This December, it’s been five years since the most controversial and debated movie in Star Wars history, The Last Jedi, hit the theatres. After such time, we think it’s important to take a few minutes to think and analyze what this movie accomplished (or failed to accomplish), but also how it changed Star Wars canon forever…and divided the world’s biggest movie fanbase for the years to come. Saying that this movie had a big impact on the franchise and the fan base would be an understatement. This changed how Lucasfilm decided to tell stories in a galaxy far far away and how they feel at liberty to treat the arcs of iconic heroes of our childhood. On my end, I remember hating it the first time I saw it, and most of my friends did too. Owning the blu-ray since 2018, having had the chance to watch it on a few occasions and comparing it to The Rise of Skywalker and the TV shows that came after, I think this film deserves a TINY bit more appreciation than it has. It will never ever be my favourite, but there are some things that I learned to appreciate. Written and directed by Rian Johnson, who is fresh off the wonderful Glass Onion, this is The Last Jedi revisited (again!) How did it age, following all the content that became available since 2019? Take note that this movie was made before The Mandalorian aired and before Disney+ became a thing.
*FRIENDLY WARNING – This is my own personal opinion, I realize that not everyone will agree with me. I will try to dissect as much of the movie as possible, but I’ll need to cut corners here and there for editorial purposes.
Let’s talk about Luke Skywalker
To put it simply, I’m of a mind to say that 50% of this movie is actually very good, while the other 50% is kinda meh. Let’s start with what Johnson actually did well as a writer and director (in my opinion): everything that involves Rey, Kylo Ren and Luke Skywalker.
To fully appreciate what Johnson, Disney and Lucasfilm attempted to do with The Last Jedi, the movie asks us to ‘let the past die’ as Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) puts it in the movie. Our own conception of our childhood heroes from the original trilogy is biased by the fact that, with time and experience, people change. It’s a fact of life and it is the case for Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill, quite a good performance from him). Luke is basically the ultimate hero of the space opera genre of the last 40 years, a supreme pillar of contemporary culture that needed to be analyzed, according to Johnson. I think we tend to forget that Luke is actually just a normal guy when we first meet him, not unlike an impatient teenager, whinny and too ambitious (a little bit like his father Anakin), especially in A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. He was basically given the future of the Jedi Order in his young and inexperienced hands by masters who didn’t have long to teach him properly (Obi-Wan and Yoda). To be fair, he might have spent a few days with both of them…tops. So, here’s the big question: with that lack of guidance, would it be possible for this hero to lose some of his enthusiasm and belief in the cause, considering he’s been doing this alone, without guidance? Let’s not forget that he failed to keep his first students alive once Ben Solo decided to leave him and kill everyone. I’m no Jedi and I’m no wise man, but I think we can recognize that this CAN happen. Would we ourselves do any better? The movie tells us that he was afraid of his nephew, Ben Solo, and almost tried to kill him. It is pretty radical, but this is a man who heard the legend of his own father being consumed by the dark side then died in his arms after Emperor Palpatine wounded him. Not only that, but Luke came close to becoming a monster himself after Palpatine tempted him to strike him down in hatred and anger. Luke was surely scarred by all of this and he briefly (and I say briefly) struggled with the idea to help Ben to face his demons.
All of this to say: Luke’s path as a morose and depressed hermit was perhaps not the most heroic outcome for his character, but it makes sense. Love it or hate it, it is possible. Let’s not forget, in the climax of the film, he saved the last survivors of the Resistance only by himself as a final redeeming effort during a Force projection. Unexpected and a little bit insane considering what we know of Star Wars, but he was finally at peace and died a hero, in his own way.
Note, I still hate that he threw his father’s lightsaber over his shoulder, I think that was a poor call from Rian Johnson. Even if he is conflicted, he still has too much respect for what this weapon represents. Throwing the weapon aside is one thing, but it was the manner of his action, not the action itself.
“It surrounds us, and penetrates us, it binds the galaxy together”
My absolute favourite part of The Last Jedi is actually not Luke himself, but his two students who learn the ways of the Force through him at different times in their life: Rey and Kylo Ren. There’s something quite poetic and touching about how their relationship evolves in the span of one film. They start as enemies, where Rey absolutely hates Ren for killing Han Solo, the only mentor she had in life. However, something unexpected happens, they have a connection through the Force (which will be revealed to be Snoke’s doing, which in turn is Palpatine’s doing) and are able to interact. What is incredible is that the Force is somehow depicted as a warm blanket that is able to give both lonely characters some comfort and calm. In that sense, Rey feels Kylo Ren’s conflicted thoughts and believes that she can help him see the light. The ‘Force connexion’ moments between the two are by far the most interesting use of the Force in this movie…and perhaps even in the entire trilogy. Apart from a brief moment in The Empire Strikes Back, when Luke asks for Leia’s help through the Force in order to be rescued on Cloud City, this is the first time that we see the Force used as a beacon of communication between living beings (in live action that is, as it was referred to in The Clone Wars series). So yes, emotional and deep, I liked it!
Is it only me, but the movie is quite mature for using the Force almost as a tool of sexual tension between a man and a woman. Just saying…
Adam Driver’s performance made it credible
Fair to say, even after the monumental flop that was The Rise of Skywalker from a narrative point of view, Adam Driver as Kylo Ren and Ben Solo was the one bright spark of the sequel trilogy. Although I like Rey as a character, Daisy Ridley’s acting was uneven at times. Driver is a gifted actor who remained fully committed to the role, even if the writing was perhaps lacking. We probably knew for sure that he would be redeemed at some point, and the execution of said redemption was not fluid, but hard to say that he didn’t sell it. My favourite scenes of The Rise of Skywalker included him, which is saying a lot about the poor state of the final installment of the sequels. All in all, Kylo Ren is strangely likable and mysterious for a villain in The Last Jedi. Sometimes an unhinged sociopath, but sometimes a thoughtful sentimentalist, seeing in Rey a worthy companion in his journey. Kylo Ren starts as a villain, connects with Rey through the Force, becomes a hero for a brief moment when they defeat Snoke’s personal guards and then is hungry for more power, regardless of the Jedi or the Sith. All this time, Driver sells us these emotions quite well and we root for him. That scene of Supreme Leader Snoke’s execution by Kylo’s hand in the throne room made much more sense to me, as we see that he was a cruel master to him and mostly saw his apprentice as a failed replica of Darth Vader, which undermines the student’s self-confidence. Good stuff!
It is visually stunning, let’s be fair
Please give to Cesar what belongs to Cesar: the VFX crews behind The Last Jedi are extremely talented, giving us some of the best alien environments to date…and the visual wonder of the ‘Holdo Maneuver’. Before Lucasfilm started to use The Volume instinctively for shows like The Mandalorian and Obi-Wan Kenobi, digital world-building added in postproduction was still very present in the sequels. Apart from the beauty of the practical effects of Ach-To, the planet where Luke lives (filmed in Ireland and Northern Ireland), the other worlds that were digitally created, like the salt planet of Crait, were pretty beautiful. So, regardless of the story and the controversy surrounding the characters, The Last Jedi was a marvel to look at, and still to this day. I would say it is definitely technically superior to The Rise of Skywalker and The Force Awakens.
The other 50%…
To the absolute delight of many of you I’m sure, let’s talk about the bad. Yes, the movie is super flawed in many ways when the other narrative arcs are concerned.
After much debating with myself, with multiple viewings required, I think I can summarize in one argument where Johnson failed in The Last Jedi. To put it simply, he wasn’t inspired or he didn’t really care about the other characters in the universe of the sequels who are not Jedi or force-sensitive (so this excludes Rey, Luke, Kylo Ren, Snoke and yeah…even Leia). Everything that happens in the film where the Resistance, the First Order, and more specifically Finn and Rose, are concerned is just so messy and uninspired.
Let’s start with Finn, which I think is the obvious candidate. Finn (John Boyega) had a promising arc in The Force Awakens. He was a deserter of the First Order that tried to find a new meaning to his life by joining the Resistance alongside Rey. He was unsure of his path and, still at the beginning of The Last Jedi, he was still searching for answers. As a coward, not sure where he fit in all of this, he tried to flee the Resistance cruiser via an escape pod when the conflict got bad, before being stopped. However, the rest of the film did not really give Finn the resolve he wanted…until he was ready to sacrifice himself for the cause and the survival of his new friends (but yeah, even that didn’t happen, as Rose stopped him, negating this arc). Unfortunately for him, he was just used as a plot device to send the Resistance on a useless mission on Canto Bight, while the Resistance cruiser was fleeing slowly and too easily. And then…there is Rose (Kelly Marie Tran). Rose stopped Finn before he could sacrifice himself for the survival of the Resistance for an interesting reason: to defeat the enemy, we need not destroy what we hate, but to save what we love. I guess we can try that one on WWII veterans who are still alive today, and see how they react. I feel really sorry for Kelly Marie Tran, because the problem was never with her, but with how her character was written. We are introduced to her as an important secondary character, but her arc is completely dismissed in The Rise of Skywalker following big criticism from the fandom. Also, the whole secondary conflict on Canto Bight, the casino planet for the arms dealers of the galaxy, falls flat as we don’t relate at all with her wish to save the caged creatures in captivity.
For the record, I also did not like how Benicio Del Toro played the codebreaker DJ in this. Fanny quips that do not land, and he made Finn and Rose’s mission completely useless. What a waste.
As for the rest, I reserve the final part of my criticism on three other characters: Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern), General Hux (Domhall Gleeson) and…unfortunately General Leia Organa (the late Carrie Fisher). You’ll see rapidly that I removed Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) from the equation, who is actually pretty good throughout. It has been said time and again, Holdo had terrible communication skills, as she only had to explain her plan to the whole Resistance crew, while Leia was in a coma, in order to save lives and avoid useless mutinies. But no, the plan to evacuate to Crait had to wait for the climax, which was very frustrating. Her sacrifice, using hyperspace no less, was memorable and visually astonishing, but all too late to redeem this character in my eyes.
AND NOW, I have only one phrase for you: misplaced humour. The movie is filled with childlike humour (this is a Disney production, let’s not forget) that clash with the desperate outcome of the Resistance. Everyone will remember Leia’s crazy flying in outer space (which probably wasn’t even supposed to be funny, but ended up being one of the biggest goofs in the movie) or even Poe’s ‘mama joke’ to General Hux during the first space battle while the Resistance fled their planet. The same can go for a couple of jokes from Luke, like that grotesque shoulder through and wiping out the dust from his shoulder when is in fact not even there. A few scenes, not a lot, but they are still pretty distracting I’m afraid. Regarding the First Order, Hux and his troops can almost be called babbling idiots, as they let the Resistance get away so easily, when the only thing they had to do was to send waves of Tie Fighters and bombers to destroy the cruiser instead of a slow tracking in space.
In a nutshell, is The Last Jedi one of the best Star Wars movies? According to some critics, it actually is placed at number 3 (or pretty close) under A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, and stands as the best entry of the sequel trilogy. Everybody is entitled to their opinion, but on my end, this is still a pretty messed up film and I declare that The Force Awakens remains the most entertaining sequel movie. I would agree that The Last Jedi is surely the boldest episode since the original trilogy and that Rian Johnson’s intent at ‘better’ writing in the SW universe was noble. However, he did not completely succeed with all characters and plot lines. I respect more and more what he wanted to accomplish with Luke Skywalker, and I find highly creative the way he used the ‘literal’ concept of the Force explained by old Ben Kenobi in A New Hope, an energy field that can bind the galaxy together, including Rey and Kylo.
Disney is currently scratching its head on how to handle new Star Wars motion pictures moving forward after the disaster that was The Rise of Skywalker. Bob Iger, who came back as the CEO of the entertainment giant just recently, publicly acknowledged that they rush the production of the sequels in order to please the shareholders (always a risk when a big publicly traded corporation is involved). I’m confident that The Last Jedi will continue to be analyzed and dissected in the years to come, and I’m confident I’ll like it even more next time. I think I want to encourage the future filmmakers of the SW universe to be as bold as Rian Johnson was, but also connect with the fanbase to make sure that their creative decisions respect what actually makes Star Wars work.
Ah, and now I can take my breath, Thanks for reading. Needless to say, I recommend that you revisit The Last Jedi during your Holidays. It remains an emotional and powerful film, despite being wildly inconsistent and frustrating at times.
Revised grade: 6.5/10
3 thoughts on “‘The Last Jedi’ Is Aging Better After Five Years, Here’s Why – ScreenHub Entertainment”