This post is my review of Star Wars The Last Jedi.
I’m a sci-fi fan and have enjoyed the various Star Wars movies over the years so I had been looking forward to seeing the new movie, Star Wars: The Last Jedi (TLJ).
Here is my review of TLJ and be forewarned that there are lots of spoilers ahead so if you haven’t seen it, stop reading now.
Overall rating: B-.
Again, many spoilers ahead!
I’m not going to rehash the whole plot, but focus on strengths and weakness and some of the just plain weird things about this movie.
First, let’s focus on what worked.
When we last left the Star Wars universe after the movie The Force Awakens, one of the biggest cliff hangers was what would happen between the old Jedi Master Luke and the new force-sensitive main character Rey, on the island on the planet Ach-to. I liked the dynamic between the two of them toward the beginning of TLJ. Luke as a hermit felt weird though.
The flashback story between Luke as a flawed Jedi Master and his past padawan Kylo (then Ben Solo) was interesting. There was good depth in the plot line that in a brief moment of weakness Luke considered killing Ben (because he sensed Ben had a lot of darkness in him), that Ben realized what Luke was thinking, and then they fought with disastrous consequences.
The force bond between Kylo and Rey was also cool and made things interesting on that level as well. That connection worked for me even if it wasn’t the romantic “Reylo” that some had hoped. I was also fine with Rey’s parents being “nobodies”. It probably just wouldn’t have worked for her to be a Skywalker or Obi-Wan’s granddaughter, the latter of which was kind of what I had hoped in advance.
Maybe because I’m sentimental, I liked Yoda’s force ghost appearance and his helping Luke get back on track. It was kind of weird seeing Yoda torch the Jedi temple, but I was OK with that too.
I enjoyed Rey and Kylo fighting Snoke’s guards, although the guards seemed too much like stereotypical ninjas to me.
I also appreciated Luke tricking Kylo with his avatar-like thing. I was fooled at first by it, although the darker beard made me wonder…
Towards the end, after Luke’s efforts to give the resistance time to flee, he simply vanishes back on planet Ach-to. We know he’s gone. Maybe not exactly dead, but off to another plane. He’s out of energy and his time is done. That was OK for me and it allows Rey to be the leader of the next generation of Jedi, if that indeed happens in Episode IX.
Finally, I think Rian Johnson’s team did well on the cinematography. It was a pretty movie to watch.
What didn’t work. A lot.
The movie had quite a few problems too that made me give a B-, even though I’m a Star Wars fan. The plot seemed contrived in many places and frankly the writers were kind of sloppy or lazy. By comparison the “in between” Star Wars movie Rogue One flowed so well and was very crisp.
I would have liked to have seen more development between Kylo and Rey, as well as learned more about Kylo’s back story than just a couple of brief flash backs. I also wished we had learned more about the Knights of Ren. Plus, given that they were portrayed as powerful, force sensitive Jedis-in-training who went to the dark side in the last movie, why weren’t they in this movie at all as Kylo’s posse? This is a major gap in the Star Wars plot line.
There some other major gaps that felt problematic to me despite the overly long 2-1/2 hour run time of the movie, which majorly dragged in some points.
Given the importance of Snoke, before he is killed by a sneaky maneuver by Kylo, it is disappointing how little we learned about him. We don’t really know who he was, where he came from, and what motivated him. So as much as I liked the way in which Snoke was killed, as super villains go Snoke wasn’t interesting and ended up one-dimensional. He was just a flat cartoon character. Snoke, you are no Darth Vader.
Finn as a character wasn’t developed much either and he along with the new character Rose (as much as I liked Rose), felt tangential. Everything having to do with Finn and Rose was basically irrelevant to the course of the movie. For instance, their excursion to the casino planet could have been entirely cut and it would have made no difference. It was there in part to develop them individually and their budding romance, but it felt like a forced add-on to the movie. Definitely not a natural plot progression. The pilot Poe Dameron got a lot of screen time and key roles to play in various plot developments. I was fine with that, but so far he’s still fairly one-dimensional any way.
The worst scene in the movie for me totally took me out of the moment. It was the one of Leia flying in space (no space suit) after the command center in the ship takes a direct hit. This felt totally silly and contrived. It just didn’t work, made no sense, and added nothing. Was it supposed to make us think that Leia has special force powers? If so, there were many better ways to do that. In fact, I have wished over the years that Leia would use the force in some more dramatic way than in the past. Overall, Leia’s character in TLJ was developed better than in The Force Awakens so that’s something at least.
Another very specific scene bugged me because of a missed opportunity. I got interested in what was going to happen when Rey wandered on Ach-To and we just knew she was going to some dark place. It was going to be like Luke on Dagobah going to confront darkness in him by wandering in the jungle. However, in TLJ, Rey’s spiritual journey to touch on some darkness just didn’t work. If you are like me during the movie, you ended up watching her see a gazillion copies of herself and not really getting it all. Was she confronting different possible versions of herself or her future? Maybe I need to see it again, but on first viewing it didn’t click.
The movie kind of wandered toward the end.
The remnants of the resistance escaping out the back of the mountain was not that interesting. It was like Rian Johnson painted the plot into a corner. Another thing around this time in the movie that bugged me was that Rey was there at the beginning of scene flying the Millennium Falcon and lured off some enemy tie fighters, but then for at least 10 minutes Rey was gone while her friends were trapped in the mountain and I was thinking, “Uh, where’s Rey?” The battle of Crait overall was too similar to the intro battle in The Empire Strikes Back and unlike in the older movie, this battle just didn’t work for me.
Overall, I was mostly disappointed in this fairly jumbled, sometimes boring movie at least compared to what I expected. I would rank it down with the first two prequel movies in the overall Star Wars film pantheon. Maybe if I see it again I’ll change my mind? I’m not sure I’m up for spending 2 1/2 hours watching it again any time soon and that says something coming from a Star Wars fan.