This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
McNeill Mullikin’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Journey to The Rise of Skywalker - Week #8
Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi is directed by Rian Johnson and is the most controversial Star Wars movie of all time. This movie divided the Star Wars fanbase unlike any other. Some people absolutely love this film while others consider it one of the worst of the saga. I consider it the worst Star Wars movie of all time. The Last Jedi does not work as a Star Wars movie for countless reasons. Luke's character arc, the multiple plots, the disregarded questions from The Force Awakens, and the expansion of the force prevent this movie from advancing this trilogy and the series in any fashion.
First of all, the character development of Luke Skywalker is extremely poor, and I cannot stress that enough. I understand that Rian Johnson had to write Episode VIII based off of the treatment JJ Abrams gave Luke Skywalker, but Rian Johnson ultimately made the decisions for the direction of Luke Skywalker. Luke has become a grumpy old hermit who does not believe the Jedi should continue to exist, and the backstory behind his development is outrageous. To summarize, Luke sensed evil in Ben Solo, so he thought he could kill Ben to solve the problem. This is awful writing, and it makes me question if Rian Johnson has ever seen Return of the Jedi. Luke was tempted by the dark side, but ultimately, he decided to see the light in Darth Vader. Luke Skywalker is a hero who sees the good in others and not a loser who gives up unusually easy. I do not have an issue with Luke abandoning the Jedi way and the force, but the reasoning behind Luke Skywalker going into hiding makes his character arc impossible to believe and immensely disappointing. Ultimately, the development of Luke is untrue to the character.
The plot of Episode VIII is a complete train wreck. For some reason, Rian Johnson thought it would be a fantastic idea to split up the main characters in this sequel. The Last Jedi is a movie that needed to unite these characters because viewers needed to gain an understanding of who the characters are. The best way to do this is by allowing the main characters to interact with each other. This way we would go into the final installment of this trilogy with full support behind the protagonists. Instead, this movie divides the characters and places them into their own excursions that were pointless and did not advance the overarching narrative of the trilogy or the saga.
For instance, Poe was placed on the back burner while Vice Admiral Holdo was withholding information from him for no reason other than she did not like him. All this did was create unwanted tension and a useless subplot. Also, Finn was on his own mission to Las Vegas in space with Rose who prevented him from having any development. The character of Finn was given lame treatment, and Rose is a pointless and annoying character. This particular excursion feels out of place, and does not even feel like something in Star Wars. The Force Awakens gave obvious clues that Rey and Finn had romantic feelings for one another, but The Last Jedi pairs Finn with Rose, and it is obvious he is not interested in her. Contrarily, Rose is interested in Finn and this produces "cringeworthy" chemistry and scenes. Furthermore, Rey is attempting to learn more about her purpose, and the only answer this film provides is that her origin does not matter. These three plot lines made the characters uninteresting, and I do not care about them nearly as much as I did when The Force Awakens was released.
The most important character in the sequel trilogy is Rey, and her development is absolutely stupid. As I previously mentioned, Rey spends the majority of this film searching for her purpose. Rey attempts to be trained by Luke and spends a minimal amount of time actually learning from him. This makes her abilities and purpose inconceivable. Also, it is revealed her parents are nobodies and that she has no connection to the Skywalker lineage or any other significant character whatsoever. This makes Rey a nobody and irrelevant to the story which left some fans, including myself, feeling disconnected from the character.
The Last Jedi is a film that does not only subvert expectations from a character standpoint, it utterly disregarded its predecessor by making questions and characters insignificant. There were many important questions that The Force Awakens left lingering such as "What is Luke going to say to Rey when he takes the lightsaber from her?" Other questions Episode VII left unanswered are "Who are Rey's parents?" and "Who is Snoke?" None of this matters anymore because Luke tossed the lightsaber behind his back and walked away from Rey, Rey supposedly comes from nobodies, and Snoke was killed off. I understand that subverting expectations is something that can be fun and intriguing, but disregarding the plot of The Force Awakens with a metaphorical middle finger crosses the line. Subverting expectations in a way that supports the story and is true to characters and lore is fantastic, but subverting expectations for the sake of subverting expectations is extremely distasteful and disrespectful to the source material.
Aside from the plot and characters, the expansion of the force is completely absurd. All of a sudden, the force can be used in many different ways. The plot of The Last Jedi emphasizes these new ways of the force. Rey and Kylo Ren are always communicating through the force as if its FaceTime. Kylo Ren even came into contact with water from another planet he was not on through a force FaceTime call. Leia pulls herself towards a spacecraft while floating in space because apparently the force can be used to pull yourself towards things. Lastly, Luke projects himself onto another planet to face Kylo Ren. If these are ways to use the force, why has the force never been used in these ways? On the same note, why was Kylo Ren not initially able to tell Luke was a projection since he was projecting throughout the movie? Things have been hinted at in other movies, but this movie exaggerates the force in a casual manner, and changes the rules of the force.
There were aspects of The Last Jedi that were semi-cool, but became utterly lame because the scenes were surrounded by preposterous plot garbage. For example, the throne room lightsaber battle is a great action scene and is phenomenally choreographed, but Snoke was killed off with no explanation, and his character was no longer relevant. Also, it would have been cool if Rey and Kylo Ren joined forces. Lastly, it would have been really cool if Luke arrived on Crait and was able to use the force to stop The First Order from firing at him. Instead, Luke had to be a force projection, which essentially serves as a cop out that allowed him to not confront the issue and die a loser while Kylo Ren continued to throw adult-leveled temper tantrums. In the end, The Last Jedi does not advance the saga and kills off Luke without letting him legitimately battle one last time and without redeeming him into a hero again. In the end, Luke dies unheroic, which is extremely dissatisfying.
Episode VIII is a movie that contains too many underlying, real life political messages that were unnecessary. For example, everybody can now be a Jedi or be strong with the force, and it does not matter where the character comes from or who the character is. This was demonstrated by not only Rey, but the boy with the broom at the end from Canto Bight. This essentially erases the explanation of the force from the prequels which Rian Johnson had no business doing. I am not a prequel defender, but logically this is wrong, it is not truthful to the source material, and my common sense tells me this is weird.
I have primarily focused on my major critiques, but I also have minor pieces of criticism. I do not understand why Captain Phasma was randomly killed off with the minimal screen time she had because she was built up to be a crucial character in the previous film. Also, Rose should not have saved Finn from sacrificing himself because it would have been the only thing in the movie that had some emotional payoff. Lastly, the humor in this movie was out of place for this saga, and it felt forced.
The Last Jedi is a movie that suffers from endless problems. If Star Wars did not exist and The Last Jedi was a standalone movie, it would be good, unlike Attack of the Clones. However, as a Star Wars movie, it is offensive, whereas Attack of the Clones is embarrassing. That is why I think The Last Jedi is the worst Star Wars movie, even though the film is better from a technical perspective. The only positive thing I am going to say about The Last Jedi is that the cinematography and visual effects are gorgeous. Nonetheless, Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi is the worst installment of the Skywalker Saga because of the improper character arcs, nonsensical plot lines, neglectful answers to questions, and disrespectful expansion of the force. Ultimately, The Last Jedi does not answer answer any questions from its predecessor, rather, it adds more questions to the preexisting questions, which leaves fans, like myself, annoyed, frustrated, and disappointed. Hopefully, Star Wars IX: The Rise of Skywalker will correct this trilogy and satisfyingly conclude the Skywalker Saga.
"Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to." - Kylo Ren