Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last Jedi ★★★★★

Buckle your seatbelts, and don't get your opinions in a twist. You're about to ride on the Fives train of geeky thoughts about some stars and some wars. It's gonna be a long one, by the way.


"Rian Johnson doesn't understand Star Wars". How can one believe in such a statement, when his film was the only one in the sequel trilogy to acknowledge, explore, and respect George Lucas' ideas from both the Original and Prequel trilogies?

The Last Jedi is a film with flaws. I won't deny that. But most of these flaws are simply minor hiccups along a beautiful path of both visual and thematic wonders. For each mediocre detail, there are a bunch of masterfully crafted moments and scenes that more than make-up for a few nitpicks.

Sure, those bomber ships at the start are dumb: too slow and destroyed too easily. But is that a big deal compared to the fact that the opening sequence is essentially perfect (link)? Akin to Rogue One, we see regular fighters dying for a cause they believe in. You don't need to be a super important part of the high-ranks of the Resistance (or any other organization) to do something meaningful. It is perfect, for it introduces us to the main idea of this film and the most crucial part of Poe's, Finn's, and Rey's character arcs. And, before I get to that, another complain usually thrown around is about the jokes in the film. I actually find most of the humor quite solid, even if a bit out-of-place sometimes. The "your mom" joke in this same sequence actually makes a lot more sense tonally than Poe's "I can't hear you with that mask on" joke at the start of The Force Awakens. Just getting that out of the way.

I understand not liking Canto Bight (even though it's like, a 10-minute sequence), but I think that whole storyline is the only time Finn became an ACTUAL character, rather than just an idea never legitimately expanded-on. Throughout the film, he learns to let go of his selfishness disguised as benevolence, and ultimately sacrifices himself at the end in favor of the true good - which is why I hate the scene of Rose saving him, even if their relationship in the film is actually pretty good. Poe goes through a similar journey, but, instead, it's his ignorance disguised as altruism. They both think they're doing something for the greater good, but are really only thinking about themselves (Finn), or just not thinking straight at all (Poe). Although I also hate how Holdo doesn't have a good reason to not telling her plan to Poe, at least it's a "ends justify the means" kind of situation in favor of Rian's vision for the story and characters. Same for Rose and the "save what we love" bs. I mean, if that moment didn't happen, we wouldn't get the sequence after it - possibly the best of the film.

See what I'm saying? One bad thing, Ten great ones. Are "plot-holes" really that impactful when you have such a rich story? I don't see people compain about the inconsistencies in the Original Trilogy and saying it took away from their overall experience. Even with minor nitpicks, they are still "the perfect movies" (and, well, I agree with that statement, but, in my book, perfect doesn't necessarily mean flawless).

Here, I'll show you again: Leia flying through space is... an odd choice, to say the least. But, in contrast, we got her first use of the Force on-screen, accompanied with beautiful music, and a super cool visual foreshadowing for the destruction of the Supremacy ship. And, in that same sequence, we got Kylo's struggle with the darkness. Plus, a little before that, we got the gorgeous shot with the "lightspeeding stars" on the window, symbolising the massive and agitated weight of carrying the rebellion, a weight that has been resting on Leia's shoulders since the very beginning. No words spoken, just letting the imagery tell the story.
Oh, and since we're talking about music and cinematography here, let me just say this film is (get the kids and elderly out of the room!) literal ORGASM in both these aspects. And it's one of the best edited Star Wars films too, which says a lot. So many impeccable transitions. Anyways, Leia has never been a very complex character, but, I must say, this might be her best film. Oh, and you know what other original trilogy character is at their peak here? I'll tell ya in a minute.

Before that, Rey and Kylo Ren. Now, this is a part of the film I have zero issues with. The "a hero can be anyone and come from anywhere" story was just meant to be told in the Star Wars universe with more care and focus (since the concept never got much attention prior to this film), and Rian did it perfectly. Rey is an inspiring figure, an uncorrupted spirit. She is learning various lessons throughout all of the movie, and from all sorts of places. From Luke, from Leia, even from Kylo. But, most importantly, from herself. You don't need much more than determination to be someone you wanna be. As painted in the cave scene with the multiple Reys, she "is her own parents", because she raised herself. And she can still continue to do the right thing by herself, by creating her own path and not just following the lessons of the masters that came before her. But she DOES respect these masters and WANTS to learn from them. Best example of this is probably the fact that she took the Sacred Texts, not only showing her admiration for the Jedi's lessons, but being another showcase of her willingness to teach herself if necessary. "We are what they grow beyond". Stunning character work.

And Adam Driver nails the anger running in his character's veins. The internal conflict is so well-written and acted. I think killing Snoke was a pretty damn great decision that was not only surprising, but also set the stage for Kylo to be the main antagonist in the last film, fully embracing his own villain persona. Is that really just "subversion for the sake of shock value"? Also worth mentioning how his relationship with Rey is fantastically presented. So mysterious, a concept that was perfectly incorporated into the screen. As it's great to see this relationship grow and see their arcs colliding. Rey, being the beacon of light that she is, is the reason she was the one meant to save Ben from the dark side (as Luke said, "I can't save him", but heavily implied that there is still a way for him to be redeemed). Even if she couldn't do it on first try, the film's ending still hints at a possible future redemption, since their connection has become stronger than what Snoke had planned.

If you wanna stop for a bit and go to the bathroom, I guess now's the time. Thanks, if you're reading this, by the way. Took some time and I really enjoy talking about what I love.
Moving on, time to discuss my absolute favorite thing about the film. This is pretty much the mid-point of the review. Yup, I told you it was a long one...

~

Because I was Luke Skywalker. Jedi Master. A legend.

~

I completely understand disliking The Last Jedi's portrayal of Luke, I did it for a long time. After all, this a character many people looked up to in their childhoods, so seeing him in such a pitiful light wasn't easy for many. But, to me, the fragility of this hero is what makes him, well, a hero!!

[The galaxy's point of view, post-Episode VI] Luke Skywalker is THE Jedi. He destroyed the first Death Star. Killed The Emperor and Darth Vader. Fought bravely against the Empire across many worlds. He saved us all. Luke Skywalker is THE hero.

And, for Skywalker, all he did was his duty as a Jedi. Protected his friends, helped free the galaxy. Freed his father. He did what Obi-Wan and Yoda couldn't. Now, his mission was to restore the Jedi Order and honor their legacy. That is his reason to keep going.

Enter Ben Solo. Han and Leia's son, the mighty Skywalker blood ready to be molded into a powerful Jedi. But then came Snoke, and corrupted the boy's mind. Luke saw the dark side consuming that kid, he saw what he was going to do. Kylo Ren would end all that Luke fought so hard for: the Order, his friends, peace. It would be the end of everything, and the risk was too big. So, for a brief moment - briefer than when the Jedi Knight almost killed Darth Vader at the second Death Star many years ago - Luke Skywalker let the dark side take the best of him. Because, for the first time, he was genuinely afraid.

From "THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK":

Luke Skywalker: I won't fail you. I'm not afraid.
Yoda: You will be. You will be...

"FAILURE" is what George Lucas wanted the Jedi of the Old Republic (Prequel Trilogy) to be remembered by. Alongside Dave Filoni's work on The Clone Wars, he illustrated the many sins of the Jedi Order, and how their ignorance led to the temporary extinction of their religion. Luke Skywalker studied the Jedi, he knew their flaws, and he thought he wouldn't commit the same mistake. But he did, he did what he promised he'd never do. And he blamed himself for it. In his eyes, he wasn't a hero anymore. Just another example of the hypocritical ideologies of an ancient cult. The Jedi then isolated himself from the Force and from his friends, living a sorrowful life of nothing but grieving. Grieving for the death of Luke Skywalker, Jedi Master. A legend.

The nuanced nature of the Ahch-To journey is a profound parallel to The Empire Strikes Back's Dagobah, not only story-wise. The deep roots of the thematic duality of what's explored there is simply breathtaking. We have the best depiction of the Force (on FILM) since Dagobah. It's as beautiful as Yoda's teachings, even if less mystical and more grounded, which is good, considering who is the master at this point. We learn all there is to learn about this Luke here, which is everything I have discussed earlier on. His state of mind and struggles, even his daily routine. All of that is exquisitely handled with care and craft from everyone. Even if Mark Hamill did not agree with Luke's direction in the movie, he delivered his best performance as the character. Then the film keeps going, and it keeps on delivering. Heck, in the dictionary, the definition of flawless is: "Yoda's last lesson to Luke, from The Last Jedi". I'm not lying! Ok, maybe I am... but still! Everything, everything, is so excellently built-up to a climax for this character. And before I talk about this climax, let's all agree, once and for all, that this film understands fan-service a lot more than any other Disney Star Wars project (on par with The Clone Wars Season 7, maybe). Perfect examples: the Leia hologram scene and Yoda's appearance are indispensable to the story, instead of just being a throwaway or obnoxious detail. Rian just gets it, man.

When we arrive at Crait, art reaches its visual pinnacle. I could hang any frame from that third act on my wall. An exciting, and the most visually-striking out of any ground battle in the saga. Once again paralleling Episode V, the heroes are suffering a resounding defeat. But, this time, there is nowhere to run. And when they sent a cry for help to the galaxy, no one came. In the entire galaxy, not a SINGLE person had the courage to face off against the First Order and help a good cause. Everybody was afraid, and the hope dying. Hope... the Resistance was ready to give up hope. That, that was the end of it all. Until...

Stepping out of the shadows, a new hope rises. A mysterious figure, then revealed to be the one person who could save everyone. It's Luke Skywalker. The Jedi has an emotional conversation with his sister, asking for forgiveness for his moment of weakness. He's ready to do what a Jedi does best: make sure the good people will make it out of this bad situation safely (and he does, no other person dies or gets hurt after Luke enters the screen). After giving Leia a last reminiscent of the past - the exact moment she realizes what her brother is about to do - the master leaves the command center and walks through the Rebel base - but not before giving his old friend 3PO one last of his classics "trust me" looks.

Music rising (one of Williams' finest build-up pieces), and it plays out almost like there is a god walking amongst humans. Luke Skywalker is marching towards a menacing battalion to do what must be done. One man vs the First Order. The nature of his heroism is almost unfathomable to the Resistance troops. With confidence in his eyes, Skywalker steps out into the bloody battlefield, and Kylo Ren spots him. It's time for Luke to confront his mistake. "I want every gun we have to fire on that man", the villlain says, with certainty that one blast might not be enough to defeat the Jedi, but, more importantly, with a clear touch of his own personal inquietude to get his own personal vendetta at last.

Unceasing bursts of laser firing from all the AT-ATs, a red explosion of crumbled minerals, Ren exploding in rageful exhilaration, and the Resistance troops watching perplexed, still not sure of their fates.

Firing stops. And there he is. Skywalker just continues to stand still where he was. He clears off his shoulder and delivers the "is that what you got?" message à la young Obi-Wan and Anakin, with no words spoken. He knows Kylo, challenging his strength capacity is all it takes to destabilize the kid. Ren gets out of his AT-AT, on his way to let all of his anger out and destroy the Jedi.

And that's the cue. Poe gets it. That's their diversion, and they need to get out. After finding an exit, he leads the Resistance to an entrance blocked by giant rocks. Rey, who was outside, helps her friends to get out safe.

Meanwhile, the confrontation ensues. The fury of the mighty Kylo Ren is uncontrollable, the final proof of his worthy is right there. Once he kills his uncle, he kills all hope. But Luke is wise, he knows the truth, and tells it to Ben. Even if Skywalker falls today, there will be more out there. There's always more. The Rebellion was sabed by a farmboy from Tatooine, anything can happen. If one thing was certain, if one lesson was successfully passed on to every person who had the chance to be a student of Jedi Master Luke Skywalker, is that hope would never die. "And I will not be the last Jedi".

The samurai-like duel begins, and it doesn't take long until Kylo realizes he has been tricked. Luke's final words to him are a simple "See you around kid.", for he knows that failure won't leave out of Ren's mind. Once the boy enters the abandoned base, he sees how his arrogance cost them the destruction of the Resistance. And Rey is still out there, growing strong, and being threatening his rule of power. What the future holds for both sides is still unknown.

For Skywalker, however, the future was clearer than ever. He's done his job. As a brother, as a mentor, as a Jedi. It's time to let the Force take over from now. Luke lived an eventful life, it was nothing like what he expected when living on the quietness of that old desert planet. New friends were made, he went on countless adventures, fought hard battles. Met his sister, his father. Became greater than what he could live up to. He failed. He hid. He returned. He redeemed himself. What was done, was done. And now there was nothing left to do.

The Jedi sat down, and, like his masters, accepted that it was time. That was his coda. But, first, he took one last look at his history. Unlike the Twin Suns were shot in Star Wars (1977) and Revenge of the Sith, where Luke was facing the right side of the screen -- looking forward to the journey ahead -- this time, the suns were setting on the left. Skywalker is, for the first time, reflecting on his life, rather than dreaming of his future adventures. The lessons, triumphs, mistakes. The hopeful kid has grown to be a wise man. And, with one last fanfare of excitement orchestrated by John Williams, Luke Skywalker smiled. His journey was rough, but light prevailed, and will continue to prevail. The Jedi smiled. Then, what followed was exactly what was always meant to happen. Luke becomes one with the Force...

At the end of the film, we see those kids on Canto Bight, playing together... one of the kids is telling the others the tale of Luke Skywalker.... Even after everything, his story is still being told. Even after his shortcomings, he is still a legend. And, as illustrated by an enslaved kid smiling, despite his bad circumstances, that legend is still giving hope in those who need it. His legacy will still live on... forever.

This is my love letter to Luke Skywalker. And this film is a love letter to Luke Skywalker.

...we're done.

My history with The Last Jedi is a troubled one. But I think I have finally come to terms to how much I love it. Some issues do exist, but they have pretty mich no weight in the overall balance, especially compared to its immaculate greatness. The amount of STAR WARS inside this Star Wars makes me ashamed of undervaluing it for so long. Regardless of opinions, this review is my testimony of that love, and I hope, to whoever read it all, a very nice day. And, as always, may the Force be with you!

[Chuckles] Ah, Skywalker. Missed you, have I.

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