So I had a chance to finally View Star Wars The Last Jedi on Saturday of the opening weekend. I tried my best to go into this with as few preconceived notions as possible. Needless to say, and despite my having viewed a couple of reviews on YouTube, I did manage to keep my spoiler viewing to a minimum. And perhaps that was the best way to deal with this or any other movie because what I can certainly say is that I was definitely and utterly surprised at many of the twists that occurred within this outing for Star Wars. That’s not to say that my anticipation wasn’t at an all-time high as I remarked in my “Star Wars Addiction Disorder” commentary. On the contrary, I was boiling over with an exorbitant amount of enthusiasm to the point where I was twitching in my seat and quite annoyed at the folks that were wandering in late or getting up to grab a last-minute snack as the theater darkened for the opening scroll. Not quite sure that this time I sat like a giddy little school boy who was losing it because he was about to watch one of his favorite movies. No, I think I sat there more in a squirming motion that suggested more of concern as to whether or not this would be a solid addition to the Star Wars franchise. What took place after the lights dimmed in the theater and what rolled for the two hours and 33 minutes that it was scheduled for, was actually what I would consider to be quite mind-blowing.
My Feelings & Apology
I’d like the back up here and just start off with giving an apology for posting this review late. There was a couple of reasons I chose to do so despite my desire to get out of review right away. The first reason was that my anticipation for this show was so intense that when I finally saw it I was taken aback by many of the things that occurred in the film. To be honest, I was really infuriated by much of what took place and didn’t really know how to fully express myself other than by negative expression. I didn’t want to release a review in that state of mind and wearing my feelings on my sleeve, but wanted to present something that was more objective. So I waited until I had a chance to view it a second time which I’d hoped would calm me down before proceeding. The second reason is I wanted to just go ahead and go all in with the spoilers instead of doing a non-spoiler review, or not having to come back later to present reviews. Those are honestly the two reasons that delayed me writing this review; to keep it a little bit cleaner, thorough and more objective. With that out of the way, please don’t click away from the article because you know essentially what I felt up front about the film. I could really rant but I think it’s best that I do stick to the point and just talk about the movie in the more analytical and objective fashion. So, with that said we can move on, with the understanding that my undertones are one of a great measure of disappointment. But I’ll hop on that later.
The Basic Plot – Skip this is you’ve seen the movie
So the plot in a nutshell is we have the Resistance, which is now being referred to as a bonafide rebellion (I’ll stick with Resistance), pretty much on their last leg after blowing up Starkiller base. We find them furiously evacuating from the base that we saw in “The Force Awakens” and they’re in the process of packing up and hightailing it out of there as soon as they possibly can. This desperate attempt at escape is of course happening as the First Order is jumping several ships out of hyperspace and preparing to lay a massive bombardment on the rebel’s base. Visually, it was awesome to see and one of the better Star Wars openings, where we see capital ships of the First Order jump out of hyperspace one after the other and we see it from the perspective of one of the rebels as they look into the sky and see the ships appear in the atmosphere. It was definitely daunting and I found myself holding my breath as the ships appeared. Despite the fact that several capital ships, or Star Destroyers show up, the first order still had one more surprise in the form of a dreadnought , which was a massive ship designed for planetary bombardment . This ship in and of itself made for an even more awesome site and the filmmakers did a great job in creating a feeling of dread.
Needless to say their initial attempt at snuffing out the resistance is halted by the heroics of Poe Dameron as he shows up in a single X-Wing Fighter and commences to deceiving General Hux, getting him to let his guard down just long enough for him to attack the Dreadnaught by destroying all of its laser turrets. This attack is designed to prevent the Dreadnought from being able to shoot down the bombers that jump out of hyperspace and are heading, very slowly I might add, towards the Dreadnought to drop bombs to destroy it. In the course of this attack, and in fantastic Hollywood fashion, mostl of the bombers are destroyed by Tie fighters and only one bomber gets through to release its payload which obliterates the dreadnought. This gives the Resistance just what they need in order to evacuate the last transport allowing the group to jump to hyperspace while barely escaping the clutches of the First Order. This also begins the overall arc of the film with the first order in hot pursuit.
Doesn’t sound like anything new for a Star Wars movie right? In other Star Wars movies we’ve seen where the bad guys are in Hot Pursuit of the good guys who are trying their best just to survive long enough to fight back and restore freedom to the galaxy. We see this in the entirety of “The Empire Strikes Back” where everyone continues to jump to hyperspace to escape the clutches of the evil Galactic Empire. That’s where things get a little interesting for this story and constitutes the first twist of the movie. In this case, after the resistance jumps to light speed through hyperspace, we find that the First Order has the ability to track ships through hyperspace. Definitely a neat trick that puts our heroes in a situation we’re running just isn’t enough anymore. With this technology, the First Order jumps out of hyperspace hot on the tails of the Resistance ships. Kylo Ren personally leads a squadron to attack the main Resistance frigate that houses his mother, Princess Leia. Kylo begins to pull the trigger to destroy the bridge but changes his mind. This is to no avail as one of the members of his squadron fires on the bridge which completely blows Leia, Ackbar and the other leadership from the hull. Even with that, the Resistance still manages to survive the onslaught.
But we see also, that the Resistance is down to a couple of transports and some support ships including a medical frigate which the First Order has no qualms about shooting down. So now that the Resistance can’t use hyperspace as a reason to get away, we find the First Order hot on their trails, chasing them through real space with the intent of hunting them down. To throw salt in an open wound, it turns out that the Resistance is running low on fuel and if they perform another jump they will be completely out, leaving them at the mercy of their pursuers. So what they do is they position themselves specifically at a distance that renders the First Order’s laser turrets and cannons absolutely useless. In other words we see the First Order shooting at the various resistance ships but it having no effect on their shields. Now, I’d like to come back to this and give a little more commentary on it, but that sort of starts off some of my comments as to what I deem to be a little ridiculous within the Star Wars universe. But this pretty much constitutes plot number one.
During the first portion of the movie we also see the development of some conflict on the part of Leia, Poe Dameron, and Vice Admiral Holdo who comes into the picture later as Princess Leia becomes incapacitated. We also see what’s happening with Finn and the setup for the adventure that he’s about to go on with Rose. As a matter of fact, Finn awakens as they’re making the first jump to hyperspace and he runs into Poe Dameron who asks if he’s okay. Finn’s first response though is “where is Ray?”. This kind of sets up, or continues, the idea that Finn (FN2187) has deep feelings for Rey as a friend and or otherwise. This also pushes us on to the next plot point.
Finn is so concerned about finding Rey that he decides it’s time for him to take action and sneak off and find her on his own. This is essentially how he and Rose meet because she tries to stop him before finding out what his purpose was and what he needed to do. After some convincing, she joins him. They hook up with Poe, who has essentially been removed from his position due to insubordination, and together the three of them come up with a plot that will help them save the resistance. This plot is essentially that they are looking for a way to destroy the hyperspace tracking device on the First Order ship and to do so it’s decided that they need to find someone with encryption cracking skills so that they can sneak over to the ship and disable the device. For that, they turn to Maz Kanata who points them to a guy who can do it, but is on the planet of Canto Bight the casino planet. Now this is the part of the movie where people seem to be generally in agreement that there may have been too much time spent on this subplot, and that it really seemed to be insignificant to the overall story. I don’t disagree so I won’t spend a lot of time explaining what happens here either but will give you the abridged version. So Finin and Rose go to Canto Bight to find the person suggested by Maz Kanata but instead they run into the character DJ who turns out to have similar hacking skills. They attempt to convince him to join them in helping the resistance of which he expresses that he’s not interested in joining a noble cause, but only to get paid. They go through an escape routine that was a little light on detail but they all managed to get out with everything intact and not too much trouble aside from a ‘free the poor animals’ chase through the city. After that they head back towards the position of the Resistance and First Order fleets.
Moving on to plot number 3, we screen swipe over to Luke and Rey who are still standing at the same spot as they were at the end of “The Force Awakens”. At this point, Luke reaches out with his robotic hand and grabs a lightsaber with a look of awe on his face. He takes the lightsaber and stares at it for a moment before nonchalantly and dismissively tossing it over his shoulder. The lightsaber falls off the cliff side in which Ray ones runs over to look, the situation putting her in shock to his reaction. This is the beginning of Ray working for half the film trying to convince Luke to train her in the ways of the Force. Luke essentially expresses that he is come to the planet to get away from events of the Galaxy and to die. He also expresses that he is disappointed and maybe even a little horrified by the mistakes he’s made as a Jedi Master and that he regrets the galaxy seeing him as a legend. After a while, Luke relents and decides to offer three lessons to Rey, ones of which the audience only gets to see two. I’m not sure he made it to the third one at all, or it may have been implied. But the first lesson that he teaches her is how to reach out with her feelings and see through the Force the world around her. As she’s doing so, she displays a tremendous amount of Force potential and this scares Luke. He expresses to her that he’s only seen that kind of raw power once before and it came in the form of Kylo Ren. This of course, makes Rey even more determined to understand what this power is that she has. It also begins to plant a seed as to her interest and Kylo Ren. Well, maybe not interest as much as beginning to find him intriguing. But this scene is somewhat reminiscent of what we get on Dagobah in “The Empire Strikes Back” where Yoda tries to get Luke to understand the intrinsic nature of the force versus taking it so literally. I have to admit that I really liked this portion of the movie because we see Luke actually giving her the number one most basic and important lesson of becoming attuned to the Force. Even though Ray has been deemed a Mary Sue, I think that we have to keep in mind that the Force is strong enough to influence someone as a wielder even if they haven’t been trained. I think that Disney is probably skating pretty close to the prequels by making her so powerful out of the gate without training because it gets really close to the whole Anakin Skywalker super powerful Jedi who was supposedly conceived from the midichlorians. In any case, this lesson opens up a whole new world for Rey and she instinctively understands what the Force is and how to connect with it. As she looks to her vision, she sees the light, she sees the dark and she sees all the space between which gives her a much more rounded view than most of the Jedi or Sith save for maybe someone like Palpatine.
Luke shares a second lesson with her, but it’s really one more of negativity I think. He goes into the whole issue of the Jedi being so dogmatic that they managed to let the Sith rise to power and take over the galaxy right under their noses. This last point is probably the only nod given to the prequels. Luke even goes so far as to refer to Palpatine as Darth Sidious versus calling him the Emperor. Luke continues on to say that he is a failure as well but Rey reminds him sternly that he managed to bring Darth Vader back to the light which is what made him a hero. Nevertheless Luke manages to remain close-minded and at that point somewhat cuts Rey off and refuses to continue her training. He meant what he said by wanting the Jedi to end because it was not, in his opinion, the right way to view the Force and their system of rigid ideology needed to end. This ends up causing conflict within Rey who is essentially looking for someone to show her what her place in the universe. It also leaves her vulnerable to what comes next.
Because of Luke’s rejection of Rey as a student, she is immediately left vulnerable and at this point something else happens that turns out to be quite an impressive use of the Force. While she’s sitting in one of the huts contemplating her situation, she suddenly senses the presence of Kylo Ren. We switch over to Supreme Leader Snoke’s ship where we see Kylo sitting and having his scar repaired by robots, or droids, and he suddenly feels the presence of Rey on his end. They both can sense each other but don’t know where to look and in the confusion they get up to investigate. This happens three times during the movie, the second time with them actually communicating and discussing what they’re feeling about the situation and about each other. On the last time, they can actually see each other and they get to the point where they can touch each other. When they reach out and touch, Luke explodes into the hut and stops them. I’m not a hundred percent sure, but I think Luke could also see Kylo sitting across from her and in a fit of rage he blows out the walls of the hut which was pretty awesome to see Luke do since he hadn’t displayed Force abilities to this point. The funny part is, is that Luke turns to Rey and tells her that she needs to leave immediately. This doesn’t make sense because she made contact with Kylo and they had both come to the agreement that they needed to meet and resolve any issues that they have between each other. But Luke turns his back on this and is ready to kick her out. Personally I think I would have just set aside any pride and disappointments I had and would have taken her under my wing just for the simple fear that there was now the potential for two of the most powerful Force wielders ever to get together and possibly wreak havoc on the galaxy. Nevertheless he forces her hand and she gets upset to the point where she attacks him with her staff. Now in my opinion, this is one of the better fight scenes in the movie because we see Luke grab another metal staff to defend himself and they actually duke it out with Luke essentially winning by disarming her. But this doesn’t stop anything as Rey calls to the lightsaber, ignites it and wields it over Luke who trips and falls on his back staring at her and disbelief. After this, Ray decides that she’s had enough and she packs up and takes off with Chewie, the porgs and R2D2 and sets out to find Kylo Ren.
What ensues next is that portion of the movie that actually constitutes the majority of the action. We find that Finn and Rose have infiltrated the First Order ship with DJ and they are working to crack the code to the hyperspace tracking device. As this is occurring, Rey has also docked with the ship to meet up with Kylo Ren who takes her into custody to be taken to Snoke. Also what’s occurring simultaneously is a mutiny that’s being conducted by Poe Dameron and a few others who feel that Vice Admiral Holdo is not doing her job. As I said, these play out in an interactive fashion and this is where we get the swipes between plot points. We hear nothing from Luke or Leia during this time because at this point Leia’s in a coma from being sucked into space and Luke is contemplating his further failures up to and including the most recent with Rey. As this is going on, we still have the First Order chasing what’s left of the resistance fleet which is pretty much dwindled down to their command ship or what is known as a cruiser.
So as far as plot points go between these three stories, I’ll start with the least interesting to the most interesting. First off, we have Rose and Finn’s plot where they’ve recently returned from the so-called Casino planet and have infiltrated the First Order ship with DJ in tow, their mission to deactivate the hyperspace tracking device. This plot point continues to be somewhat uninteresting, but if it had been executed properly could have at least picked up on their story to a certain degree. But essentially DJ hacks into the system and he hands the reigns off to Finn and Rose to execute the rest of the plan. But it turns out that they had been spied by one of the First Order droids and a squad of troopers and officers were waiting for them before they could actually reach the contraption. This leads to capture and the eventual selling out by DJ, who they couldn’t quite trust in the first place, to the First Order. As they are brought before General Hux they are sentenced to being punished according to First Order rules which are to be executed. This is to be carried out by none other than Finn’s arch-nemesis Captain Phasma who is delighted to finally have caught the trader. As she prepares to initiate punishment for the two they stare in complete and utter disappointment and terror as they watch DJ walk away having been rewarded for his betrayal.
Switching over to the situation with the Mutiny by Poe Dameron, we see that he is so dissatisfied with the leadership and is fed up with the secrecy and direction that the vice admiral is taking them, that he decides to take over. I have to say that I don’t really blame Poe because they could have clued him in on what was actually happening considering the fact that he was commander of their fighter squadrons and is on a higher tier in the command structure. Nevertheless they decide to keep him in the dark which pushes him to rebel. As he’s doing so, we find that Leia is starting to come out of her coma as a result of Luke communicating with her through the Force. She wakes up only to discover that there’s been a mutiny with the vice admiral already starting to retake the ship. Poe and some of the other officers are gearing up to steer the ship in a new direction to escape the First Order, only to find that the vice admiral is breaking through the bridge door. As they finish cutting through, we see the bridge door fly open and lo and behold, there is Leia with her hand extended, having blown the hatch door completely off using the Force. This of course is the second time we see her use the Force within the new trilogy, the first time having been her preserving herself in space. Many people are dissatisfied with the fact that she could do this, but more on that later. So, of course Poe is very happy to see her but is surprised when Leia pulls out a gun and stuns him. Thus the original command retakes the ship and Poe is incapacitated for the time being. After he wakes, Poe finds himself on an escape shuttle along with other that are making their escape to the mineral planet of Crait. He speaks to Leia about it who explains this was the plan all along, to use the escape pods which were undetectable by the First Order, for some reason, and make their way to an old Rebel base that would help them to hide until the First Order left. Poe feels like a complete idiot and regrets having doubted Leia and Vice Admiral Holdo.
This plot of course does not work, because we learn that DJ, as part of his deal to be released, gave coordinates and other information to the first order as to the Resistance plan. Thus General Hux and the First Order were aware of what was being planned and begin to shoot down the shuttles as they headed towards the planet. This scenario creates a very desperate situation for the resistance and Vice Admiral Holdo (who opted to stay behind to fly the main ship) decides that in order to buy time for the escape pods she would turn the Resistance Cruiser around, aim it at the First Order flagship and initiate a hyperspace jump. Now, I’d like to echo what everyone seems to feel and think about this particular scene – it was one of the most spectacular CGI and plot scenes in the Star Wars universe. It was something we had never seen and was definitely a feat of magnificent heroics on the part of Vice Admiral Holdo. Now my biggest criticism of this scene is that it was a spectacularly great opportunity to send Carrie Fisher‘s character of Princess Leia out on the highest note possible for a hero with caveat of displaying great sacrifice and saving the day. But again as I’ll discuss later, many of the plot points were poor in this sense. So this buys time for Princess Leia and what’s left of the Resistance to make it down to the planet of Crait. They make it into the old Rebel base and then prepare for the worst.
Moving back to the First Order ship, specifically Snokes ship, we find Finn and Rose who are being tortured by Phasma. As a result of the vice admiral’s heroics the entire scene is broken up as the ship is hit by the Resistance Cruiser. This shakes up the entire scene where everything seems to actually disintegrate around Rose and Finn but they somehow come out relatively unscathed. They work towards finding a ship to escape and are confronted by Phasma and a band of her troops. Phasma calls for them to raise their weapons to execute the traitors but is interrupted suddenly by one of the walkers opening fire on the troops. Phasma responds by having her troops fire on the walker in which they blow off the head of the walker and it reveals that BB-8 is at the controls. Of course everyone looks in shock as the droid is controlling this walker, but they return their focus to escape. Gunfire opens between Finn, Rose and Phasma as they pick off her troops one by one, with BB-8 continuing to fire on the other others. One of the cooler things, was Rose firing her laser gun at Captain Phasma who was unfazed as the laser-bolts bounce off her armor leaving not even a scratch. I thought to myself, ‘wow she’s really about to kick some butt’ as we finally get that badass scene that we’ve been hoping to get with Phasma since the first trailer dropped. That didn’t happen though. Best we could get was the final battle between Finn and Captain Phasma. This fight was actually pretty good albeit it a little short for my taste. And for that matter, maybe a little bit too even. I still felt that Phasma should have bested Finn but he essentially ends up winning the fight with not too great an effort. Phasma then falls to her death as the platform beneath her collapses into what appears to be a fiery furnace of exploding hull. Finn, Rose and BB-8 head for a shuttle and they escape the portion of the ship that has been destroyed and heads towards the planet of Crait.
In the meantime we have Rey and Kylo Ren inside Snoke’s throne room. Here we see the somewhat impressive room where Snoke is sitting on a dais and is dressed in gold robes. He sits up high and is looking menacingly down on Rey with Kylo Ren who is in the background kneeling on one knee. Around Snoke are several praetorian guards all dressed in red armor and holding energy pikes. Snoke goes through a whole commentary of his thoughts on Rey and expresses to her the fact that the resistance will be destroyed and soon so will Luke Skywalker. Rey of course defies him as Kylo continues to kneel in the background staring silently at the situation. Snoke goes on to explain to Rey that the bond that she and Kylo shared was not done by their own power but was actually a Force bridge that he created in order to trick both of them into a false sense of security. Both Kylo and Rey are surprised at this and after Snoke insults Kylo for the second time in the movie, Kylo begins to show signs of being dissatisfied with Snokes leadership. Snoke begins to deal with Rey’s defiance by levitating her off the ground and stretching her body in a torturous fashion. He also shows her the Resistance ship’s as they’re being picked off as they head to the planet of Crait. All of this torture and taunting seems to bother Kylo making him sort of fidgety. But, Snoke continues to put Kylo down and as he is talking and explaining to her that he knows all of Kylo Ren’s thoughts at all times and that Rey could never convince him to betray him, he fails to see the lightsaber that is sitting next to him begin to move, turning towards his side. As he continues to boast, Kylo ignites Luke’s blue lightsaber which pierces Snoke in the side. I shuddered at the sight an sat in my seat hoping that Snoke would pull the lightsaber out of his side and would commence to kicking some butt as he cleared the room out of sheer fury. But alas that was not to be the case. Kylo then Force pulls the ignited saber towards which effectively cuts Snoke in half. All I could do is go… wow!
The praetorian guards of course attack and Rey grabs her lightsaber as Kylo ignites his. Now one of the better lightsaber battles in Star Wars history occurs and it’s a spectacular one. Rey and Kylo put up a really good fight against the praetorian guards, or maybe it was the other way around. But I was very impressed with the praetorian guards even more so than Rey or Kylo. This is in part due to the fact that in “The Force Awakens”, we saw Kylo do some pretty powerful things in the first place, but for whatever reason his lightsaber skills were only put to use in this situation and he never once Force grabbed, Force choked, threw anybody across the room. But I digress, and say that overall it was a really good battle. I’m definitely of the opinion that Anakin and Obi Wan would have wiped those guys out in one-third the time. But it’s okay, it was still a good scene.
After they defeat the guards, they appeal to each other to join the other in either the light side or the dark side way of doing things and they end up Force grabbing at Luke’s lightsaber to the point where it breaks wide open with the crystal being exposed. With this, an explosion occurred and Rey ends up escaping and Kylo gets knocked out. When General Hux arrives at the throne room and sees that Snoke is dead, he attempts to kill Kylo but is interrupted as Kylo wakes up. At this point Kylo establishes that he’s in charge and not to be disputed. Hux, after a slight Force choke, reluctantly agrees.
Moving to the planet of Crait, we see the remaining resistance fighters bunker in as they try to come up with a solution as to how to survive their dire position. They decide to send out an encoded message to the outer rim worlds of the galaxy in hopes of bringing supposed allies to their rescue. This attempt goes unresponded and the resistance braces for attack. They gear up some old land skimmer vehicles and attack the Gorilla walkers that are now headed their way. In addition, the First Order brings what I would refer to as a sonic battering ram to knock down the ginormous door that is protecting the old Rebel base. This weapon is supposed to be based on Death Star technology and may explain why it takes a while to charge up, something that conveniently grants our heroes time enough to execute a counter offensive. But the attack pretty much goes in favor of the First Order who’s massive Gorilla walkers have tremendous armour and fire power as compared to their smaller cousins from the Empire Strikes Back. They essentially pick off the speeders as they advance towards them. To boot, the speeders were old and rickety as they had been salvaged from the days of the Empire. So as we see in this seen, the Resistance had essentially met its match and things were appearing to look hopeless. This was one of the more realistic points of the movie as the Resistance had never even been as well equipped as the Rebel Alliance had previously. The truth also is that they were pretty much down to a few dozen people and had no chance at rallying any real victory in their current form.
In this encounter, one of the potentially more interesting and possibly meaningful moments was when Finn decides that as a last ditch effort, he would sacrifice himself by flying his speeder into the center of the battering ram thus destroying it. I felt a measure of dread at the first thought of this, but was oddly ok with Finn sacrificing himself to save his friends. It would’ve made Finn a much richer character and would’ve been a more heartfelt moment in the Star Wars universe. If nothing else it would’ve salvaged the Finn and Rose storyline by actually having them have made a difference in the movie. More on that later. But, Finn is stopped by Rose who can’t bear to lose him and he gets knocked off course, causing them to crash slightly ahead of the walkers. Finn runs to help Rose who expresses to him that “We’re going to win this war not by fighting what we hate, but saving what we love!”, then she kisses him which leaves Finn shocked.
With the last two speeders destroyed and the giant battering ram firing on the Rebel base door, the Princess and other Resistance personnel decide that they’re pretty much screwed. Leia gives the ‘we’re done signal’ and they all sit in contemplation, including the fiery Poe Dameron. But hey, this is Star Wars so there’s always hope. Just as everything seemed dark and doomed, a shadowy cloaked figure appears in the doorway and everyone looks up and gasps. Lo and behold, it’s Luke Skywalker, the legendary Jedi who saved the galaxy once before and is destined to do so again? He walks in and everyone stares at him in awe as he approaches Leia who seems more relieved than surprised. They exchange words of endearment before Luke explains that he can’t help Kylo and he must be defeated. He gives her a kiss on the forehead and heads for the exit of the base. Just to be clear, he exits out of the large door the First Order was battering down. I don’t recall but I’m not sure if they were firing as he was exiting. But, Kylo sees a figure exit from the door along with Hux who is surprised and puzzled to see one man emerge. Kylo realizes who it is and orders the walkers to halt. He stares for a minute and becomes notably uncomfortable. Luke, at this point, stops after several yards from the door and stares undaunted at the massively intimidating Gorilla walkers. Kylo freaks out and after gaining his composure orders his men to fire all weapons onto the Jedi master. What takes place at this point is one of the more spectacular scenes of the movie, in my humble opinion, right behind the Admiral Holdo hyperspace jump collision course. The walkers point all weapons towards Luke and begin to fire full force at his position. All you see is the impact of the laser bolts splashing down around Luke and massive clouds of red minerals exploding into the air in front of the base door. This goes on for maybe 15 seconds movie time before General Hux forcefully calls a cease fire despite Kylo’s insistence that they continue. When they stop, Hux snidely remarks, “Do you think you got him?” Kylo doesn’t even look his way and continues to affix his attention on the position of Luke. The dust begins to settle and Luke walks out of the last bit of cloud only to defiantly dust off his shoulder. Hux is surprised and Kylo is petrified. Kylo is forced, at this point, to face Luke one on one… exciting right?
Kylo walks down the ramp of his shuttle in Vaderesque style and heads towards Luke. Stopping maybe 20 feet from the master, he begins to make threats to which Luke gives debunking replies. After slinging platitudes, Kylo ignites his saber and takes an aggressive stance of which I haven’t seen Jedi or Sith use before. Luke takes a defensive stance with lightsaber out in front. I should mention at this point that the lightsaber was not green, but blue…blah!
The saber battle was actually pretty interesting as it was kind of reminiscent of an old samurai square off. Kylo of course attacked first with Luke dodging his blade quite easily. Kylo attempted again and Luke pulled off a sweet dodge that showed off some pretty fancy footwork. I was really thrilled at this and was really looking forward to Luke putting a good butt whooping on Kylo. But alas, that never happened. In Obi-wan fashion, Luke withdrew his lightsaber and defensive stance as though to allow Kylo to strike him down so he could become more powerful than he could possibly imagine. Luke even explains that if he strikes him down, he would be there to bother him even more than now. Kylo sees the opportunity to take out Luke and attacks full force only to have his blade swing right through him…gasp! At least that was Kylo’s reaction. What the hell? This was one of the best and worse twists of the movie. We realize that Luke is actually not there but, through the power of the Force, has projected an image of himself across the galaxy to facilitate his encounter with Kylo Ren, say goodbye to Leia and assist in the Resistance’s escape. Sigh…I’ll go into my feelings on this later.
Needless to say, most of the Resistance members were blown away by witnessing this encounter and it undoubtedly added to the legend of Luke Skywalker and the long lost Jedi and perhaps Sith for that matter. The Resistance who previously thought there was no other way out of the base/cave of course discovers that there’s actually another opening. This is found thanks to the fact that their crystal critter friends (who were hanging around with the Resistance for some reason) were gone from the main control room and had found an opening somewhere in the cave. Fortunately one of them waited around to guide folks to the opening. I’m just going to chalk that one up as the Force lending folks a helping hand. In any case they get to the opening to find that it’s actually too small for anyone to exit. But not to worry. Just as they thought all hope was lost, the giant boulders begin to move as we see Rey on the other side lifting them with the power of the Force. I tell you, that lady is a fast learner. She frees Leia and crew and they escape the planet only to live and fight another day, if they can find any allies.
To wrap up, we see Luke on Achto staring into twin suns while the theme of the Force plays in the background and we witness tears of joy and peace roll down his cheeks as he disappears and becomes one with the Force. The movie is ended with one of the children we meet on the casino planet grabbing a broom with the Force and him staring off into the stars and watching a ship jump to hyperspace right as we roll into the end credits.
Now that that’s all out of the way, let’s get into some real talk.
- Force concepts – I promised myself that I wouldn’t go on a bashing spree about this movie, but would try to see it in a more objective light. I may not be able to do that so I think I’ll try to break it up into categories so as to allow for a little bit of both objectivity as well as subjectivity. Let’s try and start with some of the good points. Bear with me, this may be difficult. I all fairness to Rian Johnson, I do believe part of the intent for “The Last Jedi” was to grant Stars Wars an opportunity to move as a franchise into a new direction. I have no qualms with this. I was really feeling the speculation that the franchise would kind of set aside the light side/dark side dilemma and focus on the balance between the two with the exploration of the notion of the gray Jedi. That is to say, the individual who could yield the Force without being pulled to one side or the other. This would theoretically offer the user the potential to become more powerful than any Jedi or Sith due to the ability to tap into both dark and light. “The Last Jedi” attempted to touch on this concept but very lightly. I believe many fans speculated that this is shy Luke had placed himself in isolation; to contemplate the greater mysteries of the Force and to eventually return to the greater galaxy to correct the failing situation both directly and by growing the future of more enlightened Force wielders. I would submit that maybe he would have brought a greater understanding to citizens of the galaxy as whole, with the understanding that they were all a part of the Force. As stated, it was touched upon but certainly not developed.
- The First Order – These guys are bad for sure and have a lot of potential to be worse. It was shown in the Force Awakens that the ships and personnel of the first order were beefier in their usefulness as a military force as compared to the Empire and its focus on overwhelming numbers. The Empire was always such a massively looming threat but never seemed to be hard hitting enough. It always seemed as though there was the notion that, “hey, I really hope they never catch up because it’s really gonna hurt.” This is versus the First Order who execute a whole village and wipe out the republic in the first have of the first movie. Too, the stormtroopers could fight, even shoot a little. Much more effective I think as a threat though smaller in number. One of my favorite parts of the movie is when they bring in the Siege Dreadnought Fulminatrix. That ship was massive and intimidating and its commander, Captain Moden Canady, appeared to be a gruff old war veteran who didn’t take no stuff. I felt threatened by him a
nd felt he needed to heeded with great caution versus General Hux who really appeared to be more of a neurotic nut job as opposed to military threat. It’s good that the Resistance bombers (oops, I mean bomber) took this ship and its commander out early on because I feel like he would’ve been a more immediate and reasonable threat as opposed to Hux and Kylo, the latter being occupied with bigger issues.
- Snoke – He was the first character in the movie that I felt I needed to completely quiet my mind and focus my undivided attention to the screen. In the original trilogy as well as the prequels, Palpatine and his full presence was built up slowly and his significance magnified by the fact that we realize that he’s even more powerful than Vader. That was a really awe inspiring revelation. Even in the prequels we were made to wait and see him whip some Jedi booty. And if you’re still not convinced that he’s awesome, check out the Clone Wars season six episode when he fights Savage Opress and Maul. Best lightsaber fight in the Star Wars universe to date. But with Snoke, we see his brutal, raw power up front. He is awesome to behold as he treats those beneath his as though they’re helpless rag dolls. I mean, Kylo fears him and Luke never mentions encountering him. His force feat alone of bridging Kylo and Rey so they could physically touch each through the Force deserves a “Most Effective Force User” award all on its own. Unless they pull another twist in episode 9 and bring him back, we won’t get to explore further how powerful he is and the great mystery of who he is. Sigh…
- Poe Dameron – other than the fact that the goofballs in charge decided to keep their critical strategy from the most cunning warrior and pilot in the Resistance, effectively making him look and feel like a fool by the end of the movie, Poe was a great character in the movie. He starts off the movie by continuing to demonstrate his ace piloting skills by destroying the gun towers on the massive dreadnought single handedly, clearing the way for the ridiculously lumbering bombers who were scooting in to take out the big ship. Poe defied direct orders from Leia and instinctively proceeded with the plan in order to help the Resistance escape. He was ultimately criticized for the effort and demoted, but the reality was if he hadn’t done what he had, they never would’ve made it into hyperspace. The appreciation here is that he continued to prove effective and did what he needed to do with the information and support that was given. Leia and Holdo fight him the entire movie instead of trusting him. The funniest part is that they both admit that they really him because of his reckless behavior which ain’t really all that reckless to be honest. But, what the hell…let politics reign supreme.
- Special Effects – these were solid. Can’t really complain about the visuals in the movie. It did have a Rian Johnson “Looper” feel at certain times especially with some of the CGI adjustments done for Luke. Overall it looked realistic enough, but not cool as the practical effects that J.J. Abrams implemented in “The Force Awakens.” I have to admit I appreciated that a little more.
- Musical Score – I mean, this is John Williams after all. I find it very difficult to nitpick a John Williams score. With that said, it was good as usual but I didn’t think anything stood out in particular. There was certainly nothing as immediately as powerful as let’s say “Duel of the Fates.” No complaints though.
- Force Powers – Really the two biggest caveats in the film were the incredible displays of power demonstrated by Snoke and Luke. Luke astral projected himself from Ahch-To which is presumably located in the unknown regions of space, or beyond the outskirts of the galaxy. This is impressive because of the immense amount of energy it would take and the great distance between the two locations of Ahch-To and Crait where the Resistance was hold up. What’s more is that Luke physically touch Leia’s head as he gave her a kiss on the forehead…or so it looked like it. Similarly, Snoke connects Rey and Kylo telepathically and telekinetically through the force over a great distance. This bond was so strong that the could read each other’s thoughts, see each other’s surroundings as well as make physical contact. That’s pretty impressive. Would’ve liked to have seen more, but it appears they’re both gone. Oh, let me add another impressive force feat that was performed by none other than the ghost of Yoda. This little green guy shows up and summons lightning from the sky…hot damn that’s powerful. Guess that’s kind of what Obi-Wan was speaking of when he states how powerful he would become after death.
- New Directions – Hmm, what can I say about this one. I heard this in promo material the entire build up to “The Last Jedi,” tons of times. Seemed to be a primary aim by Rian Johnson and Disney. If that’s what they were going for, they certainly succeeded. It’s wide open for whatever at this point and nothing’s really established except the dominance of the bad guys. That’s all I got for the good.
- Force Concepts – I mentioned above the three awesome force events witnessed in the movie as performed by Snoke, Luke and Yoda. Fine and dandy cause we should’ve expected something awesome from the masters. What about Kylo and Rey? Ok, Rey who’s been deemed a “Mary Sue” is just at the beginning of tapping into her force potential. And, yes I agree that she’s green and probably shouldn’t be doing half the stuff she’s done so far without a measure of training. It was pretty embarrassing when she bested Luke in their none lightsaber based duel. Yoda would’ve knocked her on her butt with a wink and she never would’ve gotten her hands even close to that lightsaber let alone turn it on. Nevertheless Luke really only uses his powers a couple of times. I know, I know, it was because he was a broken man and decided to cut himself off from using it. Whatever…it’s silly. Even if he hadn’t been practicing he should’ve accidentally slapped her back into her Youngling place. So Rey didn’t, and doesn’t, really know any better or what she’s doing which I thought would be a big part of the Ahch-To experience. Switching to the dark side, we have Kylo who has had some classical training and demonstrated some awesome Force powers in “The Force Awakens,” only to seemingly have them reduced in this movie. My biggest gripe about this is the scene with the praetorian guards. I’m confused as to why during that battle he didn’t use Force push or Force choke at any given time. This is the guy who stopped a blaster bolt mid-flight, but didn’t once through one of these glorified stormtroopers across the room. What’s worse is that during the fight he gets clinched from behind only to be saved from Rey (who had finished wiping out the guys on her side of the room) helping him out. Goofy and irresponsible to not show this guy breaking a limb or two with the power of his mind. Later we see him slam Hux across the deck of the shuttle while barely lifting an arm…curious writing.
- Alternative Energy – So, ok, I’m admittedly a “Star Trek” fan too. Despite popular belief, this does not make a bad person. On the contrary, it makes me a well rounded person because it affords me more forbidden knowledge of how the science fiction universe is supposed to function in comparison to the real world. Real world, we use things like fossil fuels, solar and wind power along with nuclear energy to generate what we need to run our society. The latter is the more interesting as it has the potential for the most power generation and longevity if use. We achieve our current nuclear production by the process of fission, that is, the splitting of atomic material to release energy. What the real goal of science is to figure out the process of nuclear fusion which is combining nuclear atoms together to produce energy. This would be an even better process of energy production than nuclear fission, with the effects lasting potentially longer and with harmless byproducts to boot. Ok, science lesson over. My point is, the fusion process has already been figured out in the Star Wars/Star Trek universes as is in any other credible scifi franchise. It’s the only way to fly. Really, it’s the only way they’d be able to generate enough energy to do any of the unrealistic and hoaky stuff that happens in these movies. Therein lies my problem with the whole the Resistance is running out of fuel scenario. To be fair though, it’s a definite fact that a fuel source is needed to hurl a ship through hyperspace and at light speeds. But, in such a scenario, wouldn’t it have made sense to consolidate fuel and personnel into the main cruiser and gain the ability to jump a few more times? I mean, did they not realize this was a detrimental issue before they even evacuated? I don’t know, but seems like more of a convenient plot device than something of a real world (Star Wars world) type of issue.
- Gravity & Science – No matter what one categorizes Star Wars as, it’s definitely got elements of both science fiction and fantasy as part of its literary ideology. With that said, we can certainly suspend our disbelief for the fantasy aspects since it delves into more of the transcendental side of things. The so called proven science side of it though can often raise more immediate questions. This brings me to the start of the movie where Poe Dameron is squared off in his tiny x-wing against the First Order’s super sized Dreadnought. His main goal was to destroy the turrets on the surface of the dreadnought which would allow the Resistance bombers to swoop in and deliver their payload of devastating star destroyer eliminating bombs. Well, I exaggerate when I say swoop in because those things were moving slower than frozen molasses in space. It was agonizing to watch and I suspect it was done this way for suspense reasons. Nevertheless, it felt ridiculous as the ships lumbered in under brutal tie fighter attack, to get to the point where they could actually drop their bombs. I repeat that last one…were they were trying to drop their bombs. Yep, that was the delivery method… to drop their bombs in space. Nope, not happening. Those little suckers, once dropped, would simply float off into space. But maybe there’s a science fictiony explanation for why they stayed in place as they fell…hmm, I don’t think so. In the Empire Strikes Back, as Han and company hid in the asteroid, the imperial bombers flew over at high speeds and projected their bombs downward through kinetic force. That made sense and no one has ever questioned it. But this movie decided that this reasonable ideology wouldn’t work in the future. Fail.
- Heroes, Villains & Opportunities Lost – I’m really agonizing over some of the decisions that have been made as far as the old school heroes. I was hurt by the Han Solo death, but felt it was really a necessary part of moving the show forward. I think he served his purpose in doing so in many ways. It was well executed and needed. Moving to “The Last Jedi” I’m not so happy or convinced of the decisions made. Let me start with Snoke (though technically not old school). That whole scene was a ‘what the hell just happened’ moment of epic proportions. I didn’t understand the decision to end him at this point in the trilogy. Maybe episode 9 will clarify some of this decision. Snoke was a super powerful, intriguing and mysterious character that had great potential for exploration in future episodes. I’m not so sure I’d even want lose him after episode 9, as a possible plot could’ve been one where the universe splits into multiple factions with a schism having possibly come between Snoke and Kylo Ren due to the constant humiliation that Snoke placed on Kylo. Or, maybe we could’ve gotten more of the training that we all anticipated Kylo receiving as a result of his failures in the Force Awakens. Instead, what we get is a demeaning attitude and a sudden death of this character with no back story or further development. A total waste to be sure. We have Luke Skywalker who plays a broken man for 99% of the movie, leaving everyone with the feeling that at least this display of fear and hopelessness would lead to the eventual return of our beloved Jedi master who has been reported to be the most powerful Jedi throughout the canon and extended universe source materials. Nope, not the case. We get one amazing feet of super Jedi power and then boom, it’s over. This brings me to Leia who, along with Luke, has been out of our sight for decades now. Suddenly she does a couple of force feats that are pretty impressive. Actually the whole floating in space thing with no protective suit is pretty impressive for someone who hasn’t been seen or heard of receiving any Jedi training. Now to be fair, people are being a little presumptuous when they complain about this seen in either capacity. What I mean is Leia may have received some training from Luke along the way and the ability to protect one’s self from the vacuum of space is not at all implausible. After all, Galen Marek survives a lightsaber stab and short time in space in “The Force Unleashed,” one of the better Star Wars stories and games out there. Maybe or maybe not, this scene I think is doable but perhaps was better left out of something that would be viewed by a wider audience. I think it could’ve been handled differently with perhaps Leia protecting the command deck of the ship by shielding it with the Force versus her and Admiral Ackbar being disrespectfully blown out into space like some chumps. Speaking of chumps, poor Phasma just continues to get bested by the space janitor known as Finn…Boo. This thing with Phasma is a Boba Fett scenario on steroids and is absolutely ridiculous that she plummets to a fiery death after showing up at the end of the movie. They better bring her back and show her leading a battalion of troopers on a massive raid and wreaking havoc of epic proportions… I’m just sayin’.
- Death of Carrie Fisher – One of the most difficult celebrity loses for me personally in the past few years. But, it happened and we have to grieve and honor her as best we can moving forward. So, as much as I don’t want to lose the princess in this universe, it makes total sense that she would have to die at some point in this trilogy or early on in the next. I have been prepared for that for some time now. When she gets blown out of that hull breach, I made peace in that instant that the beloved Leia Organa Solo was no more. But, as stated above, they did something with the character that was pretty strange and untimely an event. Perhaps the better scenario would’ve been for she and Vice Admiral Holdo to trade places on that suicide run allowing Leia to go out like a boss in a blaze of glory. This would’ve made for a tremendously emotional finale to a remarkable life, both on and off the screen. Yeah… I just don’t know what else to say about that one.
- Finn, Rose & the Casino Planet – So, let’s get this out of the way up front – the Casino planet scenario was completely useless. There, I said it, along with probably thousands of other reviewers at this point. What was the point of it if DJ was going to betray them at the drop of a hat anyway. It was purely a plot device to push the story forward and honestly that’s ok. Why not introduce another element to the story? But if you do, please make it a coherent and needed part of the story. Since they were going with this plot point, perhaps there could’ve been an additional reason to go to the planet such as getting extra fuel to bring back to the fleet. So, they find their needed code cracker who has had some terrifying experience with the First Order thus making him a sworn enemy and along the way they try to commandeer fuel supplies. Perhaps DJ and the gang succeed in part but only a portion of the fleet escapes and the rest have to dig in on Crait for a final battle. I don’t know, just some speculation. It’s just that the way it was written was boring and ultimately redundant. It could even have been that the Resistance has a mole and DJ had been planted on the casino planet. Maybe he killed the original code breaker and stole his flow pin as a trophy. Many possibilities besides what we got. In addition to the strange story they went with, we get this casino planet which was really a casino city, that was relatively plain looking compared to other places of scum and villainy in the Star Wars universe. Before I saw the movie, I pictured something like the bar Anakin and Obi-Wan walk into on Coruscant when they were chasing the bounty hunter in Attack of the Clones. Much more advanced and futuristic looking.
- Other Mysteries – Of many of the items that left me scratching my head, perhaps one of the bigger one’s next to who the heck is Snoke, is the question of Rey’s parents. She enters the darkside hole and stares at the reflections of herself and when she clears the glass only sees her visage. Ok, seems similar enough to Luke’s failure in the cave on Dagobah, that is, one reflecting in upon themselves and understanding the darkness within. But, Kylo specifically explaining that her parents were nobodies? I’m not so sure I accept that and I really hope he was working to trick her to his side and nothing more. I’d at least like for her parents to have been part of a grander plan or something with significance. Another issue for me is the complete irrelevance of R2D2. I guess maybe there’s not enough room for two cute and super useful droids in the universe? So, Luke throws his daddy’s lightsaber away like it’s hot garbage. Ok, another goofy thing I could’ve lived without cause first question out of my mouth would’ve been “Where the hell did you get that from?” But no, it was just tossed because Luke just didn’t give a care
anymore. So I guess that explains why there’s no green lightsaber to be found. I guess it was lost in his fight with Kylo under the rubble of that hut or something? I’m extremely irked that he didn’t at least brandish it in his virtual fight with Kylo. Heck, I really liked that saber. Finally, where the hell is Lando Calrissian dammit?
I, as you can see, have complained quite a bit about this movie because I’m simply passionate and protective of everything Star Wars. I’m afraid this movie was somewhat of a misstep. Despite my feelings on this, I’m still thankful for the fact that we will be getting more of this content in the future but hopefully with some continued solid storytelling. I’d rather have it than for it to shut down completely. If Disney is going to continue it though, it needs to be done as well as it can be. I’d rather have a solid story than a bunch of mind blowing twists that leave me with a major concern over the solidarity of its future.
I think J.J. Abrams and crew have a difficult time ahead in making sure episode 9 comes together in a couple of years. He’s a master director at this point and I would think he would be familiar with not taking things too out of context such as the issues encountered with Lost. The greatest issue I saw with my two viewings of the film pertain to storytelling and the utter failure of execution in this film. The fact that the casino planet Canto Bite was in the movie or that any of my other complaints happened wasn’t the issue as much as the story coherency and execution of it. I simply didn’t like the story. If a story is done properly, a turtle crossing the road can become interesting.
Star Wars has always been about the events of the Galaxy unfolding as guided by the all powerful Force. This outing is no different as it attempts to get back to the roots of the mystery of this energy field that binds the galaxy together. Luke spends a good portion of the movie reiterating that the Force does not belong to the Jedi or Sith but to every living thing in the galaxy. In this I appreciated the message. There were also some other Social Justice Warrior based messages pertaining to those who live in excess at the expense of the innocent, something that was overtly expressed on Canto Bight. I suspect this was a large part of why this portion of the story even exists in the movie along with a message on animal cruelty. At the end, we get the sense that despite the grim situation in the galaxy, there is always a seed of hope.
The Future & The Past
As far as the future of the franchise is concerned, I’m a little nervous about where the anthology movies are heading. With the reported issues on the set of the Han Solo movie, my confidence in Disney to maintain this series is weakened further. They’ve (Disney) done such a magnificent job with the Marvel Cinematic Universe that it’s a wonder what their actual issue is with Star Wars. Did someone over there go completely loopy or is it just that Kevin Feige is that good at producing movies? Yeah, that just may be it huh? They’re going to have to get a reign on what’s happening though if they don’t want to lose fans. I think folks will continue to see them for a while but if they begin to turn into garbage storytelling, that won’t last no matter the name on the screen.
They definitely attempted to push things in a new direction but they should really dig through all the excellent material from the past. I know everyone seems to hate the prequels, but I have to admit that after seeing this film I’ve come to appreciate them and what George Lucas has been trying to do this whole time. I think fans were too hard on him and what he accomplished with the prequels and they should be treated with a little more respect in light of this attempt by Disney to eliminate that portion of the mythos while practically rehashing the original series in “The Force Awakens.” And don’t forget the extended universe with all the magnificent stories that have already been written. Can we get some of that flavor please? “Knights of the Old Republic” movies anyone? Let me know what you all think in the comments below. Thanks for being patient with me.
P.S. – The Mr. Snuffleupagus in the Room
It would be criminal for me to leave out what I consider to be one of the greatest omissions and farces of this movie – that is that there was absolutely no sign of the Knights of Ren. I was so distracted by the other mess taking place that I completely forgot about them until I was walking to the car and yapping off to my wife about my utter confusion as to what I had just seen. Now I know that Star Wars is notorious for wiping awesome villains out as soon as opportunity presents itself, but I really thought this was a ridiculous omission. There is actually a point where Luke is going through the whole spiel about what happened at the Jedi Temple between he and Kylo and mentioning the very fact that Kylo had taken some students with him. That’s right, there are other Force users on the loose who are partially trained by Luke and apparently loyal to Kylo. It would’ve been nice to get a peak at them this movie, but not so. Perhaps my commentary on this whole thing is somehow completely off the mark and to be honest I hope so. What I hope is that in episode 9, they completely blow our minds with incredible reveals and story that will make it all make sense. Good luck J.J., we’re all praying you really, really hard. Ok, I’m done this time…finally.