The resistance is scattered, the Jedi are all but extinct, the First Order is a dominating presence in the galaxy and the Skywalker family is front and center in this story which is the 8th of 9 films in the saga. So, does “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” deliver on a story that’s both fresh and familiar or should we blast this film like Alderaan? Let’s dive in and take a look in this SPOILER FILLED review.
The story, unfortunately, wasn’t paced very well. The beginning sprints to tell us who the major players in this film will be. Then it slows down while Rey and Luke are on the island together. There’s also a hacking sequence that takes place with Poe, Finn and (newly introduced) Rose where they must travel to find Maz Kanata’s special hacker on a distant planet. That entire planet sequence, by the way, felt like it was ripped right out of the “Fifth Element” movie. It’s all plot building but also it’s not because this film doesn’t conclude like the typical second of a three movie story arc. This movie ends and it almost feels like that’s the actual end and we could get 3 more films to explore where this one leaves off. Also, this film tells us that Leia knows how to use the Force more than just to communicate across the galaxy with Luke but there’s no explanation in this movie for how she’s come to wield this power. Only a musical cue that lets us know force wielding is about to happen.
Speaking of Leia… one of the worst scenes in the film involves her death, or lack there of. Carrie Fisher died in real life and people wondered, rightfully so, how that would, if it would at all, play into this story. At the very beginning of the film, the bridge of the ship she’s on is blown to bits and she’s cast into the void of space to die. I sat in my theater seat with a smile on my face because the story made sense so far and it also answered the big question, “which of the main 5 characters left will die?” And, it was answered at the very beginning which means we can enjoy the film without the worry or concern of, “WHO’S IT GONNA BE??” But then, it back tracks that decision in a very peculiar way. She doesn’t die, because, well, the Force?
Luke’s return was fantastic. However, so much screen time is wasted on his character it confused me. I don’t need to see Luke spear fish on this secluded island. Or milk an alien and then drink that milk from a thermos. Let’s move the story along. However, he had the most enjoyable moments from his introduction to the end of the film. Mark Hammil delivers on a performance that shows incredible emotional range and I couldn’t have been happier with his performance. However, the ending of the film was beyond frustrating. At the end, we see him enjoying a sunset which I took to be a metaphor for the end of his old ways and the beginning of something new, because of his conversation with Master Yoda, which was probably my favorite moment in the movie, FYI. The realization he comes to that in order to lead you must instruct and educate on success and failure was leading me to believe it would be important later on. For it is in the understanding of both, that balance is brought and fulfilled learning can be accomplished. But no. Not even close. He just dies staring at the sun. No muss. No fuss. No clean up on aisle Jedi. He just passes on into the Force. I was so upset I could’ve walked out of the theater. Leia gets to live, miraculously, without explanation, but Luke dies? Shut your face. This is ludicrous.
The writing was also a weird blending of what felt like a Marvel movie (with regards to humor) meets classic Star Wars. In fact, the opening of the movie where Poe is trying to talk with Hux pulled me out of the film. I actually thought, “This isn’t Star Wars… I’m not sure what this is right now.” There were some jokes that landed. I particularly enjoyed the first time Luke gives Rey a lesson in the force and tells her to reach out. That did get an audible laugh from me. However, that didn’t feel like Star Wars as much as it could’ve been a joke in the British sit-com, “The I.T. Crowd.” I imagine that dialogue would’ve been played out by the characters Roy and Jen. Star Wars, as a franchise, has always been more serious and dire. The characters that bring humor do so naturally because it’s built into the construct of who that character is. Again, this felt like an odd blending of forced and natural humor. Finn and Rose had some great natural comedic moments because I believed that their characters would do and say certain things. Also, Benecio Del Toro plays a hacker named D.J. who is basically a tech mercenary. His allegiance is to money and not a particular side. While his character is very minor it did elevate the tension of the film towards the end of the second act. Also, since this paragraph is about the comedic moments, the manner in which he spoke reminded me of the guy who’s hit by lighting 66 times in the movie, “The Great Outdoors.” His stutter really took me out of the film because I kept laughing at humorous moments from “the Great Outdoors.” However, it’s believable that his character might stutter if he’s been electrocuted so many times from hacking various items, ships, etc.
Snoke is completely useless. Another major frustration for me. He’s built up in “The Force Awakens” and this film until he’s easily sliced in half. We have so much story building with Snoke and Kylo. As Yoda said in “Star Wars: Phantom Menace”, “Always two there are, no more, no less. A master and an apprentice.” So, by killing Snoke, now there are not two. It all feels thrown away because he’s killed. Also, there’s still no explanation on how Snoke got to Kylo Ren while he was training at the Jedi Temple with Luke. The story just keeps mentioning that it was Snoke who convinced Ben Solo to become Kylo Ren. We don’t know how… still… after two movies… and now Snoke is dead.
The biggest positive for me was the writing. Stay with me. This film is unbalanced which makes this a difficult review to give. There are a few films that have an altered structure for telling the story. Instead of Act 1, 2 and 3, we get Act 1, 2, 3.1 and 3.2. Minority Report is an example of a movie that felt like it was ending but kept going just a little bit longer to give us more and to really give a strong ending. That was this film. While I hated the fact Luke dies and Leia lives, the ending works in this story. And because of this ending, we get an incredible lightsaber battle which has another great lightsaber battle just before it. Plus, there are some awesome spaceship explosions in this film. One of which is done very creatively and, in both viewings, got an audible *gasp* from the audience.
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is in your local theater now! I’m recommending a big screen viewing. It’s a really great looking film. While the story doesn’t deliver 100% it’s still worth your time and hard earned dollars. There’s some big writing issues for me in this story but the overall movie works. Also, I’m still trying to decide who has the best single line in the film. Is it Luke when he’s speaking to Rey and then again when he is speaking to Kylo? Or is it Rose, when she’s speaking with Finn about how the resistance/rebellion will win after having saved his life. Go see this movie!!