Finally, after more than a year of waiting, fans of the “Star Wars” film franchise finally got to see what happens next to our favorite characters within the main or saga films. Many have been waiting in anticipation as to where this chapter in the saga would take these characters, and how they would affect their world in the long run. With Rian Johnson at the helm, we got a movie that definitely was different and unexpected, but was also very polarizing at the same time. As for myself, this is one movie that definitely has me debating, thinking, and still talking about it until now, but is a movie that I have very mixed feelings about.
The eighth chapter in the saga films, “Star Wars: Episode VIII- The Last Jedi”, was, as previously mentioned, directed by “Looper” and “Brick” director Rian Johnson. This movie saw the return of all our favorite characters from the original trilogy, the new characters we got to know in the “The Force Awakens”, and introduced characters such as Rose Tica (Kelly Marie Tranh), and Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern).
The film picks up where “The Force Awakens” left off, allowing the audience to pick up the threads of the story quite easily. From there, the story focuses on three main plots- Finn (John Boyega) and Rose; Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and the Resistance; and on Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), Rey (Daisy Ridley), and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill).
When it comes to performances, I have no qualms or gripes about any of the performances that all the actors gave. Hamill was at his best as Luke; Ridley delivered like she did in the previous film; Fisher was powerful and moving; Isaac was in his element; Serkis made Supreme Leader Snoke more intimidating than I thought he was in the previous film; and Boyega, Tranh, and Dern were just fantastic. Aside from Hamill and Fisher, however, I believe that the biggest stand out performance goes to Driver’s Kylo Ren, whose presence gets even more magnetic in this installment.
Plot and story wise, however, I felt that there was too much going on, and I walked out of the theater needing to take some time to process everything that happened, and all the new information that had just been dumped on me, particularly when it comes to everything about the Force in the film. I also felt that the use of the Force in the film was a little bit too “magical” for my taste, especially in one particular instance.
Because there was so much going on, I felt that that was why I wasn’t really able to truly emotionally connect to the characters and what was happening. It felt like it could have been a tighter story which allowed us to explore certain things about certain characters more; and it felt like there was so much potential but our teeth weren’t allowed to truly sink deeply enough into it. I did feel like it could have been two separate movies, and I would have been fine with it, or if they made a certain story line shorter, it would have been better. I also felt a little bit let down with the fact that certain plot points that were set up in “The Force Awakens” didn’t have any pay off at all, and I know that Johnson did want to subvert expectations, but I felt that we still deserved a better pay off than what we got.
The action sequences, from the battles to the lightsaber fights, were just amazing, and the score, as per usual, was just fantastic
Because of this, even though there were parts and scenes that I really did love and enjoy about the film, I wouldn’t call it an amazing film, as I still have mixed feelings about it. However, one thing that I can say is that Johnson did make his mark indeed, and that this movie will be talked about for many months to come.
Now, you know the drill, there will be spoilers beyond this point! Also, just a warning, this post will be even longer than usual.
As I mentioned earlier, there were parts of the movie that I did really enjoy.
First off, I really loved the opening crawl this time around, and I think it is the best opening crawl in “Star Wars” history to date.
I thought all of the battle sequences were really well done, from the opening battle sequence, all the way to the visually stunning battle on Crait. Interestingly enough, Crait does remind me of Hoth, except instead of ice, it’s full of salt.
Poe’s flying was just amazing, but the ruthlessness and piloting skills that Kylo exhibited in this movie were just amazing.
The lightsaber sequences were wonderful, and I feel like there’s something wonderfully different in the way they shot those scenes. The lightsaber fight sequences were just plain awesome as well.
I really loved the fact that they brought in a puppet version of Yoda, and this is the Yoda that I actually missed, the old Jedi Master who seems to be a few screws short in the head, not the Yoda in the prequels and in “The Clone Wars”, although he was a force to be reckoned with there. I also like that they didn’t rely on CGI for him.
That kamikaze lightspeed thing that Holdo did was just breathtaking, and I literally held my breath when Leia got blasted into space in those first few battles.
Also, the First Order tracking and chasing them down everywhere reminded me of the episode “33” in the reimagined “Battlestar Galactica”, except that they did a better job at showcasing the tiredness and the tension in that scenario.
I also liked the connection that Kylo and Rey had with each other. I loved their unexpected team up, and subsequent fight sequence.
Now, let’s go the things I didn’t like about the movie.
I felt that as much as I did love Finn in “The Force Awakens”, I felt like he wasn’t really given much to do. I also felt that the whole Canto Bight arc was pointless, and that Benicio del Toro was done a disservice, especially if he doesn’t show up in the next movie. Also, the whole Rose/Finn relationship felt really forced. I know that that whole arc is there because Johnson also wanted more emphasis on the whole war profiteering angle, and it was also paid off in the end with broom boy lifting the broom with the force wearing Rose’s Resistance ring at the end of the movie. Rose, Finn, and broom boy are Johnson’s way of saying that anyone can be heroes, not just those born with the Skywalker lineage.
Fisher’s performance was just spectacular all throughout the film. However, my only gripe is that sequence which is now dubbed as the Superman/Mary Poppins sequence, when she used the Force to propel her back on the ship after she got blasted out of it. I know that Leia is strong in the Force, but for me, I always felt that the way she used it was subtler. We’ve never seen her use it before, and as much as I did want to see her use it, this wasn’t it for me.
I also felt that it made the Force a little bit more magical than what I am used to. I also don’t like the fact that it seems to be introducing the concept that anyone can use the Force. However, if everything can be logically explained in the next film, while still not discounting what is already canon, then I’ll be all ears.
Now, I know that Johnson really wanted to subvert the expectations of the audience, which he did. I liked the unexpected team up between Kylo and Rey, and that fight scene makes me want them to really team up in the future. However, I just felt that certain things that JJ Abrams set up in “The Force Awakens”, such as Snoke’s identity and Rey’s parentage, weren’t paid off and executed well. However, I do believe that Kylo may not be a reliable source, so there’s still a possibility that that isn’t the true answer. With Snoke, while it was satisfying to see Kylo unexpectedly turn on him, I hate the fact that he was offed without us knowing more about him first. However, I also think that the underlying reason why I got disappointed about this is because it is indicative of the fact that there isn’t a whole gameplan laid out for each of the characters, unlike what we saw in the prequels or in the original trilogy.
I also wanted to see Rey struggle more with the Dark Side. However, I feel that she isn’t as compelling when she isn’t somehow with Kylo.
While I loved that Luke was a broken and haunted man here, and I did love most of what he did in the film, I didn’t like the fact that he, and for that matter, Leia, gave up on Kylo. I loved that Luke died while having a vision of the binary suns of Tatooine, but I oddly wasn’t emotional about his death. I feel like it should have been a moment, just as Han’s death was, but it really just wasn’t. Also, I liked that Luke really called out the Jedi for the hypocrites that they were, especially the way they were during the prequels. In the entire series however, this Luke is my favorite version of Luke so far.
Poe’s arc, honestly, could have been solved if they communicated with each other better; but I did like how Poe did learn that being a hothead does not a good leader make.
It is no secret that I think that Kylo Ren is the most compelling character in the entire new trilogy. Between the interviews that Driver has given, and what we learn here, I now understand why Kylo is the way he is. This boy was rejected his entire life. His parents sort of neglected him, his uncle attempted to kill him because he didn’t know how to counter that darkness within him especially after he learned part of the truth about his grandfather, Snoke rejects him, the First Order thinks he’s a joke, and Rey herself, in the end of the film, rejects him as well. For Kylo, his biggest weakness are his insecurities, and this also causes him to be unhinged. With Vader, he was a true force to be reckoned with, but he was cold and calculating. Kylo is unpredictable and unhinged, which makes it even more interesting as to how he will rule the First Order. I also like the fact that he also came into his own here, as he smashed his helmet, symbolizing that he’s getting rid of his tethers to the past. However, interestingly enough, just like his grandfather, and actually, in a way, even Luke, what he wants is to restore things by having no Jedi or Sith at all. Just Force users, I guess, who wield both light and dark.
Interestingly enough, the one who feels the most balance in the Force is Rey. She feels both the light and the dark, and I feel that she and Kylo can be the first, maybe, of Force users who aren’t Jedi or Sith, but Force users who truly have that balance in the force. In fact, it’s very primal, as the universe isn’t just about life and peace, but it’s also violent as well. This is why I hope that they really do team up in the future to do just that. I think that it’s really possible, as we’ve seen Force users in canon, like the Bendu, who aren’t light or dark, but uses the Force in ways the Jedi or Sith don’t.
All of this, plus all of this, plus the fact that ghost Yoda actually destroyed the only remaining Jedi Temple left, sans the books that aren’t page turners, makes me really wonder and speculate about the Jedi and Sith orders themselves, and what the future lies for them, as it is intrinsically tied into the fates of Kylo and Rey.
Now, I can see both sides of why people didn’t like it and why some people liked it, and I am not saying that I don’t consider this to be a “Star Wars” movie. I am just conflicted and have mixed feelings about what was presented to me, and I hope that the next film will be able to make me appreciate it better in the long run. (JJ Abrams, there’s a lot riding on your shoulders now.)
However, I do see the points that Johnson was trying to make, and it was definitely different and unique. I do have more questions than answers, and I do believe that Johnson has made a “Star Wars” movie that will definitely be talked about until the next one comes along.