Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last Jedi ★★★

This was my first rewatch after seeing the film in the cinema 2 years ago.

“The Last Jedi” is probably the most controversial Star Wars film and also the one I feel the most conflicted about. For some people, “The Last Jedi” is the low of the franchise while for others, it is a masterpiece. Personally, I can´t agree with both opinions. Episode VIII is full of great moments and fascinating ideas, but there are also several aspects I don´t enjoy.

Let´s start with the positive points. First of all, Rian Johnson is great at spectacle and stylish action. The first space battle, the throne room fight, the lightspeed space ship crash, and the final battle are exciting, brilliantly directed, and audiovisually stunning. I remember being blown away by those scenes when I first saw them on the big screen, and they are still quite effective on my home TV.

Second, the movie explores many interesting themes (some of them classic Star Wars themes and some of them new for the franchise) and I appreciate the director´s guts to try something new. While I am not entirely happy with the execution (more on that later), Johnson´s approach is definitely braver, more original, and more thought-provoking (but also more controversial) than JJ Abrams´ approach in “The Force Awakens”. Themes of the film include leadership, failure, destiny, doubt, legacy, identity, uncertainty, guilt, progress vs tradition (“let the past die”), morality, classism, hope, change, and moral ambiguity (which feels really fresh in a traditionally black and white universe). I also like the idea that “the force is not only for the Jedi”. In general, I like how the force is presented in this film.

Third, the characters introduced in Episode VII are still lovable and I enjoy spending time with them. I especially like the Rey/Kylo dynamic in this movie. For me, it is the most interesting relationship of “The Last Jedi” and Adam Driver as Kylo Ren is the MVP. And the Yoda/Luke scene made me nostalgic and gave me a warm feeling.

On the other hand, I also have several problems concerning the characters and their arcs. For example, I hate how the main trio is separated for most of the movie, so there is no real development for their relationships (which were my highlights of Episode VII). It just doesn´t feel right that Rey and Poe have their first meeting after 2/3 of the trilogy and I also miss Rey/Finn and Finn/Poe, who only get few moments. Furthermore, I am no big fan of their individual story arcs. The Canto Bight subplot does absolutely nothing for me and in my opinion, it also doesn´t do anything for Finn as a character. It´s just there for him to have at least “something” to do. The Poe storyline is not much better. I know, it is about leadership and making him less of a hothead and grow as a character, but in my opinion, all three (Poe, Holdo, and Leia) handle the whole situation horribly and I spent the most time watching this subplot being annoyed with everyone (is communication really that difficult). Rey´s subplot is definitely the best, although her training with Luke is also not exactly what I hoped and expected.

What I liked even less are the new characters. I didn´t warm up to Holdo, Rose, and Dj at all and mostly found them annoying. Holdo´s role in the story could have easily been fulfilled by someone like Admiral Ackbar, who was an established high-ranking leader of the Rebellion/Resistance. His sacrifice in the lightspeed space ship crash would have been a highly emotional moment. Instead I got a Holdo sacrifice I don´t care about and an underwhelming and disrespectful death of Ackbar.

Another big point of criticism is the humor. Don´t get me wrong, humor was always a part of Star Wars. C3PO and R2D2 are (with Han) my favorite characters of the original trilogy and I also laughed a lot in Episode VII, but in “The Last Jedi” most of the humor feels out of place and overly silly. It´s the kind of humor that makes it seem like the film doesn´t take its own world, story, and characters seriously. Therefore, it took me out of the film quite a lot. Connected to this is also the portrayal of Hux, who is a laughing stock in this film. I know, Johnson tries to justify this through some lines from Snoke, but I don´t buy it. If you can´t take the leadership of the enemy seriously, you can´t take the enemy as a whole seriously, and that lowers the stakes enormously. In moments like this, I miss Tarkin or even General Veers, Boba Fett, or Jabba the Hutt.

I said that I find Johnson´s auteur approach brave and original but the downside of it is that he ignores and undoes a lot of what was established before. Things like Luke´s characterization are controversial but I can accept them. My biggest problem is how Episode VIII undoes many of the plot threads that were set up in Episode VII (Snoke, Rey´s heritage, so on). For fans like me, who get very invested in fictional stories and love to theorize, that felt like a slap in the face and reminds me of “Lost” or the ending of “Game of Thrones” (tough I haven´t seen the end of the trilogy yet, which I need for my final judgement). The real people to blame are of course the executives of Disney/Lucasfilm, who thought it was a good idea to produce a new Star Wars trilogy without a masterplan for the story. I am interested (but also a bit worried) to see how JJ Abrams tries to resolve all this plot threads in “The Rise of Skywalker”.

“The Last Jedi” is ambitious and innovative but also really messy and to be honest, I still don´t know for sure what to think about it. Since uncertainty and ambiguity are major topics of Episode VIII, you could say that my feelings about the film fit its themes, though I doubt that this is intended. I watch “The Rise of Skywalker” today and after that I probably have to reevaluate the whole trilogy.

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