It was worse than Empire Strikes Back and better than Attack of the Clones…”
“Well, duh … name one sequel that doesn’t fit between those movies.”
“Well, of course, …”
“Star Trek, the Wrath of Khan.”
“I said one sequel…”
“And on the other end, Matrix 2, Speed 2, Stayin’ Alive…”
Star Wars: the Last Jedi has wonderful professional reviews but was raked on Facebook and other media by fans. Perhaps they are a very loud minority, or perhaps Rotten Tomatoes is not a reliable source for the quality of a movie…
Wikipedia has a fine plot synopsis. I will include it here with my thoughts in italics, which contain no spoilers.
The Wikipedia summary (in regular type) contains SPOILERS, so if that bothers you, just read the italics…
Resistance fighters led by General Leia Organa evacuate their base when a First Order fleet arrives.
Oh, god, here we go again, I thought at the time … SW: The Force Awakens was a (albeit good) retelling of Star Wars (and yes I said Star Wars, not Episode 3, a New blahblahblah … and now we have the same plot opening as Empire …?). Fortunately, the comparison stopped there …
Following an effective but costly counterattack led by Poe Dameron, the Resistance vessels jump into hyperspace to escape, but the First Order pursues them using a tracking device. Kylo Ren, Leia’s son, destroys the Resistance support fighters, but hesitates to fire at the lead Resistance ship after sensing his mother’s presence.
Ren’s evolution in this movie is a highlight. In Force Awakens, he was a typical brooding slacker. This point of the movie was an interesting development – he did not hesitate to kill his father, but did not fire on his mother (although never mentioned again). This was a consistent theme throughout the movie: could Kylo Ren be redeemed? He gravitates between redemption and the Dark Side. At no point do we cheer him on, but (even up to that certain point we are sure he made his decision with finality) we aren’t sure how his struggle with good and evil will eventually end!
TIE fighters destroy the bridge of the ship, killing several Resistance leaders and incapacitating Leia, leaving Vice Admiral Holdo in command. Disapproving of Holdo’s passive strategy, Poe, Finn, BB-8, and mechanic Rose Tico embark on a secret plan to disable the tracking device.
Fin, the co-star of Force Awakens its POV character, has a much smaller role in this movie – that is, smaller in terms of import and impact in the plot. In fact, his role is almost incidental and could have easily been cut. His dramatic moment at the end of the movie was well-done, in character, and late in coming.
Meanwhile, Rey has arrived on remote Ahch-To …
… with Chewbacca and R2-D2 aboard the Millennium Falcon to recruit Luke Skywalker to the Resistance. Disillusioned by the failures of the Jedi, Luke initially refuses, even after learning of Han Solo’s death.
Mark Hamill has recently told the press of his dislike of this Luke Skywalker. I found his nihilistic views very MUCH in character and one of the quieter – and more effective – parts of the movie! I cared more for Luke’s redemption than Kylo Ren’s…
Unbeknownst to Luke, Rey and Kylo begin communicating with each other through telepathic visions.
This developed an emotional link between Rey and Kylo that showed us the battle of the Light and Dark within Kylo. Any battle with the Dark Side within Rey eluded me. Despite Kylo assurances, I could not see Rey turning to the Dark Side, even at the important juncture (no spoilers) in which we the viewers were not supposed to be sure … that part of the movie failed, in my opinion. At no time did we think Rey would turn.
BUT it DID give us insight as to Kylo. Until his final decision, the viewer had no idea what it would be!
Prompted by R2-D2, Luke eventually agrees to teach Rey the ways of the Force. Luke and Kylo give Rey differing accounts of the incident that turned Kylo to the dark side, with Luke confessing that he momentarily contemplated killing Kylo upon sensing that Supreme Leader Snoke had corrupted him, causing Kylo to destroy Luke’s emergent Jedi Order in retaliation.
Adam Driver did a wonderful job showing the scared little boy within Kylo in this scene.
Convinced that Kylo can still be redeemed, Rey leaves Ahch-To …
… to confront Kylo without Luke. Luke prepares to burn down the Ahch-To …
Take some Claritin, will ya?
… Jedi temple and library, but he encounters Yoda’s Force ghost, who destroys the temple himself and encourages Luke to learn from his failure.
Holdo reveals her plan to discreetly evacuate the remaining Resistance members using small transports. Believing her actions to be cowardly and risky, Poe instigates a mutiny.
Holdo, played by Laura Dern, is another character whose loyalties are unknown until the “very end” – that is, when we are shown her choice. Is she on the side of the First Order or the Resistance or someone else? Is she on the side of the angels?Readers of the Star Wars novels will have no doubt as to her stance, but the rest of us remained unsure until near the end.
Finn, Rose and BB-8 travel to Canto Bight and acquire the help of the hacker DJ, who says he is able to help them disable the tracking device.
This is, to me, the weakest part of the movie. I am still unsure if the hacker that accompanied them was the hacker they were looking for. They found the hacker playing craps with lovely ladies on his arms (they were looking for a man with a certain flower in his lapel) – the hacker they took with them was a fellow prisoner. Was he the real hacker all along? If not, he was VERY good at what he did … did they establish this in the movie? Did I miss it? I had a piece of popcorn husk stuck between my lower left molars since the previews, was it THAT distracting? Marvel Comics will release a comic about Canto Bight that promises to explain things…
Also, the long escape scene was too long. Although Finn and Rose planted the seeds of rebellion in some of the child laborers, and we learn a bit of about Rose’s past and her hatred of this gambling planet … this entre subplot seems tacked on, overlong and unnecessary.
They infiltrate Snoke’s ship, but are captured by Captain Phasma, though BB-8 manages to escape. Meanwhile, Rey lands on the ship, and Kylo brings her to Snoke, who reveals that he controlled the mental connection between her and Kylo as part of a plan to destroy Luke. Ordered to kill Rey, Kylo instead kills Snoke and works together with Rey to kill Snoke’s guards. Kylo invites Rey to rule the galaxy with him, but Rey refuses. Using the Force, they struggle for possession of Anakin Skywalker’s lightsaber, which splits in two.
A recovered Leia stuns Poe, allowing the evacuation to begin. Holdo remains on the ship to mislead Snoke’s fleet as all others attempt to flee to a nearby old Rebel Alliance base on Crait. DJ reveals the Resistance’s plan to the First Order, and the evacuation transports are targeted with heavy losses; Holdo sacrifices herself by ramming Snoke’s fleet at lightspeed to stop the barrage.
The most incredible scene of the film. I was in awe.
Rey escapes in the chaos, while Kylo declares himself new Supreme Leader. BB-8 frees Finn and Rose, who escape after defeating Captain Phasma, and join the survivors of the evacuation on Crait.
As with the beginning of the movie, comparisons in these scenes to the Battle of Hoth in Empire is unavoidable – by placing this base on a “salt” planet the producers once again asked for the Empire comparisons they should be avoiding…
When the First Order arrives, Poe, Finn, and Rose lead a charge with old speeders. Rey draws the TIE fighters away with the Falcon, while Rose saves Finn from a suicide run against the main enemy cannon, which blasts a hole in the Resistance fortress.
Luke appears and confronts Kylo alone so that the surviving Resistance fighters can escape. Kylo orders the First Order forces to fire on Luke to no effect, then engages Luke in battle himself. Kylo strikes Luke with his lightsaber, only to learn that he has been fighting Luke’s Force projection.
Another failed scene, in my opinion, I guessed Luke’s appearance faster than the “secret” of Sixth Sense. That being said, Luke’s reaction after the barrage of fire on him was laugh-out-loud fun.
Luke defiantly tells Kylo that he will not be the last Jedi, while Rey uses the Force to help the remaining Resistance fighters escape via the Falcon. Back on Ahch-To …
Geshun … oh, never mind.
… an exhausted Luke peacefully dies and becomes one with the Force. Leia reassures everyone that the rebellion has all that is needed to rise again. On Canto Bight, one of the children that helped Finn and Rose escape grabs a broom with the Force and gazes hopefully up into space.
END OF SPOILERS
Sadness permeates this movie – as opposed to hopelessness and bleakness, which is why most fanboys probably didn’t like it. Every scene with Leia reminds us of the death of Carrie Fisher. Leia may or may not die on screen in this movie, but we know it will be the character’s swan song.
Seeing an older and more cynical Luke Skywalker reminds us of the death of Han Solo – which tells us that any character from the old films might not make it to the end. Will this be Mark Hamill’s swan song, too, as Force Awakens was Harrison Ford’s? The question was pending throughout his every scene.
Last Jedi did a wonderful job hiding the ultimate fate of its grey-shaded characters – particularly Holdo and Kylo Ren. Until the very end, we were unaware of which way they would turn (compared to, say, Darth Vader’s overlong and obvious redemption in Return of the Jedi).
And, by the way, the annoying bits (such as the obviously marketable Porgs) were not onscreen enough to be really annoying (c.f. Ewoks and JarJar), despite some eye-rolling moments – although the scene in which Chewbacca tried to eat one gave me a smirk in the midst of the bleakness.
Speaking of bleakness: Empire Strikes Back was, that is very true; but it also held onto the original movie’s sense of wonder and excitement. Last Jedi was bleak and sad, with no hint of the joy and giddiness of Force Awakens.
For all Last Jedi’s exciting fight scenes, wonderful special effects and well-placed bits of humor, it still had a gauze of sadness and despair. For all the dialogue espousing hope, there was not much feeling of it, even at the end.
It made for a quiet movie, despite the flashy lights and epic soundtrack.
Ye gods, Rogue One was filled with hopelessness, but at least in that movie the victory wasn’t Pyrrhic (and we all know what eventually happened). Here the number of surviving victors could fit into the sitting room of a very-well-known piece of junk.
“We will rebuild the Rebellion,” they vow.
“Will you, really?” we ask at the end.
So, as with Empire, the good guys barely got away and will live to fight in a third movie. When the good guys win (which they will eventually … it’s Star Wars after all) it will be a relief rather than a celebration due to the bleak and desparattion-laden sadness of Last Jedi.
It may be a tough sell …
“Caddy Shack 2!’
About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped. Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!
Copyright 2017 Michael G Curry