s character design honestly looks like it was ripped from one of those “The Real Cost” anti-smoking commercials. Not to mention, this Sloth-from-the-Goonies-looking motherfucker does absolutely nothing in this movie. We get two scenes of him, one where he’s berating Kylo for being a pussy, and one where he dies. Apparently he just sits in his dumb red room all day, with his stupid ninja bodyguards that he doesn’t even really need because he seems perfectly capable of defending himself. Like I understand that they wanted to get Snoke out of the way to set up Ren as the main villain for Episode 9, but still. They could’ve at least made him go out in a cooler way. He and Luke could’ve killed each other, thereby ushering in “a new age” of Sith and Jedi. And it’s not that Andy Serkis did a bad job with him, either, he was absolutely fine. But Snoke was just so poorly written that it was embarrassing. Easily the worst villain in Star Wars.

 

Luke in the first half of the movie: There’s not that much to say here, but Luke is extremely unlikable for the first hour of this movie. He basically just ignores Rey when she asks him for help, and doesn’t really seem to care too much about the death of his best friend. While he’s somewhat justified in not wanting to train new Jedi, he doesn’t even give her a good explanation until she harasses him for a few days. Unfortunately, Mark Hamill playing an asshole doesn’t really come across as charming, he just comes across as an asshole.

 

Every other character in this movie was fine. Rose was annoying at points, but I thought her character was kinda neat. Finn was generally pretty incompetent but at least his heart was in the right place. Rey was pretty one-note and spent most of the movie just trying to learn to do Jedi things. Benicio del Toro was criminally underused, but I guess he served his point in the plot fine. Although I will say that the fact we didn’t get to see Justin Theroux as the code breaker was pretty disappointing.

 

Dialogue

 

In no part of the movie did the Mouse’s influence shine brighter than in the dialogue. I’ve seen a lot of comparisons to Marvel movies, which I think is fair, but the humor in this movie was typically delivered much, much worse than in most of those. On top of that, the dialogue often didn’t really match the tone or emotional context of the scenes. For instance, when Kylo was in a fit of extreme rage, the best he could muster when seeing the Millenium Falcon was “blow that piece of junk out of the sky.” The writers were trying so hard to be family friendly that they sacrificed a lot of the script’s integrity. That’s not to say that you necessarily need to be crude to convey emotion. Darth Vader was extremely menacing despite never swearing once. Of course, it’s hard to have a character like Kylo Ren, who’s pretty much defined by his explosive temper, throw tantrums while keeping it PG. Besides that, a lot of the dialogue/social commentary was really on the nose. The part where Rose explains to Finn while she hates the casino because they oppress poor people was very, very obvious. Although hats off to this movie for finally taking on the military-industrial complex.

 

Tone

 

This movie also employs the Marvel-patented “dark but not too dark” tone, where every dramatic moment needs to be either punctuated by, or immediately succeeded with some moment of levity. My assumption for why Disney does this is that they never want any of their films associated with negative emotions, so they try their absolute hardest to minimize the amount of screen time that depressing events get.

 

They also try to replicate the classic Star Wars tone where everyone’s cheery and lighthearted and cracking wise all the time, but it often felt very out of place when they did so. There would be times where the rebellion, for instance, would take extremely heavy casualties, and despite the many people that died, everyone just sort of seemed okay with it. Characters would ignore blatant tragedies and not react at all when something serious would happen, for no reason other than to keep the mood happy. Incredibly, there seems to be a fundamental flaw with trying to write a movie about a group of freedom fighters that’s being relentlessly pursued by an overbearing, militant force, and also trying to keep things light at the same time. Idk though, maybe that’s just a me thing.

 

Cinematography/Visual Effects

 

The cinematography in this movie was pretty good for the most part. Action scenes were shot well, and everything looked mostly fine. There were a few questionable choices, though, like a weird overuse of drone shots. When Rey and Luke are on the island, there are multiple times where there’ll be a shot of them on the ground, immediately followed up by an overhead shot of the entire island. Like, we already know where they are, not really sure why the movie feels the need to keep reminding us.

 

There was also one really nice scene in particular, when Holdo light-speeds through the empire ships. The movie goes silent, and we see a near-still frame of the different ships exploding. Everything was so perfectly set up, it almost looked like a shot from an anime.

 

The visual effects in this movie are also pretty solid, although there were a few specific times (like during Leia’s space flight, where it looked like they just cut her out of the frame and then dragged her across the background to the ship). Some of the alien animals also looked a bit off, like the horse things from the casino planet.

 

Sound

 

The best part of Star Wars has, is, and always will be the music. It is, after all, a space opera. (Note: before all of you smart asses start flaming me in the comments, I’m aware that the term “space opera” doesn’t relate to a literal opera, it was just joak). The score to this movie was composed by an 85 year old John Williams, and it’s definitely safe to say that he’s still got it. The music is a combination of the classic, iconic Star Wars themes, as well as some original composition. The orchestral soundtrack is also quite refreshing given the trend of some modern blockbusters turning to electronic-y sound. The only complaint I did have with the score is that it occasionally didn’t match the tone that the movie was trying to convey, but given how fucking awesome John Williams is, they should’ve rewritten scenes to match the music.

 

The sound design was pretty standard for Star Wars. All of the blasters made blaster noises, the lightsabers made those classic whomps and the spaceships sounded like, well, spaceships. Not too many complaints there, honestly.

 

The audio mixing was also pretty good for the most part, with the exception of the opening theme which was really, really loud for some reason.

 

Conclusion

The Last Jedi isn’t really a bad movie on its own, but it has practically no coherence when considering the previous film. It takes all of the various plot points that The Force Awakens sets up, and either turns them on their head or flat out ignores them. I have nothing wrong with some new ideas in Star Wars (especially given my minimal attachment to the original films), but the fact that Rian decided to retcon everything to be edgy was kind of dumb. On top of that, this film genuinely brought up some interesting themes and ideas, but decided to toss them aside in favor of a much more traditional Star Wars ending. Certainly not bad, but not amazing or inventive either. All I’m saying is, a lot of the plot points in this movie felt a bit… forced. Okay I’m done now.

 

Good for: Kylo + Rey fanfiction

 

Bad for: Luke + Rey fanfiction

 

Bod R8s: 5.5/8

 

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