It’s been a couple of weeks since The Last Jedi was released, so I feel comfortable sharing some of my thoughts on the film here on the blog. But, fair warning, spoilers are ahead!
I am not kidding
Don’t complain I spoiled something, you were warned
My first statement on the film is, “I enjoyed it.” I enjoyed it at the point when the credits rolled, but it left me pondering a whole bunch, and I wasn’t quite certain I loved it. When The Force Awakens came out I knew right away I was going to see it in the theatre a second time, but upon exiting The Last Jedi I was quite confident I could wait to see this film again on Blu-ray. I’m not certain this was the film’s fault, as this sequel requires much pondering to appreciate, and I saw it at the end of a nightmare week. That day, in fact, I’d just spent two and a half hours driving fourteen miles to reach a family Christmas party 1, and the earliest show I could see was 9:45 PM. I don’t think I was in a mood to ponder, I just wanted to be entertained. So, two weeks later, I’m now thinking I’d like to see the film in the theatre a second time. It’s that sort of movie, it grows on the viewer the more they reflect.
All that being said, there were a few aspects of the film which I find less than satisfying. Some of these pop up in nearly all critiques I’ve seen of the film, but on one issue I seem be all on my own.
My first struggle with the film was the Canto Bight story arc. I love the pairing of Finn and Rose, but the entire arc seemed to be forced and did little more than pad run time. It also didn’t fit the “we need to hurry or it’ll be too late” tension of the film. What was the big deal about the ship being tracked if people could just pop off to a casino world and create some havoc? I’d have like to have seen Finn and Rose’s story arc play out closer to home, without the need for a side trip. It would have cut the run time down and created more tension because it would have felt like the clock was ticking.
The mutiny story arc I also could have skipped. Now, I like how the “we need to come up with a crazy plan to save the day” trope was subverted in the film. What Poe, Finn, and Rose attempted not only accomplished nothing, it made things worse. That was cool, because the characters had to learn. But, in this film, Poe was such a liability there is no way he should have had the opportunity to reveal his growth later in the story. He should have been in the brig, along with his whole squadron. I think his arc would have been better had the admiral let Poe in on the plan after he’d already committed to his “crazy plan to save the day, and screw the suits” decision. At that point he would have been unable to stop Finn and Rose’s misguided mission and spent the rest of the time on the ship wrestling with putting the Resistance in danger while sitting in the brig. I think this would have led to a much more satisfying redemption moment when he was finally released out of sheer necessity.
The last bit I found unsatisfying is an issue I have all to myself. Up until the point where Rey and Kylo team up in an epic fight I hated the throne room sequence. Why did I hate it? Monologging. This is, perhaps, my biggest pet peeve in films. I resent when a director comes out and says, “You know, I think all my viewers are stupid. So instead of alluding to impending events I’m going to have someone in the film tell them what is going to happen next.” I don’t care that Snoke got cut down. In fact, I found it to be a rather bold move which makes Kylo Ren an even more compelling villain 2. What annoyed me was Snoke telling me he was about to die. Had they just had the Supreme Leader shut up, or boast about some other unrelated topic, the moment when Ren activated the lightsaber and ended Snoke’s life would have been an amazing payoff. Instead, I got to hear how Ren was going to “strike down his greatest enemy.” Before the key moment. Again, most people don’t care about points like this, but it gets under my skin 3.
So that’s what I found unsatisfying. What did I find satisfying?
With the exception of throwing the lightsaber over his shoulder, which I though was a a bit too much, I loved Luke’s story arc. I found his shaken and broken heart to be both compelling and empathetic. The Luke portrayed in The Last Jedi was the fulfillment of Yoda’s assurance to his insistence that he wasn’t afraid in The Empire Strikes Back, “You will be.” In The Last Jedi Luke has learned fear. And when he comes to admit that truth after Rey’s arrival, Yoda is able to teach him wisdom at last 4. This makes Luke’s appearance on Crait such a satisfying send off. He’s learned, and become a Jedi both wiser and more powerful than his father in the process. Yes, I would have loved to see him lift his T-65 X-Wing out of the ocean and fly off to save the day, but what we got of Luke was pretty dang amazing.
The relationship between Rey and Kylo Ren is the heart of the film. I find Rey’s refusal to call Ren by his adopted title compelling. To her, he’s always “Ben.” Even more interesting is how, unlike the moment when his father used his given name back in The Force Awakens, Rey is never corrected. She sees him as a person, and he appears to accept her insight into his character even as he chooses a path which diverges from her own. I don’t think Ben Solo will ever been redeemed like his grandfather, too much in this film showed that the story of the Skywalkers is going to come to an end in episode IX, but I am also convinced Rey isn’t going to stop trying. But Ben’s lack of redemption won’t be her failure, it’ll be his choice.
So there’s my first thoughts. The Last Jedi isn’t perfect, but it’s very good and needs time to be digested. It may not be the sheer fun that was The Force Awakens, but that doesn’t make it any less a worthy continuation of the Star Wars saga.
- My fourth that week. ↩
- Though he was an intriguing character, so it’s a bit of a shame. ↩
- And I have to admit, people may just be that stupid. There are theaters which have had to issue disclaimers that there is a point in the film where there is no sound by intent, because people were complaining. I have hold out hope that people who display this level of cluelessness are a minority, though. Otherwise I’ll just crawl into a corner and weep. ↩
- Also, puppet Yoda. Yay! ↩