The Last Jedi (Spoilers!)

The Last Jedi has been out in theatres for at least a month now, which I feel makes it safe to talk about the movie without holding back on spoilers.  With that said, it’s been a while since I’ve seen it, so the details will be somewhat vague.  I won’t be revealing specific plot points (I don’t think, anyway), but I might talk about specific moments in the film.  If you’re okay with that, read on; otherwise wait until you’ve seen the film.  These are some of my thoughts on the controversies and overall opinion of the movie.

Spoiler Alert
Spoiler Alert

The problem with Luke

If you’ve done any cursory reading about The Last Jedi online, the crux of the conversation seems to be that Rian Johnston performed some artful character assassination of Luke.  At three points in the movie he’s seen holding his lightsabre over a vulnerable Ben Solo, apparently poised to kill the child.  People are also somewhat upset that he’d turn his back on the universe and hide.  I’m not sure if these are exactly accurate to what people are complaining about, but I think it’s pretty close.

I think people are forgetting that these movies are set some 30+ years after Return of the Jedi.  Unlike the lack of progression in the Gilmore Girls Netflix revival, a lot has happened in that time.  It stands to reason that Luke might have changed.  Also, a lot of the complaints seem to be ignoring the fact that the truth of the situation with Ben is that Luke DID intend to kill him; but reason took over and he stopped.  It’s also heavily implied that Snoke could have been influencing Luke’s thoughts and feelings just as much as he was influencing Ben.

The Last Jedi “Ruined” Star Wars

This is actually something I’ve seen come up far more often.  On reddit.com/r/movies, there’s a thread every now and then that pops up with ideas of what JJ Abrams can do to “save” or “fix” Star Wars with Episode IX, implying then that something is now broken with The Last Jedi.

I heartily disagree!  On the one hand, I can completely understand because what Johnson did was deconstruct a lot of what makes “Star Wars”, Star Wars.  There were a lot of loose threads from The Force Awakens that were summarily severed in The Last Jedi.  Where Abrams loves to introduce mysteries and puzzles, Johnson gave us all answers and left very little to interpretation, as far as those mysteries are concerned.

That’s one thing I disliked about The Force Awakens.  There were a lot of things and concepts introduced seemingly for the purpose of generating fan speculation.  Who is Rey, for example?  Who is she in the Star Wars universe?

Apparently, nobody.  And that’s just fine.  That’s one of the main points of The Last Jedi – that you don’t need to have special bloodlines to make an impact in the galaxy.  I think that actually speaks back to A New Hope, where Luke – a simple farm boy – saves the day.

OK, granted, he is the son of Darth Vader / Anakin Skywalker.  But take A New Hope by itself, and in that context Luke is basically a nobody in the universe.  We see a little boy at the end of The Last Jedi exhibit some Force skill, and I think this ties back to the same idea that names don’t mean anything.

I think I’ve meandered away from my argument that Star Wars wasn’t ruined, but I believe that also largely supports the overall argument.  The Last Jedi serves to expand the greater universe, rather than narrow our focus to a specific family.  At the same time, it continues that family’s saga (which started with Episode I) with some different layers.

Canto Bight

A lot of people had problems with this segment of the movie, claiming that it served no purpose to the film.  From a plot perspective, I agree!  It doesn’t really do much to the story.  What it does, and why I didn’t mind it, is give Finn a character evolution.  It serves his personal story rather than move the plot forward.

That’s largely what a lot of this movie does – it moves the characters forward and gives them arcs rather than tell a grand story.  It’s why I’m willing to overlook some of my complaints (those are coming…stay tuned) and enjoy the movie.  I’ve only seen it once, but trust me, I’ll be watching it multiple times once I have it on home media.

I will grant that the movie could have done with some trimming to the running time, but to call the Canto Bight sequence completely useless and not deserving any screen time would do disservice to Finn’s character arc.

Here is a better write-up about it than I could ever muster right now.

My Complaints

Number one, Leia’s “Superman” moment in the first act of the movie.  Even though I knew Leia wasn’t dying in this movie (I can’t remember where I read or heard it, but I knew going in that Leia wasn’t going to die, despite Carrie Fisher’s unfortunate passing), the moment where she is blown off the bridge by First Order TIE Fighters was somewhat shocking.  I thought that maybe I could have been wrong, and they were ready to kill Leia unceremoniously (which would have been a bold move).

Instead she had a sort of “Superman” look to her as she used the Force to pull herself back to the ship.  It was a moment that would have fit perfectly in Guardians of the Galaxy, but felt out of place here.  What might have worked better is if she used the Force to get a better grip on something inside the ship, or maybe something else – I don’t know what, but I just didn’t really like it that much.

The next is somewhat minor, and other people have brought it up before.  Why couldn’t the First Order have made a hyperspace jump in front of the escaping Resistance Fleet?  This space battle was built on two-dimensional thinking (a la Khan in Star Trek II) – in a universe where the Empire can beat the Millenium Falcon to Cloud City, why can’t the First Order catch the Resistance on the other side?

Overall Impressions

I really liked this movie.  I would definitely place it above The Force Awakens in terms of movie quality.  There are definitely parts I didn’t like as much – but I don’t expect to be given an absolutely perfect movie every time I go out and see one.

But the good parts of the movie far outweigh the stuff that I didn’t like.  It was well worth my time and money, and I highly encourage people to go see it.  Not only that, but to go into it without any weighty expectations.  Be open to what Rian Johnson put on the screen.

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