"The Last Jedi" Review: An Epic, Calculated Failure

Updated on December 31, 2019
Sam Shepards profile image

Hi, I'm Sam, I love movies. My main interest is science fiction and zombie movies. Pessimistic and survival films I also enjoy a lot.

If something cannot be said about the new Kathleen Kennedy-produced Star Wars trilogy, it's that it didn't listen to the reaction of its hardcore fanbase.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens was an absolute success. It broke more than 20 box office records and it secured one of the top places of the list of highest-grossing films of all time. The critical response was also well incredibly positive.

However, the general word of mouth was that The Force Awakens had been generally very safe, and that very strongly relied on nostalgia, by emulating classic aspects of the original trilogy.

With J.J. Abrams out of the picture (he was offered the complete trilogy, but, overwhelmed by the responsibility and the enormous amount of work, he rejected the proposal,) the responsibility for the second installment of this new trilogy fell to Rian Johnson, who was already known in the industry for films like Looper and for his work in legendary TV episodes like Breaking Bad's 'Fly' and 'Ozymandias'.

The first and most important thing you can say about Rian Johnson is that, while still a rabid Star Wars fan, he's also a writer and director with a big personality. The monolithic, immovable and giant legacy of Star Wars didn't make him flinch. He wasn't scared to take risks (unlike J.J. Abrams, who, although did a good job, always treated Lucas's mythology with adamant great care.) The result? Perhaps the most revolutionary film in the Star Wars saga, and definitely the most polarizing.

The reason for that is a good one: Rian Johnson demystified the Force and basically democratized it. The Jedi and the Sith did not have to have its monopoly and this film, through the powerful Rey's backstory and Luke Skywalker (nonetheless,) would clearly send that message.

You can't deny that the premise is revolutionary. It eliminates the almost monarchical-kinda racist condition that the Force had had all this time. To be one with the Force, you didn't have to devote himself to the Jedi arts. You don't have to have a certain last name. That’s huge.

Of course, in a fanbase as quasi-religious as the Star Wars one (let's never forget that at some point, countries like Australia formally requested the Jedi religion to be formalized, with 70,000 people marking "Jedi" as their religion in the national census,) the move was absolutely polarizing. Many hated it. Many loved it. But there is no doubt that it was a bold, well-executed decision that instead of closing doors, opens endless possibilities. So, in that regard, here, we are #TeamRian.

However, since most Star WarsThe Phantom Menace apart—entries have always had a generally positive reception, that polarization ended up staining The Last Jedi.

The democratization of the force was not, at all, the only issue that some fans had with The Last Jedi. Rian Johnson certainly disappoints in some other aspects of the plot.

Perhaps the biggest criticism of the character treatment in The Last Jedi, is that the story separates them for the vast majority of the time. Rey is on the remote planet Ahch-To to try to convince Luke Skywalker to return to the rebel cause, while Finn continues in a comatose state, and Poe Dameron tries to delay the imminent plans of the First Order (which now includes the possibility of tracking rebel ships even in hyperspace) to completely destroy their opposition.

However, J.J Abrams himself left The Force Awakens' story at that point, so it's kinda unfair to blame that on Johnson.

But Johnson is absolutely guilty of not being able to handle well some subplots. The adventures of Poe, Finn, newcomer Rose and the rest of the rebels could be completely eliminated, and the main story would not change at all.

Especially, everything related to the odyssey of Finn, Rose, and BB-8, which includes going to a bourgeois planet, being captured, escaping, infiltrating the Snoke ship, and simply having done all that for nothing, is really frustrating. They contribute absolutely nothing to the plot.

What's your rating for Star Wars: The Last Jedi?

See results

And, broadly speaking, one could say that, in general, The Last Jedi does not advance the big plot much. Johnson refuses to deliver great, clear answers. Supreme Leader Snoke shockingly dies and we are left still not knowing anything about that character. Kylo Ren remains fixed on his desires for autocratic domains. The rebels don't achieve anything, beyond, apparently, warmly rekindling hope in those poorest and most oppressed in the galaxy. Rey's parents, according to Kylo, ​​are nobodies, which, of course, reinforces Johnson's intention to massify the Force: it's not necessary to have Kenobi or Skywalker "pedigree" to have a great connection with the Force.

What is undeniable, though, is that Johnson's direction is wonderful. He knows when to move the camera and when to leave it static. The production design and the use of colors are also admirable, with the color red (a rare thing in the whole saga) taking full prominence in key scenes. There are really memorable sequences like the battle in Snoke's throne room and the final confrontation on the small mineral planet Crait.

The Last Jedi is full of secondary characters embodied by incredible actors, who unfortunately feel half-cooked for their short time on-screen. Laura Dern’s Amilyn Holdo manages to be a villain and a hero in a couple of hours, but that deep emotional connection with Leia feels completely out of nowhere (because it is). Benicio Del Toro plays the stuttering hacker DJ, who only seems to exist to move forward a plot that aims to be futile. Oof.

That general sense of failure could be part of Johnson's plan, though. After all, Yoda appears at some point and among his wise phrases is "The greatest teacher, failure is", which could well be the motif of this film. In The Last Jedi, not only Finn, BB-8, Poe, and Rose fail. Everyone fails in this movie. Rey doesn't convince Luke. Luke basically relives his failure with Ben Solo. The rebels fail repeatedly, dropping like flies throughout the film. Rey also failed in her plan to "rehabilitate" Kylo Ren (for now). Even Snoke fails monumentally.

A film about failing repeatedly is certainly anti-climatic, but speaks volumes about Johnson's balls and desire not to follow the predetermined "recipes" and make seismic movements. It's a nice way to force the culmination of the trilogy to deal with these changes.

Although Johnson did make some big changes, he was noble and smart enough to allow the next director (J.J. Abrams, who will return to Star Wars Episode IX (The Rise of Skywalker), after Colin Trevorwood's departure) to achieve the closing he (and Lucasfilm, of course) wants. The film ends with a small slave boy showing an obvious domain of the Force. The boy is also rooting for the rebels. There seems to be hope, after all.

© 2019 Sam Shepards


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, reelrundown.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)