Star Wars: The Last Jedi is officially in theaters, and we have everything you want to know about the latest addition to the Star Wars saga. Disney is thrilled with Rian Johnson’s performance as director, enough so that they’re giving him a whole new Star Wars trilogy to play with. But will The Last Jedi hold up with true, diehard fans? Maybe not.
We took a look at the four best (and worst) parts of The Last Jedi and gave our overall impression on how this will change the Star Wars franchise going forward. If you haven’t seen the movie yet and want to do so spoiler-free, stop reading now! Bookmark this review, see the movie, and then come back and read. Seriously. Major spoilers ahead!
Good: Visually stunning
The movie was beautiful to look at. Rian Johnson did a phenomenal job in this department, making a very large Star Wars universe feel extremely small at times. There are some really cool battle scenes in space, and the handful of locations don’t disappoint. The casino at Canto Bight contains all kinds of cool critters, sticking with the Star Wars tradition of putting a bunch of crazy-looking aliens together in a way that’s somewhat humorous but doesn’t feel like pandering.
The crystal foxes of Crait are beautiful, as are the Fathiers — massive space horses — that we see Finn and Rose ride during one of the film’s more high-energy scenes. That isn’t even to mention the beauty of Ahch-to, which was filmed on marvelous Skellig Michael off the coast of Ireland. In the visual department, The Last Jedi doesn’t disappoint.
Final warning: Massive spoilers coming up!
Bad: Snoke is a nothingburger
Are you ready for the complaints? Because here is one: Snoke dies in the second act, and no backstory about the Supreme Leader is ever given. After bringing Rey to Snoke’s throne room, the leader arrogantly babbles to the girl about how he manipulated her and Kylo Ren. He tells Rey that Kylo wasn’t strong enough on his own, but does it right in front of his apprentice.
Of course, Snoke tells Kylo to kill Rey and cheesily narrates what he believes to be happening. In reality, Kylo is using the Force to turn on the Skywalker lightsaber that’s sitting directly next to Snoke. The Supreme Leader gets the Darth Maul treatment, splitting in half.
We never learn who Snoke is or where he comes from. What are his motivations, other than ruling the galaxy and killing Luke Skywalker? Star Wars: The Force Awakens does a wonderful job teasing this big bad that only ever appears in a hologram. For the last two years, many have debated the theories about who Snoke is and where the story is going. But after maybe five total minutes of screen time and no further explanation, he’s simply a dead plot device.
Good: Touching moments and character development
The Last Jedi featured several touching moments and some character development. Not every character was fleshed out in a way that we found satisfying, but there is only so much you can do with 150 minutes of screen time. Poe Dameron probably sees the most personal growth, being framed as a cocky, do-it-my-way pilot in the early part of the movie. So much so, in fact, that he pulls a stunt that gets Leia to demote him from Commander to Captain.
We get to see Leia’s relationship with Amilyn Holdo on screen, which is pretty beautiful for anyone that read Claudia Gray’s Leia: Princess of Alderaan. Several other touching moments are sure to bring a tear to the eyes of many, including Luke’s first interaction with R2-D2.
We also get the return of Yoda in a touching scene between the little green ghost and Luke, and it’s implied that it’s the first time they’ve spoken since Star Wars: Return of the Jedi — which, frankly, is kind of weird considering how often Obi-Wan Kenobi returned as a Force ghost to guide Luke.
Bad: Rey’s parents are a bust
The biggest, and no doubt worst, part about The Last Jedi is how the reveal of Rey’s parents is handled. J.J. Abrams set up Rey’s past as a massive secret, teasing it with her early in The Force Awakens when she says to BB-8, “Classified? Me too, big secret.”
From there, it’s implied that she is someone of importance. It’s clear that Kylo Ren knows who she is, if you’ll recall his reaction when the First Order officer tells him that BB-8 and Finn escaped Jakku with a girl. It’s also somewhat implied that Han and Leia know who she is, and Leia even walks right past Chewie at the very end to hug Rey — a girl she has never met and, apparently, knows little about.
So, what’s the big reveal? Rey’s parents were degenerate junk dealers who traded her to Unkar Plutt. Complete and utter nobodies. Ignoring how that clashes with so many moments from The Force Awakens, it leaves us with one massive question: Just exactly how does Rey fit into this story? Even the way the lines were delivered in the climactic moment seemed like nothing more than Johnson pointing and laughing at the fans.
Good: Not just a rehash of The Empire Strikes Back
One of the biggest complaints about The Force Awakens is that Abrams essentially did a reboot of Star Wars: A New Hope. And that’s more or less true, regardless of how you feel about the movie itself. They even created Starkiller Base, which was essentially a bigger Death Star that had to be destroyed. At any rate, that created the concern that The Last Jedi would follow suit and mirror Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.
Although some aspects were similar to the middle movie of the original trilogy, on the whole it’s not a repeat. Sure, Rey goes to a mysterious planet to seek the help of a reluctant Jedi Master. And sure, most of the movie is about the First Order stepping all over the Resistance much like the Empire did to the Rebellion in Empire Strikes Back. But plenty of what happened between Poe, Leia, and Holdo was new ground, and the third act was incredibly unique.
Bad: No lightsaber fights
This is a first for the Star Wars saga! There were absolutely no lightsaber duels in The Last Jedi. There were scenes where lightsabers were used, and even one brief moment in a flashback where two lightsabers clashed against one another. But outside of that, absolutely nothing.
Which is pretty disappointing. This movie managed to have Luke, Rey, Kylo Ren, and Snoke in it without any of those characters actually dueling. The Knights of Ren make no appearance, despite having been mentioned prominently in The Force Awakens. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story had no lightsaber duels in it, but that made sense for the time period and plot of the film. In The Last Jedi, it felt more like an unnecessary tease.
Good: Luke and Leia on screen together
Probably the most touching and satisfying moment in the film is toward the end, when we see Luke and Leia on screen together for the final time. Luke is using a relatively unknown Force power called astral projection, which allows him to appear to be in another place and communicate is if he were actually there. So the twins aren’t actually physically together, but they still have their moment. Make sure a tissue or two are on hand.
Unfortunately for Luke, apparently astral projection takes a whole lot of energy. It’s hard to say, because it’s not really explained in any sort of detail. But our final view of the Jedi Master is from a rock on Ahch-to, a place he never does actually leave, where Luke slowly disappears into the Force while looking out on a double sunset. Extremely poetic, even if it’s a bit disappointing.
Bad: It largely ignores The Force Awakens
The biggest problem with The Last Jedi is that it doesn’t feel like a sequel to The Force Awakens. As a standalone movie, pretending the events of The Force Awakens were never seen on screen, The Last Jedi is actually really good. But unfortunately for Johnson, The Force Awakens does exist, and his vision doesn’t fit coherently with that of Abrams.
When we first see Luke and Rey in The Last Jedi, the girl is standing in front of the bearded master and handing him the Skywalker lightsaber. After examining it briefly, Luke’s expression goes from curious to careless as he throws his family lightsaber over his shoulder and off a cliff. If there is a metaphor in The Last Jedi for what Johnson does to The Force Awakens, it’s this.
Abrams set up the start to the new franchise with both new and old characters, creating something with major potential — even if he essentially rehashed A New Hope to get there. Johnson seems to have ignored major plot points and teased reveals from The Force Awakens in how he handled Rey and Supreme Leader Snoke, and that is sure to be frustrating to Star Wars diehards. If you’re really excited to finally know the truth about Rey and Snoke, you’re in for a big — and crushing — surprise.
Overall thoughts on The Last Jedi
It’s hard to view The Last Jedi as anything but a failure to build on what J.J. Abrams started with the new franchise. While it was fun and exciting to watch, there was so much that left us wanting. Rey never really came to an understanding of why Luke was so disillusioned with the Jedi, just that he had failed his nephew and was haunted by that reality. She had a dark side moment, mirroring Luke in the cave on Dagobah, but it completely fell flat.
Kylo killing Snoke was awful for more than one reason. Sure, it was upsetting that we never learned his backstory and that he wasn’t going to truly be the big bad of the sequel trilogy. But Han Solo’s sacrifice at the end of The Force Awakens is also now completely wasted. Han absolutely didn’t need to die, because Kylo Ren is no closer to being redeemed. He only killed Snoke because he was enraged at the suggestion that he wasn’t on track to becoming the next Darth Vader.
Overall, The Last Jedi ranks right alongside Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. Both movies are deeply flawed and frustrating, but the visuals are masterfully crafted and it’s never boring. Even if you don’t like how plot is executed, you can still appreciate it and enjoy the journey.
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