Yesterday I saw The Last Jedi, and since I started this blog with two posts about The Force Awakens (Star Wars – The Force Awakens and The Force Awakens 2.0), it felt just right to return to it now to write about the followup. Anyways, this post will be one long spoiler, so… you have been warned.
So, let’s start with the good stuff… The battle at the beginning of the movie was really nice, both the action and the visual aspects, despite the ridiculously slow speed those bombers were moving at. The last battle, on the salt plains, with the red dust rising up everywhere was visually epic, the white plains and red dust was just such a vivid image (I wonder if the white and red stripes were a small nod to the US flag?). There were also some quite good scenes between Rey and Luke and Rey and Kylo Ren (I especially enjoyed the scene were Rey was supposed to stretch out and feel the force, stretched out her hand literally and Luke started to tickle it with a straw of grass and tell her how strong she was to feel it so vividly, only to slap it :P).
Now, for the bad stuff… After watching this movie I almost feel like the director read my blog post about how unnecessary Finn was in the first movie, took it as a challenge and made him even more useless this time around. Sure, he had his adventure at the casino, but in the end it ended up not saving the Rebels, but rather endangering them. Now, a case could be made that this was to symbolise a departure from the traditional Star Wars story format where such a long shot plan always pans out and saves the day, but this time it just ended up ruining the Rebel’s escape plan and costing them a lot of unnecessary lives. When Finn then did the suicide run against the door buster in the final moments of the fight on the salt planes I got excited. Maybe Finn will finally do something meaningful in these movies, even if it is at the cost of his life… but no, they chickened out on that as well and saved him at the last minute :-(. Wish the director had had the spine to go through with it, as they did in Rogue One.
Now, I have to admit that the casino stuff was visually quite impressive, but them running back and forth to a casino world in the middle of a space chase felt rather jarring and the utter lack of story benefit from it… Yeah, nope… that part should probably have been left on the cutting room floor, with Captain Phasma, Benicio Del Toro’s smuggler and all…
My other major gripe with this movie is Snoke’s death. Now, I never was a big fan of Snoke, I still think his name is ridiculous, and he felt like a clone of the Emperor from the original movies (though that would have been really cool if my theory that he actually IS the Emperor, or rather, a failed clone of him had panned out). Now, the death scene in and of itself wasn’t bad, and if it had been part of a redemption arc in the last movie that would have been great, but now, killing him off and leaving Kylo “Darth Emo” Ren and General “Incompetence” Hux in charge… well, let’s just say that I feel that The First Order is suddenly much less of a threat than it was when it still had competent (if a bit cackling mad) leadership. I have a feeling that all that the Rebels would need to do now is sit back and relax while The First Order falls apart due to these incompetent new leaders.
Now, for the ending… well, Carrie Fisher’s death has sort of painted the series into a bit of a corner. I think this could’ve been solved by doing some reshoots and either letting Leia do the suicide run with the cruiser at lightspeed (what’s up with that not being weaponised yet, if it is such an effective way of taking out huge capital ships?) or let her do the distracting Kylo Ren part that Luke now did, and let Luke take over the major role they had planned for Leia in the 3rd movie… but, for some reason they chose not to address this issue. Will be interesting to see how they deal with it in the last movie. The Luke projecting himself there, then disappearing, only to do a “becoming one with The Force” death… I think that would have been a more effective scene if Luke had actually been there himself rather than as a projection and pulled a “Kenobi death” from the first movie.
In the same way that The Force Awakens reused a lot of stuff from A New Hope, The Last Jedi did reuse some of the major plotpoints from The Empire Strikes Back, though much less blatantly. Start the movie off with the Rebellion on the run from The Empire/First Order. While that happens Luke/Rey is off on a swamp/ocean planet training with Jedi Master Yoda/Luke (though admittedly Luke didn’t train Rey all that much). Another part of the cast makes a run for Cloud City/casino world for help, where they get betrayed by Lando/codecracker. Then some parallells can be drawn between the battle against walkers on Hoth and on the salt dunes, but that’s where the parallells to The Empire Strikes Back end. The scene with Snoke in the throne room was then rather reminiscent of the scene at the end of The Return of the Jedi. So yeah, not as blatant a ripoff of previous movies as The Force Awakens, but one can clearly see where it drew inspiration.
The director switch from movie to movie, JJ Abrams to Johnson and back to Abrams… well, might have left the story a bit disjointed. Johnson did a good job of wrapping up all the mysteries Abrams worked so hard on building up in the first movie, in what one might even call a rather contemptuous way. Rey’s parents? Nobodys. Snoke’s origin and plans? Irrelevant, since we kill him off almost immediately. What happened with Luke’s Jedi temple? Snoke corrupted Kylo and Luke managed to trigger him into a killing spree. Not sure how I felt about this way of solving the mysteries; on the one hand it feels a bit funny to just apply Occam’s razor to all these issues like Johnson did, on the other… it doesn’t feel like a very Star Wars way of doing things :p
Anyways, while I enjoyed the movie, it was very much a Star Wars movie; visually stunning, some really cool scenes and battle sequences, but overall a rather weak plot and quite big, gaping plotholes. I do strongly feel that leaving The First Order’s leadership in shambles was a big mistake; the second part of the series should’ve left the Rebellion feeling more threatened than ever, not less… Still, I’m curious to see how they’ll wrap it up in the third movie (though I’m sure the series going back to Abrams after having Johnson take care of the middle will make for an odd ending :p).