Star Wars: Episode VIII- The Last Jedi (2017) Review

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Undoubtedly and without question the most divisive film in the Star Wars franchise. This is the film that split the fandom in two and created a toxicity that is unwarranted and downright uncalled for. Fandom in general whether it be Star Wars, Marvel, or DC has become a toxic cesspool of scum and villainy with many trying the hardest to attack people personally for liking something. It was a clear problem during the rise of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and heightened with the release of Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad for DC. Controversy is no stranger in the Star Wars fandom, but the toxicity eclipsed the other two following the release of The Last Jedi. There are of course fair arguments to be had for the film but it’s the hate and attacking between the fans that has made this one of the most dangerous movie franchises to talk about. Coming off of a great sci-fi original Looper and a few episodes of Breaking Bad, Rian Johnson was brought on to helm the next installment in the Skywalker saga. He was already a praised director for his previous films and work on Breaking Bad so he seemed like an excellent decision to bring him on. The Force Awakens set up the characters and left us wondering what was going to happen next after the Rey and Luke encounter. It seemed like everything was in place for him to take off running with the next story, but then the film was released and the hate and divisiveness began. Many saw it simply as, you either love it or hate it with no in between. Those that loved it hated the ones that hated it and those who hated it, hated the ones that loved it. It was as if we were in a fandom war with shots fired being each stroke on a keyboard. Reviewing this movie is no simple task but it must be done to complete all of the Star Wars movie reviews preceding The Rise of Skywalker. There are Jedi (the light) and Sith (the dark), and there are also the Gray Jedi (the balance). 

The easiest way to explain this what this film does is answered in our first scene with Rey and Luke. Rey hands him the familiar lightsaber and he simply tosses it over his shoulder and walks away saying nothing. It was almost a slap in the face when I watched it but not necessarily a harmful slap in the face but more of a wake up call to what this movie was going to do. It was going to subvert our expectations and keep us guessing throughout the whole movie. If that wasn’t the moment where you took a second and wondered if this was going to be a different style of Star Wars movie than maybe it was in the very beginning when Poe is making jokes about Hux’s mother in an attempt to add some levity and comedy. While there are comedic moments in the other films, this was a different kind of comedy that felt more in line with Marvel comedy. For some it works but for others it just didn’t feel right in a Star Wars movie. What it also told us in these two moments was that this wasn’t going to be a safe attempt like what JJ Abrams did with The Force Awakens. You could say that these moments were what sparked the controversy and divisiveness that only grew for many as the film continued on. For myself, the comedy is clearly out of place but it also works to a certain extent because it feels like something the Poe character would say, but it did take me out of the movie for a moment and question whether it was necessary to have that in there. It was the moment where Luke tosses the lightsaber that actually worked for me the most out of the two. It was a moment where I laughed inside because it wasn’t what I was expecting, but at the same time added a certain new edge to this character we all grew up with. It was in that moment that I thought to myself, “It’s been decades since this character was his former self in Return of the Jedi, who knows what kind of crap he’s been through since then”. I feel like it was this particular scene out of the two where fans were either on board or they weren’t. Some were still unsure and waited until further on when Luke talks about how he blocked himself from the outside world and the force and how he wouldn’t train Rey. And if not, then it was definitely when we learned how Luke contemplated killing Ben after seeing a dark future for the young boy. Any of these could’ve been the moment where you stayed on or jumped off, but these were all key character choices that divided the fans. It didn’t take long for me to make that decision. After watching him toss the lightsaber, I knew I was on board. I could tell that Rian Johnson was going to give me a bold and different take that seemed fresh and a great contrast to The Force Awakens. I guess maybe it worked more for me because one of my biggest issues with the previous film was how safe it was and how few risks it actually took. It wasn’t anything that I hadn’t seen before and with this one I really kind of wanted something new and different. Obviously it wasn’t the same for everyone, so I can only speak for myself. In studying the character of Luke, I actually found his character arc to make some sense. There’s a particular bit of dialogue he has when talking to Rey where he talks about how the Jedi at the height of their power allowed Palpatine to rise and kill them all. He didn’t know that information in the original trilogy so it was something he learned in between the two trilogies. Given that knowledge, it would seem that as the leader of the new Jedi order, Luke would take the mistakes that were made before and not repeat them. This goes back to his vision of a dark future for Kylo where he contemplated killing him, but instead decides to not do it. He decides not to do it because killing him would then make him evil and against what it means to be a Jedi. Unfortunately for him it was this action or thought of taking action that ultimately sets Kylo down the path of the dark side by feeling betrayed. The one place where I don’t agree with Luke’s actions is when he decides to distance himself and to go into hiding. This seems more like a move of the old Jedi ways like how Yoda failed in defeating Palpatine and decided to go into hiding. Reverting back to the old Jedi ways does make sense in a certain sense because after that moment it seemed that his new way wasn’t working either and he was ashamed of his decision. It isn’t until later on when Rey makes him realize that he was wrong and doing that and eventually reverts to both his way and the old Jedi way to save our heroes. His actions as a whole are understandably divisive. Fans wanted his character to go in a different more simple direction where as he actually goes down a different path, a more complex and layered path that does more with his character than what the simple direction could do. This whole character arc that he goes through is what made me love him even more as one of my favorite Star Wars characters by actually making him flawed. 

Old characters and new characters bring about some of the divisive parts for myself. This movie is a character piece for our main hero and villain, Rey and Kylo. It gives them the most engaging moments by introducing a new force power. I’m not sure if you can even call it a force power rather more of an aspect of the force. The force itself connects the two through a “force bond” that allows them to communicate while being in totally different locations. It allows them to see each other and connect to each other in a way that allows for more character development. I’m actually a big fan of all of these moments because I find it hard for them to really connect like this in person. If they came across each other in person they would more than likely just start fighting each other until one wins or escapes. Introducing this aspect of the force allows these two actors to play off of each other and to really allow them to flesh out their characters. There’s also a real arc that is created through this connection and could only happen because of the connection. In the first moment they have together, they immediately attempt to fight and argue, but while Luke isn’t exactly the perfect person to talk to, Rey instead has personal moments with Kylo expressing how she feels and building a bond with the conflicted villain. This leads to her belief that he will turn back to the light side and his belief that she will join him instead that comes full circle when they finally meet face to face in the final act of the film.

While Rey has a compelling storyline, all of the other heroes have a much less compelling storyline that seems to be out of place and just something for them to do. We get introduced to a new character, Rose Tico who has a thing for Finn. It seems like she has a good heart which she does, but her thing for Finn seems to be a thing that turns into nothing, but then back into a thing. I’m not sure. I feel like she was introduced only as a counterpart to Finn as they go through this whole plan of finding a hacker on another planet. The whole Canto Bight sequence where she and Finn have to find this hacker is the biggest fail of the whole movie. It’s the one part that really doesn’t work for me and reeks of feeling like a bad prequel moment. First off, the Resistance is just playing a slow game of catch me if you can, giving Finn and Rose more than enough time to go to another planet without being spotted, spend time there, and make it back with time to spare. All of that just seemed like lazy writing and a lack of care for any of those characters since the sole focus seemed to be on the Rey, Luke, and Ben characters. Back to the Canto Bight stuff. It seemed too much again when they get to the planet to find one specific code breaker but get captured only to find another code breaker locked up with them that just happens to be able to do the same thing. I find that very hard to believe could actually happen. It’s only when we get back to Snoke’s ship when everything finally seems to come together. The throne room scene is reminiscent of the one in Return of the Jedi, but takes a turn and a big surprise when Ben simply kills Snoke to his shock. I know many people had a problem with the handling of Snoke and how we didn’t get any of his backstory, but honestly prior to the prequels, the Emperor was no different. I also have the feeling that Snoke was killed so easily because he was meant to be killed by Kylo. I’m not sure yet if that has anything to do with the Emperor who we know is being brought back for the new film, but it does make sense. The following sequence of events with Rey and Ben teaming up to fight the guards is absolutely one of the coolest moments in all of Star Wars and one of my top three moments of this film. All three happen to take place very close to each other. The other happens right after the defeat the guard. Admiral Holdo reveals her plan for the rebels to escape to a planet below while she distracts the First Order ships. She doesn’t just distract though, instead she does something that gives us one of the most memorable visuals in the series when she jumps through hyperspace right through the ships. The use or lack of sound is perfect and the straight up visuals are breathtaking and something we’ve never seen before. This brings me to my third favorite part and that is when Luke uses all of his force power to be more Jedi like than any Jedi we’ve seen before. Not only does he use the power of the force to project himself, a power that only he has shown to be capable of doing, but he also sacrifices himself and fights Kylo without once striking at him. It’s an awesome and emotional reveal that is a baton pass to our last Jedi in Rey.

There are many moments in this film that simply don’t work for me. Unfortunately most of those scenes take place with Finn, Rose, and Poe. All of whom are characters that I really cared about and wanted to learn more about, but just had a very fragile storyline that doesn’t hold up. Their whole mission just doesn’t work for me and I feel it was a poor decision by Johnson to take the characters in that route. It should’ve been more than just an extra-long slow chase scene. Where the film makes up for that is absolutely every scene involving Rey, Luke, and Ben. They are some of the best moments in the whole series and while many will disagree with me, it gives us our best version of Luke that we’ve seen on screen. It delves deep into the characters of Rey and Ben and gives more layers to their relationship that was nothing more than a few encounters in the first film only to be expanded on greatly in this film. The Last Jedi is the most divisive film in the series and rightfully so. I can see many reasons why fans wouldn’t be on board with this movie and some of the decisions it made and I can see why some fans love it. Either way, this is a film that divided a fanbase more than it had ever been which is unfortunate. For me, this movie expanded on everything in the previous movie and made it better minus that Finn, Rose, and Poe stuff. It’s more rewatchable than The Force Awakens for myself and I absolutely love watching the majority of it every time I turn it on.

Grade: A-

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