So I went with some friends to go and see Star Wars, The Last Jedi, and I wasn’t really sure what to expect at first. I wasn’t too thrilled with The Force Awakens; there were times when it felt more like an exercise in cinematic typology, with way too many elements making the first film feel like an attempt to retell “A New Hope” for a new generation. For that and other reasons, I completely skipped Rogue One, even though I was excited to hear that one of my favorite action stars – namely Donnie Yen – had a starring role.
My first thought was that this movie would Empire Strikes Back: Take 2, which was sort of correct, but only for one scene towards the very end. However, to console my cynicism, a friend told me to just reduce my expectations to zero, which I ultimately did… to my own detriment.
Luke dies. Snoke dies. Yoda reappears.
Princess Leia can survive the vacuum of space.
BB-8 is a Legend!
So, I’ll say the obvious by stating that this film is leagues better than The Force Awakens, and is definitely a movie worth seeing for Star Wars fans.
I’ll keep the plot to a minimum: The Resistance is forced to evacuate their base when attacked by the First Order. Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) successfully destroys a First Order dreadnought, but at the cost of his strike team, resulting in his demotion from Commander to Captain. An attack from TIE Fighters on the lead Resistance ship leaves Princess Leia unconscious and the bridge of the ship destroyed, leaving command to Vice Admiral
Radical Feminist Holdo.
Finn (John Boyega), and newcomer Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), accompanied by BB-8 and aided via Poe, travel to Canto Bight to seek out a hacker to help them disable the tracker aboard Supreme Leader Snoke’s ship, which can track the Resistance even after a jump to hyperspace. Poe on the other hand, falls into a power struggle with Holdo, trying to do what’s best for the Resistance while avoiding a passive evacuation strategy upheld by the former.
Meanwhile, Rey (Daisy Ridley) travels with Chewbacca (not Peter Mayhew) and R2-D2 to Ahch-To to seek out
The Joker Luke Skywalker, in order to recruit him to aid the Resistance. However, consumed with guilt over the actions of Kylo-Ren, initially refuses to either help the Resistance, but reluctantly trains Rey in the ways of the force.
As mentioned before, the overall film is not a typology of previous films, but there are some parallels to the original trilogy. Sneaking aboard an enemy vessel in disguise with a criminal to disable a tracker does bring back images of Obi-Wan trying to disable the Death Star tractor beam as Luke and Han Solo attempt to save Leia whilst disguised as Stormtroopers. The final confrontation on Crait does recall memories of the battle of Hoth; Rebels engage in trench warfare against AT-AT as the Rebels attempt to escape. And of course, there’s Rey’s confrontation with Snoke, which has a lot in common with Return of the Jedi, specifically Luke standing face to face with Darth Sidious, both of whom are eliminated by their apprentice.
However, as I’ve mentioned before, this is actually a good thing. The film writers successfully give a nod to the original trilogy, perhaps to appease older fans, while still presenting enough differences within said parallels to ensure old and new Star Wars fans aren’t seeing the same thing all over again.
For example, a criminal aids Rose and Finn in their mission aboard Snoke’s ship, but he has no plans on going straight. It’s almost like a What If or Elseworlds retelling of the Original Star Wars: imagine if the criminal betrays the heroes, rather than change his ways. But that’s the point: The plot twists are all over this film, leaving you guessing what’s going to happen next. For example: Poe viewing Holdo as a traitor. Leia shooting Poe. Luke showing up out of nowhere in the battle of Crait, and then several shots from AT-AT fighters and Kylo-Ren’s lightsaber can’t kill him. What the heck is going on?
In addition, the film is loaded with Deux ex Machina moments. It will either make you laugh/cheer, or drive you up the wall. Princess Leia blown away by TIE Fighters into the vacuum of space. Finn and Rose appearing trapped aboard the Supremacy, staring up at a AT-ST that killed the surrounding Storm Troopers.
BB-8 is Legend!
There were a few brow raising moments when I saw this film. For example: If Snoke created the Telepathic Link between Rey and Kylo, then how did he not sense that Kylo would turn on him (think the failed assassination of Yoda in Episode III)? Speaking of Snoke, viewers may be disappointed that Snoke is killed off, considering that neither the Force Awakens or this movie really delve into his origins. Who is he? How did he learn the ways of the force? Why did he corrupt Kylo? How did he turn to the Dark Side, or found the First Order (although technically, it’s General Hux’s army). Snoke is an interesting character, but hopefully by the time we get to the end of the film, there’ll be a few explanations.
Speaking of explanations, Rey was wondering who her parents were from the previous film, but she develops a telepathic link with Kylo-Ren, who reveals that her parents were drunks who abandoned her for drinking money. It was a useful plot device, but Ren’s revelation is not a very big reveal.
Yet even Kylo-Ren is an improvement. Adam Ryder’s portrayal of this Sith was a few steps up from before. It’s clear that he’s hurt at Skywalker trying to kill him, the feeling of abandonment by his family, and then the pain of being looked down upon by Snoke, who only serves to pour salt on the wound. Ren seems to recall images of Fredo in the Godfather Part II, and his ascension to Supreme Leader seems more like an attempt to prove himself to those who he feels wronged by.
Even Luke was a joy to watch. While Harrison Ford was the reason I chose to watch The Force Awakens, his character Han Solo doesn’t really change very much. Luke’s debut in “A New Hope” was that of a whiny brat, but now, 40 years later, now Luke gets to be the wise old sage in exile, like Obi-Wan or Yoda before him. However, rather than being the ambitious adventure like Obi-Wan, or a calm elder who has all the answers like Yoda, he still has to wrestle with his own inner demons. And yet, by the end, he’s everything we love about the elder Jedi sages before him, even displaying force abilities that Star Wars fans haven’t previously seen (unless I’m missing something; I don’t read the comics, which technically aren’t even canon anymore).
It’s a wildly entertaining film. The endless humor, the plot twists, the deux ex machinas, the awesomeness of BB-8. I’m glad I went to see this film.