It is by now well established that I am not much of a Star Wars fan, my time in SWTOR notwithstanding. But I did see the last movie, so now I’m kind of invested in the new trilogy, and it’s such a huge franchise I kind of feel like I have to keep watching, if only so I can enjoy the inevitable memes and parodies.
So, okay, let’s do this.
I found The Force Awakens hard to rate, and The Last Jedi is harder still. I can see why the reviews are so mixed. This is a weird, inconsistent movie.
For one thing, there are, like, three climaxes. More than once you’ll think you’re watching the end of the movie, and then it will keep going for another hour. They’re all pretty powerful “endings,” but it does get a little overwhelming after a while.
This being Star Wars, logic is often left by the wayside. This time the most egregious act of dumbery is the fact that the First Order has somehow overthrown the Galactic Republic overnight, reducing its entire military is down to just four hundred people.
The writers also still have no concept of linear time. Rey’s story appears to be take place over the course of many days, perhaps even weeks, while all the other action — which is clearly happening concurrently — is explicitly established to be taking place over the course of about twenty-four hours.
I really wish it didn’t have problems like this, because in a lot of other ways this is closer to a good movie than Star Wars has ever been, but it’s just so hard to get into the story when the bedrock of it just fundamentally doesn’t make sense.
It’s just simple laziness. These problems would have been so easy to fix. Give me a short montage of the Republic falling, a little exposition on how the First Order got so big so fast, and a few dialogue tweaks so the timeline actually works, and it would have been a much better movie.
I also would have liked to see more of Rey. She was by far the best thing about Force Awakens — really she was the only thing that saved that movie — but here she’s just a vector for Kylo Ren’s story. She’s in a decent number of scenes, but she doesn’t actually do much of anything.
Also, Poe is now suddenly a complete asshole for some reason.
On the other hand, there is a fair bit that I did like.
My favourite thing about The Last Jedi is that it surprised me, more than once. It’s not a predictable movie, and it’s not just a retread of what’s come before. It’s charting its own course, telling a new story, and offering some genuine and enjoyable twists.
Surprisingly — unbelievably — Kylo Ren turned out to be a highlight of the movie. He’s been fleshed out a lot more and now has a reasonable and compelling motivation beyond just “rawr evil.” Frankly I think he’s probably seeing things clearer than any of the other characters, though his methods for achieving his goals are still… less than ideal.
I suppose in a way he has taken the Sith Code to its ultimate conclusion, its purest form. “The Force shall set me free.”
It’s hard to get past his prior portrayal, though. I love the story they’ve given Kylo Ren, but I’d love it much more if they’d given it to a better character. The fact remains he spent all of the last movie acting like a spoiled emo child, and it’s hard to take him seriously in the face of that, even with his portrayal so much improved.
Meanwhile, Finn continues to be a lot of fun, and this time he managed to find a balance where he has a lot of personality, but is no longer so hammy about it. His new companion, Rose, is also a real delight.
I was happy to see a film finally acknowledge the failures of the Jedi, but I don’t think it did enough in that regard. Too much time was spent on Luke’s personal regrets and not enough on how fundamentally flawed the entire Jedi system is.
And of course, this is an absolutely gorgeous movie. Not just in the quality of the special effects, but they’re used with some real artistry, too. That moonlit chase scene was breathtaking, as were the bright colours of the final battle.
Oh, man, how I wish SWTOR could capture just some of the beauty and spectacle of the movies. Or the movies could be half as smart as SWTOR.
They’re such opposite extremes. The Last Jedi was — at least for me — the most powerful Star Wars movie to date by far, but it’s still nothing compared to confronting the Star Cabal or the showdown with Valkorion at the Eternal Throne.
On the other hand, SWTOR is ugly to look at and bland to play. It has no sense of spectacle. It’s emotional, it’s thoughtful, and it’s smart, but it has no flair, no style.
If I have to choose, I’ll still prefer The Old Republic. It has twice the heart and a thousand times more brains than the Star Wars films. But boy I wish there could be a happy medium.
But back on topic, The Last Jedi is, like its predecessor, a mixed movie with a lot to like, but also serious flaws. I’m a big defender of numbered reviews, but this is one case where just slapping a number on something is never going to capture the complexity of it all.
However, for consistency’s sake…
Overall rating: 7/10
Interesting to hear your thoughts on the characters here. I agree Rey could have had a bigger role, or one that actually accomplished more. But I have really come to like Kylo Ren, and overall I enjoyed the ambiguity of his story and the character focus of this movie. I had more trouble with tone and pacing issues I guess. The first half of the movie felt soooo slow to me, and there was humor in there that just didn’t work for me (like that first phone call from Poe). The second half, on the other hand — once Rey was meeting with Kylo Ren, and Luke Skywalker got his big moments, etc. — was amazing for me. And I agree, I loved the addition of Rose in this movie, her story with Finn was sweet and moving! It’s funny what you say about SWTOR too. It would be awesome if the two learned from each other a little!
I don’t know if I’d agree about the pacing. It seemed to like cool stuff was happening pretty much from the get go. But I think just too much happened. It’s like two or three movies mashed together, and it gets a bit overwhelming after a while (plus, again, plot holes).
I guess the one thing I can say about Last Jedi is that I think it’s the first Star Wars movie that a made genuine effort to be intelligent and moving. I don’t know that it succeeded all that well, but I respect that they at least tried.