Star Wars: The Last Jedi made a tonne of ambitious decisions that took a departure from the familiar structure of previous entries in the franchise where all or most of which paid off. This resulted in the fact that it was unexpectedly difficult to collect my thoughts after the first viewing because literally so much happened which I hadn’t even anticipated that I needed more time and another viewing just to hone in on how much I did or did not like certain elements. And after that second viewing I think I’d still leave it with the score I gave it, I might move it up by like .2 or something but where it is now is around about where I feel it belongs. So now here we are in a space where I can finally talk about the specific details that I loved and the sequences I still don’t care for.
Major SPOILERS to follow below the image.
Where do I even start with this because there is just so much to get through that I could go on forever. I will start off where The Force Awakens left off; with Rey and Luke and how their relationship and attitudes towards each-other and others gradually develops. Right off the bat we see one of the first major risks that this film takes by having Luke very abruptly and unforgivingly throwing his old lightsaber over his shoulder. There have been many ideas floating through my head about how Luke will respond to seeing his old lightsaber once again, none of which anticipated a response quite like that. But with that simple action it is established where his character is at this point in time as he has gone through a harrowing experience, blocked out the past, and shut himself off from the force entirely. So when Rey shows up requesting his help he is reluctant to teach her and this is where the contrast between their mindsets is at its richest. Luke has essentially given up on the Jedi and trying to make it work whereas Rey has anything but given up as she persists and persists until Luke agrees to help her understand why the Jedi must end (with some help from R2-D2).
It’s easy to try and draw comparisons between Luke training Rey on Ahch-To and Yoda training Luke on Dagobah but aside from the presence of an X-wing submerged in water (which was a nice callback) the two sequences are very different in terms of tone, execution, and resolution. Seeing where Luke begins and ends during Rey’s somewhat brief visit it’s almost as if Rey was influencing Luke just as much as he was training her. He fluctuates a few times between recognising her power and showing signs of hope and retreating back to his mindset of this all ending badly. But he eventually is pushed to the point of connecting once again with the force, contacting Leia and thus allowing an old friend to visit. This dynamic that plays out within the first half of the movie is one of the most engaging parts of this entire movie. Also now thanks to Luke you can expect to find Star Wars cantina pop-up bars serving green milk in addition to blue milk, good one.
Sticking with Luke how about we go right into talking about the two most awesome cheer worthy moments that happen when Luke finally decides to face Kylo Ren on Crait….. or so we think. When Luke goes out onto the salt plains and gets blasted by enough fire power to take down most star cruisers we all knew what was coming, he’d walk out of that blast zone entirely unharmed. And because at that moment we don’t know he isn’t really there, the moment in which he walks out of the explosion is a great cheer moment to display the extent of his power…. but little do we know, that’s nothing compared to what happens next. So after messing around with Kylo for a moment allowing the Resistance to escape we are revealed to the fact that this whole time Luke has been back on his island projecting an astral projection of himself on another planet half way across the galaxy. This is a mind-blowing moment as it’s something we haven’t seen accomplished before or even attempted in any of the other films and truly shows how far Luke’s abilities have come in 30 years. And then considering the fact that this act used all his power to the point of becoming one with the force it’s understood that all of his training has led to this one moment where he accomplished this astonishing feat before passing. Upon second viewing I noticed a clever detail that one shot focuses on and that is that Luke isn’t leaving any red footprints when confronting Kylo obviously revealing the fact that he’s not really there.
When the moment does come for Luke to pass it’s very emotional and handled with an incredible amount of respect for the character and could not have been executed in a better way. The shot of Luke staring off into the distance at twin suns indicates everything has come full circle, he’s played his part and now it’s his time to move on. It has been 35 years since we saw Mark Hamill last portray Luke on-screen and it’s safe to say he still has this character locked down to a tee. He most certainly is not the same Luke from Return of the Jedi as he’s gone through a tonne of shit in the past but when you understand what he’s gone through you can see how he became the man he is now. Hamill does a fantastic job with the character and sells his mindset through well executed and compelling dialogue in his interactions with Rey, Yoda, and Kylo.
Speaking of Yoda, his sudden appearance to Luke is the most pleasantly surprising moment of the entire film and as a fan; truly incredible to see, especially with Frank Oz behind the voice. It’s been a question since The Force Awakens whether we’d see Yoda, Obi-Wan, or even Anakin show up as a force ghost so to see one of those go through is just awesome. And I’m so happy it’s more than just a moment of showing up and disappearing, having him interact with Luke is an amazing sequence and exactly what he needed to push him to use the last of his power to help the Resistance survive. It’s interesting to see that Rian decided to use the puppet Yoda over the CGI Yoda, a decision that I actually liked and it turned out well.
Now lets switch from one side of the force to the next and look at Andy Serkis’ big villainous role in Supreme Leader Snoke and how he is handled in a very risky manner by Rian. The character himself is everything I wanted him to be, he never leaves his throne room but through a few brief moments you get an idea of just how immensely powerful he really is. Watching him throw around Rey like she’s nothing and with little to no effort at all makes for great moments indicating that he’s not one to be messed with. He also very easily extracts the location of Luke Skywalker from her mind, something Kylo Ren had no luck accomplishing in The Force Awakens. And then my favourite Snoke moment is a moment I’ve been waiting to see again and that’s the use of force lightning. It may have been brief but when he unleashes that singular blast on Kylo I smiled like an idiot because of how goddamn cool the moment was. Andy Serkis, performance capture master, does a magnificent job as Snoke where he emphasises the menacing and truly maniacal nature of the character. It may not be his best role of the year but it is powerful and it is up there. Another potentially risky approach the film takes is not addressing who exactly Snoke is at all, not even a hint, what this shows to me is that it doesn’t necessarily matter…… Snoke is just Snoke. He’s a force-sensitive being who built up his strength through a connection to the dark side and just wants to rule, simple as that. I guarantee his backstory will probably be looked at in a future novel or comic but it isn’t a necessary factor here.
And then the movie takes another ballsy and entirely unexpected move in killing off Snoke, they just killed off the most powerful being of the dark side in the second movie. That’s like if half way through Episode V Darth Sidious was killed off, something I hadn’t even considered being a possibility. But it happened, Snoke is dead at the hands of Kylo Ren and with that all of my thoughts for where I thought Episode IX would go are thrown out the window. I also want to highlight the genius way Kylo actually kill off Snoke, he knows Snoke is powerful enough to read his mind and anticipate his every action so what he does is mimic what he is doing with his left land with his right, shielding his true intentions from Snoke. It makes for an awesome and shocking moment that I didn’t think would result in Snoke’s death until his body was cut in two. But then again, Darth Maul was sliced up the same way and managed to survive…. so maybe Snoke will come back……… (he’s definitely dead).
Snoke’s history leads me to another element I love about this movie, the way it chooses to respond to all of the questions and fan theories about Rey’s parentage on top of Snoke’s identity. The common practice in the fan communities has been to constantly try to link these characters to other characters and families from the past such as Snoke with Plagueis and Rey with Luke. But I like that the movie just throws away these two highly speculated questions and treats them as less than secondary plots. Rey’s parentage has been one of the most talked about details since before The Force Awakens even released, and almost all of the time it was the fans doing all the talking. And here the revelation that Rey’s parents were just random people and she’s not from a famous force-sensitive family is thrown out there with one or two lines of dialogue from Kylo. I adore this approach, it doesn’t waste a large chunk of the story on this small detail and gets it over with. And I love the revelation, going into the film I believed that her lineage would be one of two things; either connected in some way to Obi-Wan, or just a random family of random people, I’d have been fine with either one and it makes perfect sense.
This revelation adds to Rey’s character in a very important way as it tells us that she isn’t powerful because of her ancestors, she is that strong because of who she is as an individual. It’s a great reassuring detail that you can achieve greatness regardless of whether you are the child of Luke Skywalker or not.
Sticking with Rey, lets talk about her interactions with Kylo as their connection play a major role in the film. This plot-line is again insanely intriguing to watch unfold, essentially anything in this film following Rey or Kylo is by far the best stuff. What we find out later on is that Snoke had been connecting them through the force in order to trick Rey into confronting him, but through these connections Snoke pretty much instigated his own death. It was really engaging seeing Rey and Kylo reaching out to each-other, each one trying to reach the other and turn them to their side. And most of the time it appears as though it is working in Rey’s favour, there is a sense of doubt that visually builds in Kylo with each of their conversations and it all leads to the point of where he has a change of heart, killing Snoke and joining Rey in taking out the Elite Praetorian Guard. This leads to a truly epic battle sequence I will get to later but at this moment part of me believed Kylo was actually going to join forces with Rey….. but then he catches a glimpse of the throne, and it’s clear all he wants is power. They have a moment where you think maybe there’s still a chance but it becomes clear that they’re never going to merge forces as now Kylo is too far gone and isn’t going to be joining the light side any time soon.
Now where I have loved everything about this film so far there are still issues I have with it, the biggest and most prominent is the mission Finn and Rose embark on and their relationship. Now I have nothing against the performances of John Boyega and Kelly Marie Tran, I think they both did a good job portraying their characters but it didn’t change the fact that I didn’t care for their mission at all. I didn’t buy their connection, it didn’t feel very natural and the hits at a potential romance in the end did feel quite forced. But it isn’t just their relationship, the entire mission for me is an uninteresting detour that just makes you want to get back to following Rey. If you could I’d say to remove it from the film entirely but the purpose of the mission itself is integral to setting up the third act. I just didn’t care for any moment they spent on their trip to the Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them set, because that’s literally all I could think of. I get that they want to show off new worlds and different environments but this was such a departure it didn’t even feel like it was in the same galaxy. And the whole animal cruelty spin on this section I didn’t care much for either. If you are watching this movie and need a toilet break go whilst Finn and Rose are on screen and you won’t miss a thing.
Even the introduction and presence of DJ (Benicio Del Toro) I really didn’t like, his character is very lightly featured and is too quirky and unlikeable to enjoy watching. The only kinda worthwhile moment to come out of their mission is their run-in with Captain Phasma who unsurprisingly survived her trip to a trash compactor. Anyone wanting to see more of Phasma will undoubtedly be disappointed because she’s only in the movie for another 5 minutes before getting killed….. this time for good. This is just one of those things where they introduced a character that looked awesome, came across as a total badass, but in the end couldn’t find anything for her to really do. So where I do think they dropped the ball with the Phasma character I don’t know what else they could have done with her so it’s probably best to just get rid of her entirely.
Poe does have more to do in this movie and his journey which is all about him moving into a leadership role within the Resistance is actually quite engaging. He builds more as a character and we actually get to know more about him including his obsession with blowing things up. He has some very good moments with General Leia but his best are with with one of the new characters Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern). They have this evolving rivalry and constantly clash on how to approach escaping the First Order that’s all very interesting. Laura Dern was great as Holdo who is a total badass and takes shit from nobody, it’s a shame she makes her exit in this film because I would have loved to see more of her. But I need to thank Holdo because with one heroic act she created a shot that is quite possibly my favourite and the most beautiful shot I have ever seen in a Star Wars film and any film to date. When she crashes through the First Order fleet at lightspeed and the camera pauses on the shot of Snoke’s ship and all of the star destroyers ripped in half my jaw literally dropped. All I know is I need that as a wallpaper…… and no I’m not talking about on my laptop, I need that to be an entire wall of my house so I can admire its beauty every damn day.
So when it comes to the action, The Last Jedi delivers on some intense space sequences but also some phenomenal ground-based sequences one of which is absolutely stunning. The opening battle which sees the Resistance taking out one of the First Order Dreadnoughts is a great intense opener that sets the tone for the entire movie. The Resistance escaped (briefly) but not without major losses as all of their B/SF-17 heavy bombers were destroyed. Then we have the battle of Crait which admittedly is pretty short lived and doesn’t result in any major casualties (although Finn almost bit the dust), but is beautiful nonetheless. The red and white colours of the planet make for some gorgeous wide shots and a great setting for a standoff. But the best action sequence is by far the moment in which Kylo and Rey work together to take out all 8 of Snoke’s Elite Praetorian Guard. The way this sequence is shot predominantly with decent length head to tie wide shots is absolutely mesmerising to watch. It’s one of the best lightsaber action sequences in the entire saga as there is a tonne of variety in the combat in this one sequence. The wide shot is also used in setting up the Kylo and Luke battle on Crait and it looks so beautiful I don’t know why the approach isn’t used more often.
Now the general thoughts of most people going into this film were that this was going to be much darker than The Force Awakens, and that is very much true but it doesn’t mean there is no humour in here. The style of humour that J.J. Abrams introduced is in here with Rian Johnson’s spin on it I’m sure. Most of the humour works and is well placed to where it isn’t jarring but some of it isn’t necessarily bad, just poorly integrated. Some of the comedic bits don’t fit with the tone of the scene they’re in and feel a little forced which is a shame, but the majority does work and offers some laughs. A couple BB-8 moments I’m not too sure about and Finn’s “rebel scum” quote is ok, but thankfully the Porgs weren’t annoying. They be cute a small handful of times and that’s it, the Chewbacca eating a Porg scene is one of the funniest moments of the movie so they contribute to that.
A couple other things I wanted to mention; the way Leia is handled in the film I really liked, she definitely has a much more involved role and it appears as though it was being set up that she’d have an even larger role in Episode IX. Unfortunately due to Carrie Fisher’s passing that will no longer be the case but I feel like what we got of here in The Last Jedi is a good potentially final exposure to the character. The moment in which we see how her force abilities have grown as she glides back into the Raddus is a very cool scene saving her from a potentially shocking early departure from the movie. This movie also saw the death of long time rebel Admiral Ackbar who became famous for his line “It’s a trap”, may he rest in peace. Gareth Edwards, the director of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story makes a cameo appearance as a resistance soldier during the battle of Crait. As one soldier tastes the surface for salt Edwards can be seen beside him as a cool little easter egg for movie fans.
Now we move on to Episode IX, where do we go from here? You tell me because after this movie I don’t have a clue. Everything that went down in this movie and the way it ends has Episode IX riddled with a sense of uncertainty. By the end of The Force Awakens I had an idea for where Episodes VIII and IX would go but with Snoke dying and Luke dying, what more is there to do other than for Rey to take out Kylo?….. The only strong prediction I have for Episode IX is thanks to the presence of the old Jedi texts that Rey saved and the final scene of the young force-sensitive boy in Canto Bight. I believe all of this is setting up the fact that Rey either by the end of Episode IX or beyond the events of Episode IX will assume the Luke Skywalker role and teach a new generation of Jedi. But other than that I don’t have the slightest clue about what will go down, all I know is that no matter what happens we’re going to have to wait 2 years for it.
If you were looking for my score of this movie you can find it in my non-spoiler review HERE.