In what has now become an annual tradition, I found myself once again taking in the spectacle of a new Star Wars film on a Sunday in mid-December. The first time I did this was a bit unique in that I then hopped a plane to Peru that evening, the memories of the film dancing through my mind during a trip through the jungle. Last year’s experience had little of the build-up, nor the memory; Rogue One is a fine movie, it just doesn’t really make an impression on its own given that it’s solely in service to a greater film. Now, The Last Jedi is a film I’d been trying to temper my expectations for since the moment I walked out of that theater in 2015. The Empire Strikes Back is my favorite film of all time, so this new middle chapter had quite a challenge facing it and a bit of sequel-driven history to live up to. Let’s just say, it’s complicated. As I walked home from the screening, I was somewhat torn. There’s a lot of really awesome things that happen in The Last Jedi. There are also an excessive amount of minor things that really shouldn’t be in the film at all, or at the very least, odd decisions that should be toned down a smidge for the sake of tonal continuity. But most importantly of all, in direct response to the main criticisms of The Force Awakens, it doesn’t clone a previous film, but rather attempts to subvert its spiritual predecessor at every turn. Does it work? Let’s walk through it together and find out.
Again, I will be spoiling the entire film from start to finish. If you don’t want to be spoiled, get out of here.
Alright, let’s go.
The Last Jedi is the second film of the Star Wars sequel trilogy, following the terrific, franchise-resurrecting The Force Awakens. It was written and directed by Rian Johnson, known mainly for his films Brick and Looper, as well as one of the best television episodes ever in Breaking Bad‘s “Ozymandias.” As an established dramatic director, Johnson set to take the recaptured fantasy and rich characters of The Force Awakens and drive them into a dark middle chapter in this new trilogy.
Where The Force Awakens echoed, perhaps a bit too much, the beats and tropes of the original Star Wars, The Last Jedi treads similar territory with respect to The Empire Strikes Back, but it’s different in several distinguishing ways. I had to laugh as the title crawl finished with the sentence “As the First Order speeds toward the rebel base, the brave heroes mount a desperate escape….”, which is pretty much the plot of Empire. The driving force of the film, in essence, is the Resistance running away from the First Order, who’s in close pursuit. In fact, I would go as far as to say this film doesn’t really have a plot, per se, but is rather a series of character moments and decisions which have grave consequences. In a nutshell, the main theme of The Last Jedi is failure — we see, from beginning to end, the results of various levels of poor decisions — and ultimately (likely to be the focus of Episode IX) the overcoming and growth beyond them.
Without going too much into the backstory of these characters, which I’ve already covered extensively in my thoughts on The Force Awakens, the Last Jedi picks up pretty soon after the conclusion of that film and moves us seemingly only a few days into the future. I’m not sure — the timeline is a bit strange, what with interstellar travel reduced to Game of Thrones-level compression and the Resistance escape sub-plot literally counting the hours.
Speaking of time, this is a long film, clocking in at 152 minutes — by far the longest in the series. Unfortunately, as alluded to above, there are a smattering of scenes and cutaways that I strongly feel the film could have done without, but it is what it is. I’ll call them out explicitly below. Overall, I think I really liked what they did here. It needs some time to sink in and be accepted as the latest chapter in the Star Wars canon, but I really think this one will hold up well in the future. Much as Empire was received with a mixed response at its release, I believe the incredibly polarized reception of The Last Jedi (aside: which, annoyingly, I can’t shorten to “Jedi”) will correct itself in the long run.
As previously, here are my thoughts on the movie plot points, character reveals, and other randomness, scene by scene, beat by beat, starting from the top and continuing, more or less in order, through to the end. (last warning, I spoiled the entire film):
- Again, no 20th Century Fox fanfare, like the previous two times. I said I wasn’t going to mention it again, but Disney just purchased 20th Century Fox, so… maybe it will be back next time?
- As I noted above, the crawl described almost exactly the situation that the Rebels were in at the start of Empire, only this time they’re fleeing right from the start.
The Attack on D’Qar:
- A couple of music cues from Return of the Jedi bring us down into the Resistance fleet over D’Qar. The camera zooms straight through them, a three-dimensional look at the transports flying up from the surface.
- Taking a visual from Rogue One, Star Destroyers are heard and seen from the surface jumping out of hyperspace.
- I always love scenes on Imperial/First Order ships. The sets are so well done. Captain Peavey’s gleeful observation of the fleeing Resistance reminds me a lot of Admiral Ozzel’s over Hoth.
- The First Order dreadnought Fulminatrix’s flat, angular hull design with a wide bridge structure reminds me a lot of a giant Lars family landspeeder.
- Lysa Tully’s in the First Order. Not surprising.
- Reverse-POV shots of fighter pilots are always welcome. This is a great reintroduction to Poe Dameron.
- …and it’s immediately undercut by a joke. The first of many that might not quite work, but I guess it’s in line with Poe’s character.
- Still, it’s a treat watching Poe blast the dreadnought’s cannons, especially that distant shot from Hux’s bridge of the cannons exploding one after another.
- Captain Canady and the Fulminatrix‘s bridge are lit in red. Neat! That’s definitely the color of this film, as noted from the trailers… and the logo… and the poster…
- BB-8’s scene with the fuses is another thing that’s a bit much. One or two sparks would have been enough, but they push it to a comically large number to plug. There’s already dramatic tension without BB-8’s absurd struggles.
- “Wipe that nervous expression off your face Threepio.” “…Oh, well, I’ll certainly try General… …nervous…” C-3PO is a joy to watch in this film. He’s not overused, isn’t intrusive (in a fanservicey kind of way, that is) and plays his role perfectly.
- Poe succeeds at disabling the dreadnought cannons against Leia’s orders. The rest of the fight… does not go well.
- Oh look, A-Wings!
- The Resistance bombers look like a mix between a oversized B-Wings and the front half of a Nebulon-B freighter. Lots of them eat it real quick. Some of them even crash into their partners in formation. Whoops.
- Paige succeeds in dropping the last bomber’s payload onto the dreadnought’s weak spot (?) and it’s destroyed. A Pyrrhic victory — one of many.
- Snoke demands an immediate update on the battle. Shades of Captain Needa, except less dramatic because Snoke uses his Force powers via giant hologram to ragdoll Hux rather than silently choke him to death.
- The “tied on the end of a string” line makes me think there’s a spy onboard the Raddus.
- Finn’s in a rehabilitation pod, like we saw in the trailer. He lurches awake screaming Rey’s name. His exit from the pod is less than graceful. It got laughs in the theater, but on a second viewing it’s more-or-less played straight.
- “You must have a thousand questions–” “Where’s Rey?”
Meanwhile on Ahch-To:
- Finally, we get to see the resolution of the ending of The Force Awakens. The music swells to the same theme, Rey walks up to the stoic Luke Skywalker, and hands over the lightsaber. He looks at it. He looks at her. The music stops…
- He casually tosses it over his shoulder and walks off silently. Huh. This is one moment I thought was unnecessarily careless and silly. You’d think that Luke being handed his long-lost to the Clouds of Bespin lightsaber by some girl would be given a little more dramatic weight. It’s better on second viewing when you know it’s coming, which is sure to be a theme of this write-up, but it’s a weird move that will take some getting used to.
- Luke shuts the door to his hovel like some kind of hermitic Riven resident.
- Porgs! They’re kinda cute, actually. One of them came dangerously close to impaling itself on a lightsaber.
- Chekhov’s X-Wing: Rey spots Luke’s ship submerged in a shallow cove.
- “Go away.” Luke’s first words in 34 years. This is not your father’s Star Wars.
- “Wait. Where’s Han?” I don’t know if it would have been better to actually show this conversation on-screen. It’s too bad Han and Luke didn’t get to meet in the last film. Thankfully, they don’t make that mistake twice — we’ll get there.
- Kylo Ren emerges from a turbolift to cackling laughter from Snoke. Shades of the Emperor, but not quite.
- Snoke looks pretty pretty good, CGI-wise. His subtle facial expressions are fantastic throughout his brief show-stealing appearances. He doesn’t physically look like I was expecting him to based solely on his hologram from the last film, and his gold
bathrobejacket is a curious choice, to say the least.
- As soon as Ren responded to Snoke, I thought to myself: wow, they really screwed up the audio mixing on that masked speech. And then Snoke demands he remove the mask. Hah! Well played.
- A bolt of lightning!
- Those Imperial guards look pretty cool. Unlike Return of the Jedi, we finally get to see them act this time. (Sort of)
- Ren takes Snoke’s mask comment to heart and destroys it along with the wall of the turbolift in a characteristic moment of rage.
Back on Ahch-To:
- Rey gives a dramatic plea to Luke. The Force Theme plays in the background. Luke replies that they don’t need him. “…did you hear a word I just said?” Again, a bit too loose with the quippy dialogue here.
- Laser sword!?
- “What did you think was going to happen here?” – Luke to Rey, or Rian Johnson to Star Wars fandom?
- Luke’s daily routine sure is something, eh? Suggestively milking giant space whales and guzzling down green milk straight from the udder? Unexpected. Vaulting across chasms to catch huge fish with a comically oversized spear? Seems like things could be easier.
- Rey doesn’t give up trying to change Luke’s mind, even as he shows no interest whatsoever. Reminds me a lot of Fight Club and the initiation of Project Mayhem.
- Rey’s seen the Jedi tree in her dreams. Who is she, really?
- “Where are you from?” “Nowhere.” “No one’s from nowhere.” “Jakku.” “Alright that is pretty much nowhere.” Quippy! Also, meh.
- The “it’s time for the Jedi to end” line is a lot less dramatic without trailer cuts and loud music. Here it’s delivered somberly, as Luke intends to die on that island, and the Jedi Order with him.
Battle in Deep Space:
- *slap* “You’re demoted” – Great delivery. Leia does not approve of Pyrrhic victories. I also read this was one of twenty-seven takes.
- I didn’t know the name of this Resistance second-in-command (Commandy D’Acy) so I referred to her mentally as British Judy Greer for the whole film.
- Ohhh baby Snoke’s ship Supremacy makes an appearance. It’s more of a flying wing than a typical Super Star Destroyer, and its mechanical hum reminds me a lot of the alien ships from Independence Day. Terrifying.
- Things don’t look good for our heroes, and it’s already getting to the point where I have a bad feeling about where this is going.
- Kylo Ren’s TIE fighter is a mix between a TIE Advanced and a TIE Interceptor; wide and quick with tapered, angled wings.
- When the two Resistance fighters shared a look before lifting off, you just know they’re not making it back.
- …except they don’t even get a chance to “make it back” because Kylo Ren flies into the ship and torpedoes the hangar before anyone can launch. The shot of Poe running into the hangar as the torpedoes approach in the background is beautiful in a terrifying way.
- I’m wondering where Kylo flew off to, given that his path through the Raddus seemed like a dead-end, and he was going pretty quickly there.
- BB-8 can lose his head and reattach it magnetically. Is there anything he can’t do? (Answer: no, apparently)
- One of the best moments of the first act is Kylo and Leia’s quiet psychic conversation, wherein Ren decides not to shoot his mother who’s on the bridge of the Raddus, as alluded to in the trailers. Leia’s theme plays, and it’s mostly quiet, with only the sound effects of the TIE cockpit going off. Adam Driver does an excellent job portraying the conflict in Kylo Ren.
- Of course, what really makes this scene incredible is that his support fighters shoot anyway, killing Admiral Ackbar and shooting Leia into space.
- At this point I’m wondering if the shots of her on the crystal planet from the trailer were a red herring and she’s actually dead here. It would make sense as a way to write Carrie Fisher’s character out of the series…
- Now, this leads to what I guess is one of the most divisive scenes of the film: Leia is floating out there in space unconscious and apparently beginning to freeze. She slowly awakes, reaches out her hand, and Force pulls herself to the ship through a fine dust of debris, where she’s rescued by Poe and company.
- I don’t think this is unbelievable, assuming their vacuum of space is similar to ours and Leia is in touch with her genetic proclivity to the Force. A person can survive in space for a few minutes — they won’t freeze immediately because there’s no matter to rapidly transfer heat into, and they won’t explode because that’s just not what happens to bodies. Given Newtonian mechanics, I don’t imagine it requires a lot of force (both mass*acceleration and the Star Wars kind) to give Leia enough delta-V to get herself to the ship before she suffocates. Plus, in the end, she’s clearly severely affected by her vacuum exposure, to the point that she’s in a coma until basically the third act of the film. So, I give this a pass.
- What I didn’t notice on first viewing was that she flies right through a holographic projection of the Supremacy at the exact spot that… matters later on.
Luke on the Millennium Falcon:
- Yum, grilled Porg! Chewie prepares to eat one of the cooked birds while a flock of horrified Porgs look on. A single Porg gives him the sad-Disney eyes, until Chewie screams at it, forcing the Porg to comically fly away straight up. It’s a funny little scene that I actually liked quite a bit. Besides, while everyone is distracted by Porgs, Luke sneaks onboard the Millennium Falcon.
- Now that’s a great visual. This is the first time we see Luke on the Falcon since The Empire Strikes Back, although one could presume he’s been on it in the meantime.
- R2-D2 meets Luke. I’m a little perplexed about how these two were separated, since R2-D2 was there at the burning Jedi academy. This does tell me that Luke can evidently fly an X-Wing without an Astromech droid.
- “Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.” Boy, that feels like forever ago, doesn’t it?
- Nothing creepy about Luke hovering over Rey until she wakes up startled. Nothin’ at all.
- “Three lessons.”
Back on the Raddus:
- British Judy Greer delivers the news of Admiral Ackbar’s death, along with the entire Resistance leadership. Ouch.
- Vice Admiral Holdo is Laura Dern in a purple wig. I don’t hate her character. Her actions make sense, from a certain point of view.
- “We are the spark that will light the fire that will restore the Republic.” Huh, I’ve heard this quote with a different ending somewhere else…
- Nien Nunb sighting!
- Holdo doesn’t tell Poe her plan because of his failure and demotion. Now there are those that complain that if she had just told Poe the plan, none of the mess coming up later would happen. But she’s an Admiral, and she explicitly told him to follow her orders. She’s well within her right to do that; chain of command and all that. It’s Poe that really screws things up here, and as an audience surrogate, we’re supposed to feel that she’s being unjust. It’s quite well done, especially when you know where things are heading.
- Meanwhile, Finn is acting like a man who just wants to run.
- Rose is Paige’s sister, shown non-verbally through the amulet. I don’t mind her character, but I’m not crazy about her and Finn’s arcs — I’ll get to that later.
- “You’re a selfish traitor.” Somehow Finn’s not affected by his favorite trigger word this time.
- These two are coming up with an ingenious plan to disable the hyperspace tracker on the Supremacy. It’s a neat moment, watching these two bond over a plan that, in hindsight, is idiotic, complicated, goes against orders, and results in many deaths. But hey, they feel like heroes now, don’t they?
- Finn casually cuts off Rose while she tries to help convey the plan to Poe. Let the woman speak.
- “How’d you two meet?” “Just luck.” “Good luck?” “…not sure yet.” (Spoilers: it’s bad luck)
- Holdo doesn’t “need to know.” Good plan, Poe. *facepalms*
- This Maz Kanata scene doesn’t need to be in the film. Or, at the very least, they could have done without the firefight and antics. While she looked decent, but a bit too CGI, in The Force Awakens, this… does not look good. It reminds me too much of saber-fighting Yoda from the prequels.
- In one of the more intriguing developments of The Last Jedi, it’s shown that Rey and Kylo Ren can communicate psychically across light-years with the Force.
- She shoots him with a blaster. He feels it. But he’s not there, and now there’s a hole in the wall. Neat!
- Both run outside, including a funny little slide across the smooth corridor floor by Ren.
- “You’re not doing this, the effort would kill you.” That’s a quick, throwaway line that is so important.
- Luke interrupts this connection by pointing out the Caretakers. Why did they have to be frog-people dressed like nuns? They could have been done without.
- “What do you know about the Force?”
“It’s a power the Jedi have that lets them control people, make things float.” Well, that’s two very clear references to specific moments in A New Hope and Empire, as well as the only two ways we’ve seen Rey use the Force so far.
- Luke paraphrases Obi-Wan’s description of the Force.
- “Reach out.” Rey does so, literally. Luke rolls his eyes. Oh, I’ve missed whiny Luke. The boy from Tatooine is still inside the jaded, cynical hermit.
- When Rey reaches out with her feelings, shit goes crazy. She understands how to feel the Force, but she clearly doesn’t know how to wield it properly.
- “You went straight to the dark. It offered something you needed and you didn’t even try to stop yourself.” Setting up a heel-turn.
- I know they said the First Order ships are too slow to catch the lighter Resistance frigates, but shooting on them persistently from an ineffective distance seems like maybe not the best plan.
- Poe’s scheme apparently includes Lieutenant Connix. How deep does this mutiny go?
On the Falcon:
- These Porgs are so annoying in the most adorable way. They’re tearing things up like cute avian Ugnaughts.
- Rey and Kylo have another chat. Their environments mirror each other: Rey is standing in the rain, while Kylo Ren has a shower of sparks falling behind him.
- When their bond breaks, Kylo Ren is apparently covered in water? I don’t get exactly what happened there. Does the rain from Ahch-To materialize on Supremacy? Is that a thing now? Or was he just sweating excessively?
- “It’s a terrible place filled with the worst people in the galaxy.” Echoing the description of Mos Eisley. Smash cut to clinking champagne flutes aboard a luxury yacht sailing away from Space Monaco. Yep, she’s not kidding.
- Not crazy about the guy complaining about the parking. I would have preferred him cut, but he’s rather important to this plot.
- Canto Bight looks like a city from the prequels. Almost a Naboo with elements of Coruscant. I have a bad feeling about this.
- The casino is full of mostly humanoids in space tuxedos. It doesn’t really feel at all like Star Wars. In fact, the introduction shot through the crowd is an homage to the 1927 film Wings. It’s a bit too Earth-y in that way.
- A drunk patron puts coins in BB-8 as if he’s a slot machine. Weird, but if you noticed earlier, the slot machines are vaguely BB-8 shaped. Cute.
- This whole Canto Bight quest could have really done without the Fathiers.
- The master codebreaker is none other than Justin freakin’ Theroux looking like James Bond meets Clark Gable. The music here is absolutely cheesy. Too bad he’s only on screen for a few seconds; Star Wars could use Kevin Garvey.
- “Aeyup, those’re the shuttleparkers.” Yeah, this dude Slowen-Lo could have been better.
- When BB-8 is tossed out, he jingles like he’s full of coins.
- Rey practices her saber work against a rock. Luke looks on admiringly. Those wide shots are fantastic.
- Rey slices the rock off in a moment of carelessness. It tumbles off the ledge.
- Cut to the Caretakers having their pushcart demolished in a near miss. Again, it’s a cool moment whose drama is taken completely away by this inserted comic relief. Just let Rey look back to see Luke walking away.
- “The legacy of the Jedi is failure.” Sick burn on the stodgy, sterile, self-important Jedi of the prequels.
- Luke namedrops Darth Sidious.
- Rey sure knows a lot about the specifics of Luke and Vader’s relationship. Word must have traveled pretty far pretty quickly.
- Luke’s retelling of Ben’s turn features a flashback. We’ve never seen one straight-up before, have we?
- Middle-aged Luke looks like Atrus from Myst.
- The shot of Luke breaking down at the sight of his burning academy is heartwrenching.
Continuing Space Chase:
- The medical frigate runs out of fuel and falls back to its doom. That’s… not how physics works.
- The Raddus has six hours left of fuel, for those interested in the film’s timeline.
Meanwhile, Back on Canto Bight:
- Even the guards at Canto Bight are gamblers because it’s a one-dimensional world.
- Hey, it’s Benicio del Toro! With his stutter, he almost seems like a Guy Ritchie character.
- BB-8 not only ties up all three of the stationed guards, but he also disables another by shooting aforementioned coins out of his body. Seriously, is BB-8 going to save everyone in this film by himself? (Answer: actually, yeah, basically)
- Fathiers and children. An emotional arc that we just didn’t need, but I guess it’s okay? It feels slightly Jabba’s Palace-esque, which is my least favorite part of Return of the Jedi. I’m talking about the theatrical release — the Special Edition Jabba’s Palace scene is unwatchable.
- The stampede of Fathiers is loony. The whole sequence with the wrecking of the casino (including an absurd piano smash and a fat lady singing) doesn’t feel like it fits here at all. But hey, it’s something different, am I right? (No, this is by far my least favorite scene of the film and I wish it were very different.)
- The Vertigo zoom down the cliff face was a nice quick homage in a place that in retrospect feels like it’s nothing more than a pastiche of other classic films.
- On the other hand, did we really need another cliffhanger? Of course Rose and Finn weren’t going to fall off the edge there.
- Rose acts like they saved the Fathiers, but like, the Canto Bight folks can just go capture them again, you know? I don’t get it.
- All that said, it’s not a very long scene, so that’s good…
- Interestingly enough, there were zero shots from Canto Bight included in the two main trailers. I wonder why?
- Luke connects with Leia and she awakes.
- Rey connects with Kylo Ren, who she is surprised to find not wearing a shirt. She asks him to put on a cowl. I swear she said “towel” the first time, and I thought it completely out of place. Cowl is far more appropriate.
- Kylo’s version of events regarding the destruction of Luke’s academy are far less sympathetic to Luke. Luke looks positively demonic in the flashback.
- “Let the past die.” Major theme of the film right here.
- Naturally, we have to have a scene that echoes The Empire Strikes Back‘s cave scene. I knew it was coming. This one is different though. Rey finds herself in an infinite hall of mirrors with a time delay between her copies. It’s trippy. At the end she sees the silhouettes of her parents, but it turns out to be just her. Like Luke in Vader’s body. Metaphorically, this is incredibly important.
- Not sure how the cave is connected to the dark side though, based on that. It seemed more ominous when Luke warned Rey about it.
- Rey reaches out to Kylo, and they briefly touch hands, sharing a real physical connection. Probably one of the best scenes of the film. Luke responds with fury.
- They fight, Luke uses the Force for the first time, and Rey briefly threatens to cut Luke down with his own lightsaber.
- Luke is wise, but jaded. Rey is optimistic to a fault. I really like the dynamic among these two and Kylo Ren.
- “This is not going to go the way you think.” This standout line from the trailer holds true here: no, it probably won’t go that way, and we’re about to see a few reasons why real soon.
- Yoda. I didn’t expect to see him in the least.
- Here he looks like he did in the original trilogy, not that weird misshapen CGI Yoda from the prequels. At first glance, he does appear to be CGI, but on second viewing I’m not so sure. As the scene goes on, Yoda looks way better, especially in the way he hobbles and moves.
- I have to say, Yoda sounds way better than he did in the prequels too.
- “The greatest teacher, failure is.” And there’s your other theme of the film. Said to Yoda’s Theme, this scene is pretty great.
- “We are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters.”
- And boy, I missed goofy Yoda. After the weird, boringly serious Yoda we saw last, this is a welcome sight and sound, even if this particular character trait was originally just an act.
- Also also, I should mention that Yoda summons actual lightning to destroy the Jedi tree himself. So Force ghosts can manipulate the weather/environment? Or is it just because this is a particularly Force-strong place?
- Codebreaker Mr. Don’t Join demands payment, noting Rose’s amulet. Finn tries to negotiate, but Rose silently agrees and tosses it to him. Badass.
- The lack of differentiation between good guys and bad guys, but rather the pawns and the war-profiteers is an interesting angle. In this day and age, it’s a bit on the nose.
- Another Resistance ship bites the dust.
- “Their fuel reserve?” “By our calculation… critical.” Thanks Captain, but “critical” isn’t a number.
- Poe confronts Holdo in the scene that this whole plan has been building to. This kind of insolence should not be tolerated, however we’re conditioned to be on Poe’s side, so this still seems somewhat justified. We also still don’t know that Holdo isn’t a spy.
- “We found… *a* codebreaker.” Geez, that line really makes me wonder: how many codebreakers are there on Canto Bight?
- “If you see Finn before I do, tell him…” “Rgrahr.” “Yeah, perfect, tell him that.” What did Chewie say?
- And now most of our heroes are in the same general location: Rey is on board the Supremacy, Finn and Rose are about to sneak through its shields, and the rest are on the Raddus. Chewie and the Falcon (including R2-D2) hyperspaced away to somewhere else.
- Poe finally tells Holdo about his rogue plan. A little late, dontcha think?
- Okay, that iron bit was hilarious.
- Sigh. Yeah, we get another scene where Rebels dress up as Imperials. How often are we doing to do this?
- Now, BB-8 dressed in a trash can? That’s something I can live with.
- I love the environment deep inside Supremacy. This Star Destroyer is so big it has its own chasms.
- “You don’t have to do this.” These words keep coming up.
- Rey and Kylo are trying to get each other to turn to their respective sides. How great would it be if they somehow both succeeded?
- The ambiguously intentioned Codebreaker appears like he’s chosen the side of the light by returning the amulet to Rose and finishing the door hack.
- “Sir, I am almost afraid to ask–” “Good instinct Threepio, go with that.”
- On second watch, Poe seems downright villainous here.
- Glad to see blasters set to stun still shoot blue rings!
- C-3PO says mutiny is against his programming. Hah!
Failure After Failure:
- On Supremacy, it looks as though our heroes are going to succeed in shutting down the tracker. They are immediately captured by evil BB-8 and a whole host of First Order troops, including Captain Phasma.
- Similarly, Poe is taken down by Leia of all people, who casually shoots him with a stun gun.
- Holdo and Leia share a moment, revealing that she was on the good side all along. Well played, film, well played.
- Holdo stays behind on the Raddus to go down with the ship. She’s a real hero. (I mean that sincerely, not in a Han-to-Lando kind of way)
Snoke and Rey, Part One:
- Snoke is so much fun. He’s menacing in a playfully charming way.
- “Young fool!” – Snoke Palpatine. His overconfidence is his weakness.
Interlude on the Escape Shuttlecraft:
- Hang on, I get that the First Order might not be necessarily looking for smaller ships, but when you come within close range of a planet, why wouldn’t they expect that the Resistance would try to go there? Confused.
- Finn and Rose are led to a hangar on Supremacy, full of starfighters and heavy assault vehicles. My goodness this is a big ship.
- Turns out Mr. Codebreaker isn’t a good guy after all. And yeah, the Resistance is superfuuucked.
- Seriously, this is amazingly bad for our heroes. And I kind of love it.
Snoke and Rey, Part Two:
- My favorite scene of the film, I think.
- Rey steals Luke’s lightsaber from Snoke, only for it to fly past her and hit her in the back of the head. Young fool, indeed.
- Snoke keeps taunting her, so she instead steals Kylo Ren’s lightsaber. This triggers the Imperial guards to take an attack stance against her. Oh boy oh boy!
- “I cannot be betrayed; I cannot be beaten!” – a man who is about to be betrayed and beaten.
- Snoke sees Ren turning his lightsaber. Ren holds out his own saber and twists it, whilst Luke’s, at Snoke’s side, also turns. He’s not wrong!
- Then, as expected, Luke’s lightsaber turns on, and Snoke gets bisected. His top half flops onto the floor.
- So much for Snoke. Who was he? How did he come to rule the First Order? Where was he during the original trilogy if he’s this apparently old and extremely powerful Sith lord? We’re left with a lot of questions about Snoke, clearly. Does it really matter? Actually, no, not really. His story might be of interest to some, but this isn’t his story. It’s about Kylo Ren and Rey, and killing Snoke provides extreme instantaneous character development. And speaking of…
- …for one shining moment, Kylo Ren and Rey fight side by side in a blaze of glory. This is by far the best lightsaber fight since… well, maybe in the whole series! The choreography is beautiful without being overly flashy like the prequels, but far more dynamic than the grounded, slow fights of the originals. But before this resolves, we must return to the other subplots…
Interlude in the Hangar:
- “They blow you up today, you blow them up tomorrow.” Wise words from Mr. Don’t Join. Given what happens here, I think we can expect some First Order carnage in Episode IX.
- Treacherous happenings aside, I really liked that character. For being on the screen so little, he’s definitely pretty entertaining with his rogueish, charismatic ambivalence. Kind of like Han Solo had he a little less good in him.
Back to the Throne Room:
- The Imperial guards each have unique weapons and armor, the latter of which seems highly resistant to energy weapons. It seems only a powerful direct strike with a lightsaber can damage them.
- Rey uses a bonkers move to free herself from a stranglehold: dropping the lightsaber, catching it with her other hand, and slicing her foe at the legs.
- Ren escapes a similar fate by catching Rey’s (Luke’s) lightsaber and instantly igniting it through the head of his enemy. Damn.
- Continuing a visual theme, Rey and Ren are now alone together amidst falling embers, as the red curtain walls of the throne room burn away.
- Kylo Ren offers Rey a position at his side, ruling the galaxy.
- “Do you want to know the truth about your parents?” This feels an awful lot like a certain scene in Empire…
- “They were nobody.” Millions of theories were suddenly silenced. All of those hints from the first film, built up by hype and fanatics, turned out to all be completely wrong and misguided. But here’s the thing: it’s better this way. Rey’s strength isn’t passed down from some great family — it doesn’t have to be. Heroes can be anyone.
- “You’re nothing. …but not to me.” Negging Kylo.
- Rey has been calling Kylo Ren “Ben” for awhile. It’s apparent that he has an internal emotional reaction whenever she uses his real name.
- “Please.” That one word makes a world of difference.
Meanwhile, in Space:
- Raddus is preparing to jump to light speed. Hell yes it is!
Throne Room, Escalation:
- Of course Rey doesn’t join Ren, and of course Ren doesn’t turn to the light. If they did, the trilogy would be over. Instead, they both end up in a violent standoff, each tugging at Luke’s lightsaber with the Force.
- Phasma makes the wrong choice by delaying Finn and Rose’s execution to “make it hurt.” Still, it’s only a few seconds later; what’s the worst that could happen?
- Raddus turns to face Supremacy. As noted, it is preparing to jump to lightspeed. The worst is about to happen and I cannot wait.
- Peavey says the opposite of what we’re all thinking.
- Luke’s lightsaber splits in two. Finn and Rose are moments from dying. Raddus jumps into hyperspace.
- What results is the most atonishing, breathtaking visual of the film, and possibly the entire saga: a gash of light is torn through the hull of Supremacy; the wash from the cataclysm annihilates the Star Destroyers behind it. All of this happens in silence.
- When this instantaneous destruction resolves, we hear a ghastly explosion and see Supremacy cleft in two, its halves slowly listing in separate directions. Holy shit.
- I’m going to assume this is where Act Three starts because there really isn’t another more clear delineator amidst all of this action. The hyperspace explosion alters the fates of all of our heroes for the better, instantly.
- Finn and Rose are now surrounded by carnage in that hangar. Somehow, they survive but their captors did not. Maybe because they were prone on the floor? In any case, Phasma and more troops appear from the other side of the hangar (how’d she get over there?)
- Oh hey, another BB-8 ex machina. Hopefully this is the last time the little ball droid does something incredibly improbable at the exact right moment…
- Finn and Phasma duel. For the second time in the film, we’re treated to a melee fight that does not at all include lightsabers.
- “Let’s go Chrome Dome.” I feel like this is a reference to Han calling C-3PO “goldenrod.”
- Phasma gets beaten pretty easily once she’s briefly distracted by Rose. I guess she doesn’t get that expanded role after all.
- I did like seeing her eye through the broken helmet though. It adds just a touch of humanity to an otherwise undeveloped character. Maybe she survived the fall though? Nobody ever said that she escaped Starkiller Base in The Force Awakens, so who knows? (Probably not; that was a lot of fire…)
Aftermath in the Throne Room:
- Hux was gonna kill Kylo Ren! Blink and you’ll miss it…
- “The Supreme Leader is dead.” “Long live the Supreme Leader.” – First Order confirmed British
- I still think that wide shot of Leia inside the Rebel base at Crait is gorgeous. This one:
- Of course, this is another “Hoth” situation: remote Rebel base, giant blast door, a white planetary surface, and an Imperial/First Order assault coming from a distance with walkers.
- The crystal foxes (Vulptices) are pretty neat looking.
- I’m amazed that the shuttle crash-landing through the closing door didn’t seem to hit any of the Resistance fighters on the way in. They’re already dwindling in number and they barely even try to get out of its path.
- The tech inside the Rebel base is pretty obviously old, looking a lot like A New Hope.
- “Big ass-door.“
- Miniaturized Death Star tech. Oookay…
- Trenches and defense cannons only makes this more Hoth-like. But it’s not exactly the same, because…
- “Salt.” Cool.
- Ugh, I was so disheartened to discover that those skiffs I realized were B-Wings were actually just old speeders. They’re not even remotely related, which is insane because they share the same hull shape, sans a wing or two. Missed opportunity.
- However, those speeders kicking up red dust from beneath the salted surface? Gorgeous.
- “What the hell…” Incredulous Poe is great.
- There are thirteen speeders against a shit-ton of walkers and fighters. I have a bad feeling about this.
- Falcon’s back to save the day! Again. Again again… I feel like the Porg scream went on just a little bit too long.
- Add Kylo Ren to the list of people who think the Millennium Falcon is a piece of junk.
- Now this weird: the Falcon flies into a crystal cave tunnel pursued by TIE Fighters. What’s the music that plays here? The exact theme from Return of the Jedi that played when the Falcon flew into the Second Death Star tunnel. I know because as a kid I basically watched the third act of Jedi over and over and it’s burned into my mind. To make things worse, the cave that the tunnel leads to has stalactites and stalagmites that are vaguely shaped like the power core of the Death Star.
- The Hux/Ren dynamic in the shuttlecraft is pretty hilarious.
- Poe decides to pull the speeders out due to heavy losses. The greatest teacher, failure is.
- Finn doesn’t though, and with his character’s transformation from First Order pawn to Rebel scum hero complete, he sacrifices himself against the battering ram cannon to buy the Resistance some time.
- …or rather, his heroic sacrifice was stopped by Rose, who decides to nearly kill both of them to… save one of them who’s trying to save all of them. Way to go Rose.
- Rose kisses Finn, who seems uninterested, and then… dies? I guess I’m okay with that. At least she can be with her sister now.
- After the cannon goes off, we get a wide shot of the battlefield, which is scarred red by the fighting. It’s the red rock beneath the blasted away salt and it looks like a bloodbath.
- Finally, General Hux gets to be a General and lead a ground assault. I always thought it odd that a General would be on board a starship most of the time; that’s really more of an Admiral’s job.
- “They’ve heard us, but no one’s coming.” Yes, and no.
- As soon as they lose hope, who should show up but the one they’ve been hoping for: Luke motherfreakin’ Skywalker.
- He cleans up nicely. Got a nice trim and a haircut, looks like.
- How did he get there? Presumably, he used his Chekhov’s X-Wing.
- Luke and Leia reunite. Their theme plays. Tears are shed. This scene is the reason Leia wasn’t killed off earlier. They may have written themselves into a corner, but it was worth it to have the Skywalker siblings appear on screen together, one last time.
- “No one’s every really gone.” More poignant in retrospect.
- Luke walks out to face Kylo Ren in the confrontation we’ve been waiting for.
Luke versus Kylo Ren:
- Kylo Ren has the First Order shoot literally every gun they have at Luke. The ground explodes in an aerosolized cloud of red dust. “Do you think you got him?”
- Luke emerges unscathed and defiantly brushes off his shoulder. Luke does not give a fuck, and it’s great.
- Aside: oh, I guess Rose isn’t dead after all. For all of the terrific subversions this film pulls off, I think it really should have raised the stakes and killed Finn and/or Rose. Unless they’re used well in IX, that is.
- Sabers out: Kylo’s cross-guard red versus Luke’s blue. (Wait a sec…)
Around the Rebel Base:
- “We are the spark that will light the fire that will burn the First Order down.” Holdo’s message of hope takes a decidedly more violent turn coming from Poe.
- How did Luke get in that cave?
- Shut up, Threepio! Never tell me the odds!
- Leia not-so-symbolically passes the Resistance leader torch to Poe.
- The Falcon circling looking for life signs reminds me a lot of the end of Empire. This one goes a little bit differently, though.
- “Lifting rocks.” Your training is complete, Rey.
- Kylo has nothing but rage and hate for his former master. His redemption arc is going to be a difficult one, if it comes at all.
- A sneaky shot of Luke sliding his foot along the salty surface. (Hang on, man…)
- “When I kill you, I will kill The Last Jedi.” Roll credits!
- Finn and Rey finally meet again! I guess Chewbacca doesn’t need to deliver Rey’s secret message after all.
- Luke taunts Ren to strike him down, much as Obi-Wan did to Darth Vader. Kylo Ren, like his grandfather, follows through without hesitation.
- …and Luke’s still standing. (Heynong, man!)
- It was all an avatar, an astral projection. Luke is still on Ahch-To, levitating with the Force. Whoa.
- “See you around, kid.” Bad. Ass.
- Luke collapses from strain. Obviously.
- Rey and Leia feel a disturbance in the Force.
- Luke recovers long enough to gaze upon an apparent twin sunset on Ahch-To. His silhouette fades, and his robes blow away in the wind…
- Luke Skywalker is dead. Luke Skywalker is dead. 😦
- I’m going to remember that visual for a long time.
- Kylo Ren finds Han’s dice. They, too, were just a Force projection.
- There are not a lot of Resistance fighters left. They all fit on the Falcon. Yikes.
- It’s taken two whole films for Poe and Rey to meet? Shouldn’t they have crossed paths on D’Qar?
- Hah! The Jedi texts are safely on board the Falcon. Good one, Yoda.
- Rey has Luke’s broken lightsaber. She is so going to reforge it into something new and awesome.
- The Falcon blasts away! Roll credits…
- Uh, okay this is different.
- The slave children from Canto Bight are retelling Star Wars, kinda like C-3PO on Endor to the Ewoks. They’re quickly put back to work by their master.
- One grabs a broom, with an extremely subtle Force pull, and stares up at the night sky, brandishing a Resistance ring and holding the broomstick like a lightsaber. A ship streaks across the sky as it jumps into hyperspace. Then the credits roll.
- But wait a second, what are they saying with this scene? Are these kids going to star in a new story? (I hope not.) Are they going to be the hope the Resistance needs? (Maybe, but it’s gonna be awhile…) Wouldn’t this have been better served as an after-credit tag? (Yes.) I would have cut it out entirely, myself. It really soured the ending for me. We don’t need a sequel hook nor a teaser for a backdoor pilot. Nor does this film need a hope spot at the end of a brutal second act; we already know they’ll succeed in the end. This is Star Wars after all.
Okay, this film was something. Like I said in the intro and made clear throughout, I really liked a lot of The Last Jedi. I also strongly disliked a lot of little things that together add up to almost nothing in the grand scheme of the film, yet I still left the theater with decidedly mixed feelings.
What’s good is great. The acting is top notch, especially between Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, and Mark Hamill. The visuals are incredible, for the most part. Some of the CGI is still too much, but when the effects are on, they’re outstanding. I can’t get the attack on Supremacy out of my mind.
The handful of twists and subversions of expectations were also great. Luke Skywalker not using the Force to wreck the First Order and/or kick ass with his “laser sword,” and instead giving himself up to the Force in a stunning display of peaceful strength? Amazing. Kylo Ren deciding not to kill his mother, and having his wingmen do it anyway? Yeouch. Rey being of no notable lineage? Fantastic. The Resistance being human and making a ton of mistakes? Gneurshk.
Failure is the key here. In Star Wars, we sometimes see our heroes fail, yet there are rarely significant consequences. Luke’s recklessness in Empire causes him to lose his hand. That’s… about it, really. When the Rebels lose hands in battle over Yavin or Endor, it’s usually in service of a victory, not a rash, avoidable attack. In The Last Jedi, Poe and Finn both make awful decisions that directly get a ton of people killed. Would the alternative plan have saved more lives? We can’t really know. If the Dreadnought Fulminatrix hadn’t been destroyed, it would likely have been able to pursue and destroy the Raddus with its super lasers. Would the Resistance have been able to hide away on Crait with Snoke alive and his ship in one piece, especially given Kylo Ren’s psychic bond to his mother? Doubtful. But I loved how this film explored that heroic ambiguity. Everyone thinks they’re doing the right thing, until they don’t. It’s never been more gray than this.
Now I’m left wondering where they go from here. The Resistance is small enough to fit on the Millennium Falcon and any Rebel loyalists in the Outer Rim are staying silent. Rey is obviously a Jedi, although maybe she will take being a trained, Force-Sensitive being in another direction than the old order (though she does have the Jedi texts…). The First Order is now led by Supreme Leader Kylo Ren, which is crazy, but they’re also short a flagship. All indications are that they’re still quite strong, militarily, though we don’t know anything about their social structures and civilian arm. (By the way, where are the Knights of Ren?) And the Resistance can’t just run away again — that would put us in the same place as the start of this film, albeit in far worse shape.
And then there’s Leia. Ironically, of the three original heroes, she is the only one to have survived these two films. How do they gracefully write the iconic character of Princess Leia out of Star Wars without resorting to a cheap off-screen death or, gods forbid, the use of CGI to resurrect her? It’s possible a time jump could be employed, although that stretches the plausibility of how successfully the Resistance can hide. I don’t know. I’m glad it’s not my job to solve. Just, no CGI resurrections. Please.
Now here’s where things get bleak. Like I mentioned during my Rogue One writeup, I’m starting to feel a wee bit of Star Wars fatigue. I’ll always love these films, even the new ones (except the prequels…), provided they maintain a high level of quality. However, it’s getting to be too much, culturally. I don’t really want a new Star Wars film every year. Like superhero films, too much of a good thing rapidly turns into a bad thing. I’ve been lukewarm on Solo since it was announced years ago, and now that I know there’s a new trilogy on the way after IX, I hope Disney waits a moment, takes a breath, and really thinks things through before they start another chapter in this already ubiquitous universe. Except, I know they won’t, because Capitalism demands profits and Star Wars continues to be a money machine. So that’s reality, and it’s unfortunately tempering my expectations for anything Star Wars moving forward.
That said, Star Wars has always been a personal experience for me, and I won’t let the annoyance of mainstream culture driving it into the ground ruin my enjoyment of a good film. The Last Jedi is a good film. It really dug itself into my mind for days after I saw it the first time, and I hope to continue to grow into it as the years go on. It will never be my favorite; I think even The Force Awakens is a tighter, more compelling film, to say nothing of the Original Trilogy, but I appreciate the risks that were taken, insofar as they free the next chapter to head in any direction it wants. We’ll see if it pays off in 2019. Optimistic, but with caution.