Ezequiel Gonzalez-Ansaldi’s review published on Letterboxd:
Part X of my Star Wars Review series :)
I've said this since I left the theatre after watching this movie for the first time, but I will re-state myself. The Last Jedi is the best directed Star Wars movie of all time. A lot of people have seemed to jump on this bandwagon over the last three years. I'm not saying I was the only one with this opinion in 2017, rather I'm stating that I've had this opinion since then. Anyways, Rian Johnson masterfully directs this movie, whether it be the shot selections, story beats, getting the most out of his actors (most of them), getting great editing and a great score out of his team. He excels at all of that.
The things that work for me are the following:
The First Order is actually threatening in this move. Our heroes can't do anything because the First Order is five steps ahead of them. So our heroes need to find another way to advance with their mission.
Snoke has his own agenda, he sees Kylo as a chess piece. He is manipulating Kylo the entire movie.
I like Leia in leadership, and how she's trying to teach Poe how to better those skills in order to be the best version of himself
I like the connection between Kylo and Rey. They're both conflicted characters. Kylo wants Rey by his side because she is the only one who truly understands him, but Rey wants to turn Kylo back to the light because she believes in him. That's excellent writing. This also goes with the great performances that Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver give. At first, Driver seemed to pick up with his inadequate line delivery without the mask, but he improves as the movie goes on. He is great with emotions. Ridley is just so endearing and can take us to those emotional places.
I actually really like that they decided to have Kylo kill Snoke. He was done with him. And it fits the theme of letting the past die, as he is no longer a chess piece, he is in charge. The only thing I don't like about the scene is that Snoke is oblivious to the Skywalker light saber. They set him up to be very in tune with the force, and he couldn't sense Kylo's true intention.
Anyways, I'm also a fan of Rey and Kylo vs the Praetorian Guards. I know it's not perfect, but it's a damn beautiful fight scene.
Moving along, I actually love Finn's emotional arc in the film. Though he isn't given the most interesting story, his character shines through the messy parts. The part that always sticks with me is when he kills Phasma (which is an awesome concept), she tells him that he will always be scum. So then he proceeds to try to be a hero for the resistance by sacrificing himself, until Rose stops that. I think that would've been a great conclusion to his character, especially because his character doesn't go anywhere in Episode IX.
I like the action on Crait and my favorite line in the film is "The Rebellion is reborn today. The war is just beginning. And I will not be the last Jedi." The best part is when it shows Poe for the Rebellion, Finn for the war, and Rey for the Jedi. It's on the nose, but it works.
Lastly, I really like Luke in this film. So many people say Johnson ruined him, but I disagree. 30 years have passed between Episode VI and this movie, we don't know what Luke has been through, what he's seen, etc. So it makes sense that he's given up on himself and the Jedi order because it's clear that the religion is flawed and is not a viable solution. He even talks about how his hubris got in the way, that's why I like how he force projected himself onto Cait, as he didn't want to be the hero anymore, but at the same time, Luke should've been more active in the movie. I really liked his conversation with Yoda, but I think it was a missed opportunity to have Force Ghost Anakin.
Oh and I supported Rey being a no one since Day 1, because I love the idea that anyone can be in tune with the force. It has nothing to do with family. So while I was originally surprised that Johnson went this direction, I support it.
The humor does not work in the movie. Where The Force Awakens had organic humor, the Last Jedi forces humor; and it fails.
Johnson is well known for subverting the audience's expectations so giving him full control might not have been the best idea. This is because we see Luke get his old lightsaber back, just to throw it behind him. We see Kylo choose to spare his mother, just for someone else to blow the cruiser ship. It's just not good storytelling to do in excess.
I also hate Leia flying through space. I get that she's a force user, but if Kylo had decided to "let the past die" and kill his mother, he'd be irredeemable. But instead, they have Leia be Superman.
And then she has this plan all along, but keeps it from Poe because he lacks leadership qualities, but her by not telling Poe the plan leads to him forming one, that ultimately leads to a lot of deaths, which is what Leia was avoiding.
I'll get into unnecessary characters; as in Holdo. Rose, and DJ. It's not the actors' faults, they were given bad material. They try to make it work, but it's hard to make something that fit when it clearly doesn't.
To get more into Rose, she goes to Canto Bight with Finn, but the only thing of importance she does is free the Fathiers. The whole inclusion Canto Bight was a waste of time. It was only in the movie because Leia was keeping information. Oh and because Maz Kanata is useless in this movie. It also sucks that Canto Bight gives me major prequel vibes. She also sabotaged Finn's sacrifice. It's just like, why?
Something that always bothered me is that Rey talks about seeing Kylo's future and pull towards the light, but I never got that vibe, I just don't think Kylo wants to be by himself, he wants Rey because he knows how powerful she is.
Captain Phasma was wasted. I think if she was a secondary antagonist in the film to Finn, her character would be that much better. Instead, she's there for a mediocre fight and then just falls to her death.
As I mentioned, Luke didn't actively do enough so that's why I think him actually sacrifice himself would've been more satisfying than the force projection route.
I really like The Last Jedi. I think if Rian Johnson was given an outline of a planned trilogy with benchmarks he had to hit in this second movie, this would've been a slightly better film, but better received. I already talked about everything, so yeah. It's not a perfect movie by any means, as I listed quite a few frustrations I have with it, but I think the good outshines the bad by a good margin. Star Wars fans just let their own theories and expectations get in the way, and that's why so many people hate this movie. It is what it is. This last section might not make sense, so I'll edit some stuff later. That being said...