I finally got around to watching The Last Jedi a week or so ago. I’ve had time to digest it now, and the Solo movie is hitting theaters, so I figure I should put up my review.
The short, spoiler-free version: I hated it. And the more I think about it, and read about the controversy surrounding it, the more I hate it. That’s about all I can say though without getting into spoilers, so without further ado…
(Seriously, I’m going to spoil the whole damn movie.)
Director Rian Johnson seemed determined to forge his own path with this Star Wars movie and break away from all the old tropes of the franchise. However, he didn’t do so in a respectful or clever way. No, it’s like Johnson took hardcore fans’ favorite toys and gleefully broke them all, talking about his grand new vision. But then the summation of his grand new vision was to just hand those broken toys back to fans and then expect them to be happy! Let me break it down.
1.) Luke Skywalker
As the main hero of the original Star Wars trilogy, Luke Skywalker is a beloved character. Fans expected him to be a wise, kickass Jedi master. Instead, Rian Johnson turned him into a crotchety old coward. In the original series, Luke sensed goodness in Vader and managed to turn Vader to the light side at the last minute. In contrast, in The Last Jedi, Luke admits he sensed darkness in a young Kylo Ren, and his reaction was to nearly kill the boy! How is it that Luke went from seeing goodness in established villains to contemplating murdering an angsty teenager? And when Kylo ran off to join The First Order, did Luke take responsibility for his actions by helping the Resistance? No, he just hid on his rock.
But wait, you cry! Luke faced off with Kylo Ren in that epic showdown towards the end. Nope. Luke wasn’t physically there, it was his mental projection, which for me almost completely negates any epic-ness that scene might’ve had. And then Luke died on his rock. Alone. Rian Rohnson took a beloved hero, gave him a “touching” shitty death, and wants you to be pleased.
2.) Poe, Holdo, and Leia
Poe Dameron was made to look like a fool by Leia and Holdo. Gone is the charming potential hero from The Force Awakens; now we are faced with a character framed as impulsive and hot-headed, whose decisions have serious consequences. He tries to revolt against Holdo, only for Leia to scold him and Holdo to save the day.
At first it seemed like Rian Johnson was working on a “trust your elders” theme or something, which, okay, could be good. Movies usually portray the young new protagonists as the heroes, saving the day both from villains and from the older generations slow/stodgy/obsolete beliefs. If Rian wanted to to portray it as “No, age means wisdom, experience, and better logic/results,” I could be on board with that, but he ruined it by having Holdo be stupid – despite her effective plan – by not simply telling Dameron what the heck she was doing. If she had just told him, a lot of drama could’ve been avoided!
3.) Rey and Kylo
Here is the most blatant display of Rian Johnson’s recurring sin. The strange connection between Kylo and Rey lets them talk and build a tenuous rapport. Between that, Luke’s insistence that the Force doesn’t belong to the Jedi, and Snoke saying Light and Dark will always balance each other in the end, it seems like Rian is angling for a new take on Force users. Then Kylo says “Let the past die,” offers his hand to Rey, and I had a glimmer of hope. This could be awesome! This could make it all worth it! Rian Johnson is angling for a future where “Light” and “Dark” are understood as two sides of a coin and are going to work together and- wait a minute. Huh? Did Rey just refuse Kylo? POOF! Hope gone. Rian did all this build-up, stomped all over the old ideas of clearcut good vs. evil, only to turn right back to them at the very end.
So, were there any parts that I did like? Yes, a whopping two parts. I realize the Porg were pretty much just for merchandising, and I could’ve done without most of their appearances, but I was actually amused by the little scene where a Porg guilted Chewie out of eating what was presumably another Porg. And for the most part, I also liked Benicio del Toro’s amoral character. There were other parts I could have liked, but were ruined by Johnson pulling the rug out from under us in the last act of the movie.
That’s really what it all circles back to, the final act. I can’t decide if that was Johnson trolling fans or him chickening out or what, but that last act completely ruins the movie by sabotaging the themes he had presented throughout the rest of the film. If he had stuck to his guns/themes, I probably would’ve really liked this movie, but you can’t make fun of the old direction and then go in the old direction yourself, which is what Johnson did with this movie. If he makes another Star Wars movie I will not pay a single dollar to see it, and I also will not go see the Solo movie in theaters as a result of the mess that was The Last Jedi.
FYI, as this apparently matters, I’m not an old angry fanboy, and I’m not painting all the reboot movies with a broad brush of scorn. I’m a moderately-liberal woman, and I actually liked Rogue One.