I distinctly remember sitting down at the theater to see my first Star Wars on the big screen. Though Episode I the Phantom Menace proved to be a disappointment for many, it sparked in me at 10 a love for all things Star Wars. As each of the remaining Prequel movies came out, I’d get hyped to see it in the theater, and each time I walked out amazed! Now as I’ve gotten older and wiser I recognize the prequels as deeply flawed movies, but I can still pop them in and get in touch with a more naive time in my life. As a Star Wars fan, these last few years have been pretty amazing, an incredible RPG system from Fantasy Flight Games, an animated series that gets better with every season (for real that Darth Maul vs Obi Wan scene is one of the top Star Wars moments ever), and of course more movies! The Force Awakens though is admittedly a retelling of A New Hope, but was still a fun trip and a reminder of what Star Wars is. Rogue One told the story of one of the biggest mysteries of the Rebellion obtaining those Death Star plans. I did my best to avoid even the trailers of The Last Jedi, alas… I did unfortunately end up seeing one when going to see another movie.
I’ll start with things I didn’t like in The Last Jedi. The biggest thing is an entire short side story that isn’t that compelling, offering little in terms of character development or moments. It introduces an intriguing character, but ultimately the movie would end exactly the same whether or not this side story even happened. This also adds to the movie feeling a little long. Delete that entire story, not much changes and the movie would feel better timed.
I wasn’t all that interested in any of the new characters. I wanted to know more about Poe, Finn, and Rey! I wanted to learn more about Snoke and how he enticed Kylo Ren to the dark side. I wanted to learn what Luke Skywalker has been up to all this time. So when a number of new characters are introduced and an entire story arc is added to meet another, I grew worried that there wouldn’t be time to have these questions answered. A couple of the characters that had potential were completely wasted. Some humor didn’t land, because it didn’t fit with the scene or the character associated with it. I was confused at the end by the handling of a major character.
The porgs, though they started very cute, were kind of annoying to me by the end, but people around me were still laughing at them so that’s probably just me.
Now the things I did like about The Last Jedi! Rey and Kylo Ren’s character development is excellent. They both explore their own motives for things and come to conclusions that make sense for them. Force lore is explored a good amount, it’s taken seriously, and it’s awesome. Most of the things I wanted to learn about specific characters were revealed in a way that satisfied my curiosity. Understanding how Luke got to where he is now from where he was in Return of the Jedi means admitting that Luke has flaws. This is good because it gives him the chance to grow.
There are a couple of moments that really allow characters to shine and show what they are capable of. Poe does a bunch of dumb things, but in way that reveals more about him as a character. Finn grew the most I think in Force Awakens and takes a bit of a side role here to allow other characters to grow. He still gets some really cool moments though. The action is top notch too, showing off some really neat stuff that hasn’t been done in Star Wars yet.
Some of the humor did work; when it landed it was because it made sense with the character it was involved with and the setup of the scene. The cinematography is some of the best in any movie yet, with some excellent use of color to accent what is happening on screen. A new character I didn’t’ like at first, I ended up really liking by the end. It isn’t a retelling of Empire Strikes Back, but is still a bit of a tragedy, emphasizing character’s failures, exploring darker themes, and questioning things about the Jedi and the Sith.
THE MUSIC IS PHENOMENAL AS ALWAYS!
The music in Star Wars really at this point is its own character and I’m glad it’s there in some of its strongest moments yet. John Williams, has helped make Star Wars what it is. Finally the overall story is admittedly a bit convoluted and relies on a few “gotcha” moments, but aside from the side arc I mentioned earlier is a very enjoyable movie.
My initial feelings coming out of the movie weren’t great, but the more I thought about things, I realized this is because it is in fact a story of struggle, a tragedy. Going in I was hyped for an action adventure-fest where the three main heroes do something grand together. This isn’t that movie. This is the movie that reveals the weaknesses of each character, they have to deal with the consequences of their decisions, and on top of all that they still need to figure out a way to stop their greatest enemy.
Similar to Empire Strikes Back, without knowing what happens in Return of the Jedi, leaves with a sense of lost hope, a realization of all the things that need to be overcome before everything can come to a satisfying conclusion. The Last Jedi is the pause where questions are asked and some are answered, others are left to be answered in the next movie. It will be a good setup to build on for the finale of what has proven to be a good trilogy so far. I’ve seen some walk away completely disappointed, saying a movie should stand completely on its own.
My one rebuttal is this, Empire Strikes Back (usually ranked as the best Star Wars movie), does not hold up on its own. It needs A New Hope and Return of the Jedi to be what it is. I think this is a similar situation.
The Last Jedi is certainly worth seeing in theaters, there are scenes that can be most appreciated when on a giant screen. I’ll probably need to see it at least once more before I can officially rank it on my personal favorite Star Wars movies list. I hope this gave enough to set some reasonable expectations, without spoiling anything in particular. Some things I specifically left out completely because I didn’t want to ruin anyone’s reaction to them.
Go see The Last Jedi, it is setting itself up to be the “Empire Strikes Back” of this trilogy.