Spoilers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi and probably unpopular opinions follows!
It is perhaps fitting that we will be seeing annual Star Wars movies every December for the foreseeable future. If these trends keep up, it means I won’t lack for grievances to air when Festivus rolls around.
The Last Jedi is a bad movie, despite it being somewhat enjoyable to watch. Unlike Rogue One, the characters are somewhat developed and interesting. I care about these people to some degree. Sure, Poe’s hotheadedness was a little over the top but I can go along with it. There’s a potential love triangle that’s interesting and believable. Mark Hammil, Carrie Fisher (rest her soul) and Adam Driver put in pretty good performances. Kelly Marie Tran as Rose absolutely stole the show. There were some duds in the character department, though, mainly with washed up punk rocker Vice Admiral Holdo and the utterly worthless DJ. And while I did find the tension between Hux and Kylo interesting, Hux himself is panning out to be a really shitty character.
Some Deviations from the Other Detractors
Strangely enough, a few of the more common complaints aren’t what really drags down The Last Jedi in my opinion. I actually do think it’s fine if Rey’s parents end up being deadbeat nobodies; there’s something fitting in that origin. I get that it feels like a bit of misdirection, but remember that it feels like Rey was misdirected as well. She seemed convinced that her parents had some sort of meaning, knowing that she was gifted in the Force. In some sense, we get to personally feel Rey’s disappointment of her discovery, and I think that part of it was actually pretty well done.
The scene in Snoke’s room was probably the highlight of the movie for me. So many interesting things happened. Watching Snoke get sliced in half by Kylo was entirely unexpected and awesome. The direction Kylo Ren takes is going to be interesting after seeing him finally destroy his master (something Vader always aspired to do). Rey’s conflict with Kylo will certainly be something that will be exciting to see unfold to its conclusion. And lastly, the battle with the Praetorian Guard was excellently done. Now granted, it is kind of a problem that we don’t really know Snoke at all and are left at a mystery about his origins. If the next movie (i.e. not tie-in media) doesn’t shed some light on this, I think there will be more criticism to bear on how his character was handled.
The handling of Luke was OK. I would echo some of Paul’s complaints about how it’s weird he would suddenly have a murderous urge to kill Ben Solo, but I kind of get what direction they were trying to go. While the execution may have fallen flat, I don’t think there was a problem with the general theme they were trying to get across with Luke. Though I’m not sure exactly why he “needed” to die at the end.
The Airing of Grievences…
So yeah, let’s get to the unpleasant stuff. For one, the movie is way too fucking long for what’s effectively two scenes: Rey and Luke squabbling with each other while Kylo checks in occasionally via Skype, and the longest, slowest space chase ever. While I loved Rose as a character, I’m not counting anything that happened on the Las Vegas planet, as it was completely unnecessary and served no real purpose in the movie aside form an excuse to show off CGI animals and maybe give Finn something to do. This movie could have easily been 60 to 90 minutes rather than its interminable 150 minutes. This didn’t really feel like a movie so much as a random filler episode from some TV series.
This might be the most poorly written of all the Star Wars movies I’ve seen, eclipsing even the prequel movies. There is, quite frankly, no narrative coherence. Barely anything in the movie makes any goddamn sense. The conflict between the Resistance and First Order has turned into a clown show, where nobody seems to rise to even a basic level of competence. People in this movie act so fucking stupid and things happen that are so illogical that it’s hard to maintain enjoyment of the movie. You sit there and just wonder what the fuck did you just see happen. Case in point: the “mutiny” instigated by Poe against Vice Admiral Holdo. The premise for Poe being driven to rebel and the mutiny’s resolution wer both absurd. Why was Holdo so cagey about the plan to flee to Crait? And then Poe ultimately goes along with it anyway! I guess this was supposed to teach Poe a lesson about the chain of command or something, but he had really shitty teachers. This whole subplot served no purpose and could have been cut.
And let’s talk about the absurdities of the First Order. Despite supposedly taking over the entire galaxy seemingly overnight, they can’t figure out how to chase down three pretty slow moving capital ships for the majority of the movie. They can’t catch up for … some reason. They call back all their fighters that were doing heavy damage … for some reason. They apparently don’t have any more ships to warp in to sandwich the fleeing ships for … some reason. I mean, sure, we get these sorts of silly plot contrivances from time to time in Star Wars, but it’s a little hard to get past if the contrivance forms the basis of pretty much the entire movie. Just how did these buffoons take over the entire galaxy?
And seriously, why are we stuck with numbskulls like Hux representing First Order? There are actually some interesting canon characters on the side of the First Order, and yet these clowns are what we have to work with. What gives? And don’t get me started about the treatment of Captain Phasma, a potentially interesting character. What a goddamn waste. Apparently Rian Johnson had a message for all you Phasma fans: go fuck yourselves, fanbois! I guess the pointless casino planet was more important in Johnson’s mind.
The lowest of Low Points
It is difficult to fully convey just how awful the Leia floating in space scene was. This scene wasn’t just the lowest point of the movie. It was the lowest point of the entire franchise. What was the point of all that? If it was to show off Leia doing Force magic-y stuff, there were plenty of other much better ways to do that. Not only that, it was a missed opportunity to have a proper send off for Carrie Fisher. Now what? We’re going to get an awkward “Leia died” mention in Episode IX? Honestly, as unpleasant as it sounds, I might feel a digitized Leia for Episode IX would be a better option at this point.
Great Themes With Poor Writing is Pretty Useless
One thing that I’ll certainly give the movie credit for is some attempts to try and deliver actual messages. The most clever example is Luke hating the idea of being a legend but showing at the end that the legend of Luke facing down a First Order army is a potential spark for continuing the fight against the First Order. But everything around the movie is so nonsensical that it just loses its potential effect. DJ was so worthless as a character that his whole “message” about scummy weapon dealers playing both sides, and hat there are just generally awful people like him, becomes worthless as well. There’s nothing like a moment of Mordin Solus yelling, “I made a mistake!” to really draw me in and speak to me. To parallel that famous George Lucas quote about overusing special effects: a great theme backed by incoherent writing is a pretty useless thing.
I’m not surprised The Last Jedi might be the most polarizing Star Wars movie ever made. It does have some good things going for it and some incredibly fun moments, but that’s why I find myself so utterly disappointed by the movie as a whole. I can at least respect the opinions of those who think the positives outweigh the negatives, even though I feel pretty much the opposite. And if you are willing to look past what I would consider unfathomable warts, you’ll probably enjoy The Last Jedi a lot more than I did.