Review – Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
Directed by: Rian Johnson
Produced by: JJ Abrams & Kathleen Kennedy
Written by: Rian Johnson
Release Date: December 14th 2017
I decided to re-watch The Last Jedi for review last night for the first time since seeing it in the cinema upon its release and with the benefit of hindsight, I can honestly say that I hated it even more than I did the first time. I get that Rian Johnson was going for something different, but damn! This movie was not what anyone expected and not in a good way. I now feel comfortable definitively saying that absolutely none of the twisted decisions in this film were made for the better.
Despite that, there are still aspects of this movie that I do like. First off, the performances all around were brilliant, with the stand outs being Adam Driver and Mark Hamill. Adam driver plays a conflicted and tortured, yet exceedingly powerful Kylo Ren. His performance is electric throughout the movie and as an actor, his range is extremely impressive. Although this is definitely my least favourite portrayal of Luke Skywalker in a Star Wars movie, it is probably my favourite performance of Mark Hamill playing the iconic character. He commits to the absurd decisions that Johnson makes with integrity and grit and it is clear that he has greatly honed his skills as an actor in the 30+ years since the original trilogy.
The special effects and CGI work in the movie is breath-taking at points, the movie is a joy to look at on a visual level and the technical achievement of some of the shots featured is nothing short of incredible.
Now, onto the issues I had when re-watching The Last Jedi for review.
First off, the whole Casino planet section of the movie really should have just been removed altogether. Ignore it, it has no bearing to the overall plot and if it wasn’t included, the movie would still play out in the exact same way. The entire segment is a waste of time and the end result isn’t even worth the hassle. Finn was one of my favourite characters in The Force Awakens, so it was good to see him get his own storyline here, but the awkward moments and lack of payoff make it such a waste of time for the audience. The shoehorned message about animal cruelty also felt too forced and cringe-inducing and that is coming from an animal lover. The whole sequence also brought back horrible memories of the prequels, which is something that I never want to be reminded of again.
The other dumb subplot in this movie revolves around Poe and a new character played by Laura Dern called Admiral Holdo. After Leia is incapacitated, Holdo is put in charge of the Rebels. Poe asks her repeatably what the plan is to get out of the compromising situation they are stuck in and she refuses to tell him, labelling him as a hothead flyboy. He eventually decides he can’t just sit around and do nothing while their ship is destroyed, (which is also the catalyst for Finn and Rose going on their dumb side mission to the casino planet,) and so he enacts a mutiny on Holdo. Then Leia wakes up and reveals that the plan all along was to take the escape pods to a nearby planet containing an old rebel base and attempt a last stand there. This whole mutiny could have been avoided with a simple conversation, or even a goddamn post-it note.
Another thing that bothered me was the lack of any significant scene showing Rey being trained by Luke. There are two fleeting scenes of her training and that is apparently enough to allow her to become a ‘jedi.’ Instead of following Finn and Rose on their pointless adventure, or Poe and his pointless mutiny, we should have spent the majority of the movie on Luke’s island. To this day, I still don’t know why they chose to portray Luke as such a slob. This is the guy that blew up the Death Star and spearheaded the rebellion that changed the tide of war across the entire galaxy and now he’s milking weird sloth creatures for food.
Even now, I still don’t hate the reveal that Rey’s parents were nobodies that came from nothing, but it just makes all of the set up in Force Awakens and in the first half of this movie seem like such a waste of everyone’s time, especially when you know that they are going to go back on it in the next movie. I also hate the fact that they squander an interesting character when they just nonchalantly kill off Snoke.
Watching the film for the first time, you are left wondering, with the age he looks and his torn up face, this guy has clearly been around for a long time, like probably as long as Yoda or Vader, so how come we have we never seen him over the course of the previous eight films? Was he in hiding? If so, then why was he in hiding? Why did he come out of hiding after the Empire fell and why was he appointed as Supreme Leader?
However, it turns out that none of these questions matter when you find out that he is just a clone and Snokes are ten-a-penny puppets for Sidious. What an absolute waste of potential. Knowing that reveal is coming also makes the throne room scene in The Last Jedi such a hollow victory in hindsight.
Lastly, I want to talk about Phasma. Rian Johnson has joked that she was like this trilogy’s version of Kenny from South Park and frankly I think that this is a valid comparison and I don’t think that it’s something to joke about. Gwendoline Christie is a phenomenal actress and she was so wasted in these movies. Her bulletproof armour was pretty cool, but even that opens a ton of plot holes like; why isn’t all of the Stormtrooper armour made from the same stuff? If her armour is bulletproof, then why did she go along with Finn and Han’s plan to shut down the shields on Starkiller Base in The Force Awakens? Sure Finn had a blaster pointed at her head, but we know now that the bolt would have just bounced off.
Overall, after going back to review The Last Jedi, the thing that stands out is how much wasted potential there is in this movie. Rey’s potentially interesting heritage is wasted only to later be reverted, Snoke’s potentially interesting backstory is wasted, Phasma is wasted again. Finn and Poe are wasted on pointless side-quests and I still think that we should actually have seen Rey’s training to become a jedi master. Also, with Luke’s lacklustre death at the end of the film, it feels like he was wasted here too.
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