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Countdown to Skywalker: “The Last Jedi” Review
December 22, 2019
This one’s on Lucasfilm for hiring a director known for subverting expectations to make the second film in a trilogy. Rian Johnson made a great movie that undercut everything set up by “The Force Awakens.” It’s an ambitious and thematically interesting movie in a series that’s become familiar, but it’s also a bit of a mess.
The structure of “The Last Jedi” is quite simple: there’s 3 separate storylines that come together at the climax to make for an epic conclusion. So in that sense, one-third of “The Last Jedi” is an amazing movie, one-third is an okay movie, and one-third is a dumpster fire (a dumpster fire that I’ll defend!).
The strongest part of “The Last Jedi” is easily the relationship between Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). After defeating Kylo in “The Force Awakens,” Rey goes off to find Luke and learn the ways of the force, and Kylo returns to Emperor Snoke to finally complete his training. To both of their surprise, the force connects the pair, allowing them to communicate and grow close. Their force connection is the most interesting part of the movie. They come to understand one another and, dare I say it, develop a fondness for their former adversary.
Driver and Ridley are both amazing, revealing new depth to their wounded and lonely characters, moving away from the black and white nature of Star Wars. As Luke tells Rey, she “went straight to the dark,” and even after Kylo Ren has killed his father, he’s still tempted to return to the light. Rather than being presented as opposites, the hero and villain are presented as one in the same. This sets up an ending to the saga that moves away from the strict Jedi code with no room for emotion that caused Anakin to turn to the dark and Luke to isolate himself. Rather than repeating the original trilogy, “The Last Jedi” allows the sequels to come to a new, morally ambiguous conclusion.
Meanwhile, there’s Poe Dameron’s (Oscar Isaac) story line. Leia (Carrie Fisher) falls into a coma after a First Order attack, leaving Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) in command. Immediately Poe and Holdo clash. Throughout the movie, it cuts back to the power struggle between the two. Poe’s gut reaction and subsequent insurrection are completely misguided; Holdo sacrifices herself to save the rebellion, Poe included. Johnson uses a character the audience knows and trusts to show the downfalls of pride. Though there might be too much of it, their power struggle blurs the lines between good and bad, revealing no one is entirely right and no one is entirely wrong. Holdo was too harsh and dismissive but Poe was too arrogant and rash.
Then, there’s Finn (John Boyega) and Rose’s (Kelly Marie Tran) storyline. It is pretty bad. The pair is essentially given a side quest, and a convoluted one at that. They must go to Canto Bight, a casino planet, to find a codebreaker to get them access to the First Order so that they can stop them from tracking the Resistance. Yeah, I don’t know either. On Canto Bight, they’re given a crash course on basic social justice themes: war profiteering bad, animal abuse bad and child slavery bad. Their storyline isn’t great, but Boyega, Tran and BB-8 have a lot of chemistry with Benicio del Toro.
“The Last Jedi” is a flawed but different take on Star Wars that I appreciate for existing.
Featured Image Citation: “Star Wars: Episode VIII—The Last Jedi” is by Lucasfilm and Disney. This still was released for press and is protected in that this is a review and is being used for educational purposes.