Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

…A new Star Wars movie hit the cinemas. Sorry I’m so late on this review, but better late than never.

I have been a fan of the Star Wars galaxy for nearly my entire life. Since my dad watched Star Wars IV: A New Hope with me in our living room when I was about seven years old, I have lived and breathed Star Wars for many years.

However, all good things must come to an end at some point. In 2012, Disney bought the Star Wars franchise. And I love Disney. Disney does a lot of things right, but a glaring exception is Disney’s treatment of Star Wars. From the moment that it was announced that the Expanded Universe novels were no longer canon, I knew that the Dark Side was growing stronger. In a galaxy where the masterpieces of Timothy Zahn and Karen Miller no longer exist, dark times are inevitable.

May the Force be with us all as Disney continues to abuse Star Wars in the coming years. The following review of Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi will be spoiler-free.

Synopsis

The Last Jedi follows a relatively straightforward plot arc. The Resistance has been cornered by the First Order, and are mounting a desperate escape attempt. The Resistance fleet jumps into hyperspace, but the First Order tracked them through Hyperspace and proceeds to bombard the Resistance fleet. It is only a matter of time before the Resistance ships run out of fuel and lose power to maintain their shields.

In order to save the Resistance, Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and Finn (John Boyega) team up with the Resistance spaceship mechanic Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) in a desperate attempt to deactivate the First Order’s means of tracking the Resistance. This leads Finn and Rose on a wild hunt across the galaxy for someone who can decode the First Order’s encryption codes. Meanwhile, Poe tries to maintain structure in the tense, nearly-panicked Resistance flagship.

While all of this is occurring, Rey (Daisy Ridley) asks Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to train her in the ways of the Force. Luke refuses, saying that he isn’t the wise teacher she thought he was, and admitting that he is afraid of the raw power that she demonstrates. During this time, Rey and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) also develop a telepathic link through the Force, and they communicate telepathically several times while Rey is trying to convince Luke to train her. More of Kylo Ren’s past comes to light, as well as some of Luke’s past.

Eventually, while Finn and Rose sneak into the First Order flagship, Rey confronts Kylo Ren and is taken to Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis). The Resistance fleet manages to limp to the planet of Krayt, where the First Order traps them inside an old salt mine. The Resistance reduced to a fraction of its original size, the remaining fighters struggle to fight back against the First Order until they can figure out how to escape.

Let’s take a look at the movie’s strengths and weaknesses.

Strengths

Luke Skywalker

The greatest shining gem in the film is Mark Hamill’s performance as Luke Skywalker. Every scene that Luke was in was fantastic. Hamill truly delivered a performance that exceeded the expectations of even the most critical fans (as I can personally attest). His role as a grumpy, disillusioned mentor – rather like Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars IV: A New Hope – hits the mark directly on the target. Hamill’s performance is one of the few great redeeming qualities about this film.

General Hux

General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) has, in my opinion, far more potential as a villain than Kylo Ren or Supreme Leader Snoke. Hux is intelligent, collected, power-hungry, and tactful: the makings of a great film villain. He demonstrates a bit of an angry temper, but he knows when enough is enough, and he doesn’t allow rage to rule his decisions. Hux is a calculating and intelligent adversary, and I wish he had a more prominent role. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have as much screen time or plot significance as I think he deserves. Nonetheless, he was one of the most entertaining characters in the episode, and I hope he has a more prominent role in Episode IX.

Setup for Episode IX

Speaking of Episode IX, The Last Jedi did a proficient job of setting up strong plot hooks for future episodes. The character development in Rey and Kylo, as well as the suggestion that Force-sensitive children are eager to learn how to become Jedi, are both interesting plot developments that Episode IX can delve into in greater depth.

I’m afraid I must point out, though, that Episode VII was similar in this department. Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens did some things very well and others very poorly, overall a decent movie at best. But one of its main strengths was the fact that it set up a strong platform to build Episode VIII on. Unfortunately, The Last Jedi did not deliver, instead playing it forward and suggesting that Episode IX will be the fantastic movie that we’ve been waiting for. As the cycle continues, I grow more and more doubtful that Disney will produce a good Star Wars episode.

Emotional Reaction

The movie has a strong theme of hope and hopelessness, and maintaining hope in hopeless situations. As I watched the movie, I actually experienced these emotions, feeling more and more hopeless for the characters until the end left me with a glowing ember of hope. The movie does not wrap up every plot detail in a warm-and-fuzzy package, but rather suggests that happiness will come later. The movie’s theme of hope works rather well, as I actually progressed through the same emotional arc as many of the characters.

Weaknesses

Inconsistent with Other Star Wars Movies

As I mentioned in the synopsis, one of the key plot points was that the Resistance fled through hyperspace, and the First Order tracked them. The Resistance was devastated when this happened, claiming that tracking another vehicle through hyperspace has never been done before. I can’t help but remember that in Star Wars IV: A New Hope, the Millennium Falcon was tracked by the Death Star… through hyperspace. Never been done before? Think again, Resistance. Tracking someone through hyperspace has been around since the very beginning.

This is one painful inconsistency with the other Star Wars movies, but there are others, even with Episode VII. For example, the silver stormtrooper Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) was shot in the back of the head in Episode VII, and then died when Starkiller Base blew up. And yet… she is in Episode VIII too? I could write an entire blog post on what a horrible, awful villain Captain Phasma is, but I’ll spare you. Suffice it to say there are many glaring contradictions between Episode VIII and previous Star Wars movies.

Poor Attempts at Comedy

In a movie saturated with themes of hopelessness, comedy is often out of place. The cute bird creatures that annoy Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) are completely unnecessary and rather annoying. Cute though they may be, and no matter how much money they make as plush toys or whatever else they end up as, these bird-things only served as a distraction from the importance and gravity of the plot. They may have worked if used less frequently and if the episode had gone for a more lighthearted feel.

There are several other similar moments of forced comedy that really distract from the plot. Funny though they may be, all the comedy rests in stark contrast to the theme of the movie, creating a very disorienting film. Again, if the film had been more light-hearted, then perhaps the comedy would have worked as intended.

Animal Rights Activism

In-keeping with the half-hearted efforts at comedy are half-hearted efforts at advertising animal rights. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for animal rights. But the “don’t mistreat animals” theme that came up now and then in the movie was certainly out of context. All it achieved was a jarring distraction from what the main plot was supposed to be. If Star Wars wants to go that route, that’s fine, but if so then this needs to be a more significant plot point than it was in the movie.

Emotional Reaction

As I have mentioned several times, the film is smothered in hopelessness from start to finish. The depressing nature of the film created a rather unpleasant viewing experience for me. The nature of Star Wars has generally been more light, energetic, and fun. The Force Awakens managed to balance the classic, exciting feeling of Star Wars with a new heavy and dark plot with only mild success, and The Last Jedi falls short even of the low bar set by its predecessor.

I listed the emotional reaction of hopelessness as both a strength and a weakness. As a movie standing on its own, The Last Jedi achieves the emotional journey that it intends. However, as a continuation of a preestablished and dearly loved series, The Last Jedi entirely forsakes the emotional quality of previous films.

Final Thoughts

In case you couldn’t tell, I was thoroughly disappointed by The Last Jedi. It managed to sink even lower than my already low expectations, delivering a film that can’t decide if it’s a comedy or a tragedy and as such achieves neither, leaving the viewer with a confused and upset stomach. A few redeeming qualities can be seen in the performances of Mark Hamill and Domhnall Gleeson, and there is a small chance that Episode IX will be the amazing new Star Wars movie that we’ve been waiting for. All in all, Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi made me miss the prequels. If you want to see it and haven’t yet, you’re not missing much. Wait for it to become available on Netflix or on Disney’s soon-to-be streaming service. As for me, I would much rather watch The Phantom Menace again.

As its own movie, I begrudgingly give The Last Jedi an 8/10, because it does stand relatively well on its own. However, as a Star Wars movie – as a continuation of a saga that began a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away – I give The Last Jedi a generous 3/10.

Did you watch Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi? What did you think of it? Comment below and let me know!

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