Movie Review: “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”
Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) has been found! Unfortunately, he is not the savior that Rey (Daisy Ridley) hoped he would be. He is the last Jedi, and her only hope of becoming a Jedi and saving the galaxy, but he is broken. The guilt of having failed his nephew, Ben Solo (Adam Driver), has haunted him for too many years and he is now unwilling to train new Jedi.
Meanwhile, Kylo Ren and Supreme Chancellor Snoke (Andy Serkis) have tracked down Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) and the last fleet of the Resistance. With the First Order closing in, Finn (John Boyega) sets off on a desperate mission to ensure the survival of the Resistance. However, if the Resistance is to have any hope of defeating Kylo Ren and Supreme Chancellor Snoke, Rey must find a way to convince Luke Skywalker to train her and rejoin the fight to save the galaxy from the dark side.
The Pros & Cons
Luke Skywalker (+10pts)
Finn & Rose (-6pts)
Rey & Kylo Ren (+8pts)
Laura Dern (-3pts)
Action & Visuals (+6pts)
Pro: Luke Skywalker (+10pts)
It was so great to see this character again and this was easily Mark Hamill’s best performance yet. If you have seen the original Star Wars films (which you definitely should) you will know that it is not exactly saying much to say that this is Mark Hamill’s best performance in this role. Watching those films now, really brings out the heavy over-acting from Luke Skywalker, but the 1970s were a different time. I can honestly say that Mark Hamill was excellent in this film. It is hard to imagine what happened to this character that would make him believe that the Jedi need to end, but Mark Hamill made this very believable. This character is filled with regret, guilt, and pain which are all evident in Mark Hamill’s performance.
I loved seeing Luke Skywalker again on screen because he is brilliantly acted and his internal struggle is truly fascinating, but this character serves a much greater purpose for this film and the rest of the franchise. This character serves as the medium to teach the audience fascinating new concepts regarding the force. We learn so much about the force in this film. I do not want to get into any specifics because I do not want to spoil the film, but this film makes a lot of implications regarding the force and what Jedi (and Sith) are capable of. Almost all of these new concepts come to the screen via Luke Skywalker and his storyline. They come organically, are fascinating to watch, and leave me very excited for the possibilities of future installments of the franchise.
Con: Finn & Rose (-6pts)
This was, in my opinion, the film’s biggest weakness. I have been a huge fan of Finn since Star Wars: The Force Awakens. With Finn, we get the story of a defected storm trooper who joins the resistance after seeing the darker side of what the First Order is capable of. A character that grew up in the First Order thinking they were the good guys. There is so much that could be done with this character. You could show the guilt and the weight that comes with the realization that he was working for the ”bad guys”. You could play into his feud with Captain Phasma. You could make this character feel like an outcast in the Resistance. Unfortunately, this film does none of those things.
The filmmakers clearly struggled with finding something for Finn to do in this film. They did not explore anything that makes the character unique. This is the first major hero that has lived the life of a storm trooper yet this film does exactly what they did in the last film. The only hint at Finn‘s past life was his knowledge of the layout of a random First Order base. That’s it. Instead of doing anything new or unique with the character (which would have been so easy to do), this film sends Finn on a seemingly random mission that feels like a spinoff short story. There are so many unique storylines that could have been told regarding this character. The possibilities are literally endless here, but the filmmakers gave a generic and boring storyline that does not focus on any of this great character’s unique traits.
Pro: Rey & Kylo Ren (+8pts)
I very much enjoyed the relationship between these two characters. Keep in mind, that by “relationship”, I simply mean their interactions with each other, and in no way am I suggesting any blood relation or romance. You will have to see the film to learn more of these characters. They are communicating and interacting with one another throughout the duration of this film. The way in which they do this, gets old very quickly as it repeatedly disrupts the film’s pacing. They are both young, both extremely powerful force users, and they were both abandoned by their respective parents at a young age. They see a lot of themselves in each other.
Kylo Ren, (obviously), wants Rey to join him on the dark side, and Rey is (obviously) conflicted with this, but that is all I will say about where these character’s heads are at in the beginning of the film. What I can safely say, without getting into spoilers, is that I enjoyed seeing their interactions with one another. They both learn more about each other, see a lot of similarities in one another, and they both go through quite a bit of growth as a result of this. While the method in which they communicate gets old quickly, their individual and collective storylines are huge strengths for this film. They both get great character development and I cannot wait to see more of them in the next installment of the franchise. I am truly excited to see what the future has in store for these characters.
Con: Laura Dern (-3pts)
I am honestly not sure why this character was in the film. Was the performance great? Of course, she is played by Laura Dern, but I could not help noticing how useless this character was. I am going to stay very vague here, but this character has unnecessary conflict with one of our heroes, Poe Dameron. Is this character a villain? Not at all, but she definitely comes across as one and there’s no reason for it. Her and Poe Dameron are arguing over ”the plan”. Poe Dameron wants to know what the Resistance’s next course of action is, while Laura Dern plays a leader of the Resistance who does not want to disclose that information.
When you see what the plan ends up being and what the solution is, you will feel like the whole conflict was nothing more than lazy writing. ”The Plan” is a fairly simple one and does not require any fighter pilots. This is fine, because (more often than not) simple plans work the best. My problem is that the writers clearly came up this plan for the Resistance but realized that Poe Dameron was unnecessary for it. So what do they do? They fabricate Laura Dern’s character and force conflict between the two. The whole thing felt unnatural and unnecessary, so it just did not work. I liked seeing Laura Dern’s performance but this character really should not have been in this film.
Pro: Star Wars Action (+6pts)
This movie is not perfect but the action, visuals, and visual effects were excellent. The sets were absolutely gorgeous and beautifully shot. We see more of Luke Skywalker‘s island, on Ahch-To, which is an absolutely stunning setting. Then there is the unique salt planet of Crait. Crait and Ahch-To have drastically different climates but both appear wonderfully on screen. The ships and the creatures also looked fantastic in this film. All the creatures and ships appear on screen with a very real and very clean quality but the concepts of these designs were unique. The new versions of the AT-ATs (for example) looked tactical, more practical, and more menacing. Sure these things looked intimidating before, but this film makes them look even more dangerous while improving on their visual stability. The new AT-ATs looked stable, which leaves me curious to see the resistance attempting to trip them.
The sets were gorgeous and the visual effects were unique and of high quality, but what about the action? The action in this film was phenomenal. If you are a fan of classic Star Wars action then this film will blow you away. There are some great dogfight (classic Star Wars space battles) sequences, an amazing light saber action sequence involving Rey and Kylo Ren, and so much more. There are a few scientific issues with some of the sequences. For example, the film implies that there is gravity in space during a bomber scene, but Star Wars has always made the assumption that gravity exists in space. It does not make sense scientifically but this film stays in-line with the “science” that the previous seven films have followed. Looking past the few scientific inaccuracies, you will be left with a ton of fun, amazing action sequences with excellent visual effects that are set in stunning locations.
Con: Snoke (-4pts)
Snoke was severely underwhelming in this film. He was barely in the last film, and the trailers suggest that we see a lot more of him in this film. Unfortunately, the scenes of him in the trailers were almost all of his scenes in this movie. Sure, The Emperor was barely in episodes IV and V but his presence was felt. Much like episodes IV and V (where Darth Vader was the real villain), Kylo Ren is the real villain of this film. That is fine, and I thought Kylo Ren’s story was well developed, but I wish we had learned more of Snoke along the way. Who is he? What is he? What is he capable of?
I am not one of those fans who believe he has to be tied to a character we have seen before. However, Snoke is a very old character who has been through some serious battles (evident by his face). I do not think we needed to learn Snoke’s entire story, but a taste of where this character has been would have given me a lot more to get excited about going forward. Instead, the filmmakers keep him entirely shrouded in mystery which makes the character feel like an afterthought. The lack of development, gives me the impression that the filmmakers do not even know or have not decided on what Snoke is. Maybe they will correct this character in the future, but he is definitely one of the weaknesses of Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Grade: B+ (86pts)
I very much enjoyed this film but, while I wanted it to be, it was not perfect. I believe most of its weaknesses come from the writers and filmmakers being overwhelmed by the crowded cast. Laura Dern plays Vice Admiral Holdo, a character so useless she could have been removed from the film entirely and the result would be a more naturally flowing film that also made more sense (logically). The problem comes from the filmmakers forcing an unnecessary character into an already crowded film. The filmmakers also clearly struggled with finding something for Finn to do in this film. This is evident when they send him on an insanely random side mission that continuously disrupts the pacing of the film. With Snoke, we had a character that the filmmakers simply did not have time for. Fortunately, the film’s main characters more than make up for the weaknesses of the side characters.
Luke Skywalker does not feel forced into this film at all. He is an essential part of this film. His storyline moves the plot along naturally while teaching the audience new things about the force that will definitely come into play in future films. The character is brilliantly performed by Mark Hamill and serves as a medium to setup new, exciting elements of the force and what force users are capable of. I loved seeing Luke Skywalker on screen again and I was fascinated by the latest chapter in his story, but Kylo Ren and Rey were equally entertaining to watch. I was, once again, impressed by the very talented Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley. I also really enjoyed the character’s interactions with each other. Both characters are so similar to each other in almost every way, but they fall on opposite sides of the force. I really liked this dynamic and very much enjoyed watching their interactions play out on screen.
Again, this film is not perfect but there is a lot it gets right. It does a great job at developing its main characters and it does so while delivering plenty of the great sci-fI action that has become a staple of the Star Wars franchise. We get new creatures, plenty of laughs, and we learn fascinating new things about the force. This is definitely a movie worth seeing in theaters.