I respect your opinion of this movie. Some will love it and some will loathe it. And that’s just fine. Just be nice to each other.
When the credits rolled, something I’ve never experienced during a STAR WARS movie happened…I was let down. I was unsatisfied. I didn’t really enjoy myself. And worst of all, I’m not really looking forward to the next installment. I know a lot of you experienced this with the prequel films, but I did not. I actually enjoyed the prequels a great deal. And yeah, I got bullied a lot for liking those. I will not do that to you. It feels shitty.
That said, I’m going to nerd the fuck out and review the crap out of this one. Ever since I walked out of the theatre on opening night I’ve been talking to myself like fucking Sméagol. I’m conflicted as all hell and the only way to properly review this experience is to spoil just about everything I can think of. Enter at your own risk.
So where to begin? First, I’ll succumb to the dark side of the force and list a bunch of random things I just didn’t like in no particular order. It will be exhausting for both of us. I’ll follow it up with a trip to the light side covering a few things I think actually worked.
THE DARK SIDE
The opening scenes featuring our favorite rebel pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) razzing General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) was not funny at all and unfortunately set a pretty disappointing tone for the film. Wasn’t this suppose to be a dark film? Not with shit like this it’s not. I’m sure The Jerky Boys thought it was funny. NOT! And don’t tell me it’s for the kids. This is a PG-13 movie and I’m not convinced 10 year old me would be having any kind of fun here.
If you though Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) was lame in THE FORCE AWAKENS, you ain’t seen nothing yet people. Strike one. And striiiiiike two. Ah, fuck it, you’re out! And who in their damn mind wrote the words “Chrome Dome” for Finn (John Boyega) to yell at Phasma in the script, then kept it in the screenplay, rehearsed it, recorded it, edited it, and then kept it in the final cut!? Not good.
Absolutely everything on the casino planet Canto Bight was useless and felt wrong. You can’t complain about the prequel trilogy and let something like this slide. You just can’t. The Monte Carlo vibe was boring, the wide variety of creatures were uninspiring, and the forced animal rights message revolving around a bunch of space horses was completely out of place. And if this planet exists in the galaxy, you can bet your sweet ass Lando Calrissian would be cleaning house. That was a huge missed opportunity. Even just a cameo would have been fine.
There was no reason for Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong’o) to be in this film. Did Poe even meet her? And Finn knew her for what, 5 minutes? And if she was in the middle of a battle when she took the call, why the hell answer the phone? Imagine your friend Donny calling you while you’re getting mugged. You wouldn’t pick up the damn phone. Guess there’s no voicemail in space and every call is urgent.
Fans have been speculating Rey’s (Daisy Ridley) lineage and Snoke’s (Andy Serkis) history for years now. Well guess what, it doesn’t really matter. None of it matters. Rey is a nobody (maybe?), and Snoke went out like a fool without us learning anything about his past. So you’re telling me Snoke is the Supreme Leader of the galaxy, has unspeakable powers that can connect minds through time and space, and he has the ability to play with Kylo (Adam Driver) and Rey as if they were puppets only to be tricked by a novice force-wielder who can’t even control his temper tantrums? Not believable in the least. Snoke would have felt that coming a mile away.
Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) was completely and utterly mishandled here. So much so that the ending to THE FORCE AWAKENS is not cool anymore. I understand his time as a hero is over. I understand he is a sad and broken man filled with regret. I understand his poetic journey from shutting off The Force to fully embracing it and becoming one with it…yadda yadda yadda. I just wanted one more badass Luke Skywalker moment. And no, creating a Force projection of himself to stall Kylo was not effective for me. It was actually kind of lame. It reminded me of how I felt while watching SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE. In that film they just made up powers for Superman that didn’t adhere to anything that came before. I guess Jedi can do that now? And why did Luke’s projection have a poorly groomed and dyed beard? Gross.
While the new characters were likable enough, they just weren’t very compelling. The young rebel Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) has some potential and was the most welcome addition of the bunch. Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) made no sense in this film. Don’t get me wrong, I really like Laura Dern, just not here. She looked like she tripped out of a HUNGER GAMES flick and her whole story arc felt forced — no pun intended. Why couldn’t she just share her big plans with Poe and skip all the drama? And the opportunistic DJ (Benicio Del Toro) had such little screen time I wasn’t able to form an opinion on his character one way or the other. If all 3 newbies were excluded from the script it wouldn’t have made much difference to me. And come on, that kamikaze hyperspace move from Holdo would have been a perfect send-off for General Leia (Carrie Fisher).
And speaking of General Leia, her big Force-sensitive revelation just didn’t hit the mark. The CGI in that space scene was just awful. Nothing about it felt cool or right. And again, Johnson is just making up new powers all willy-nilly! Now Force-weilders can get blown up and survive in open space? Weird.
I understand that writer/director Rian Johnson made an extremely bold film that challenges our expectations and presents a completely unpredictable experience for moviegoers. Part of me respects that choice, but the other 99% of me thinks it was a bad fucking idea. Johnson recently got handed the keys to his very own STAR WARS trilogy to be set outside the “Skywalker” films featuring a new cast of characters. THAT is an appropriate place to throw out tradition, not a numbered film in the main series. THE FORCE AWKENS played it way too safe, and THE LAST JEDI unnecessarily threw everything out the damn window. There has to be some kind of warm porridge in the middle.
And last but not least, I absolutely loathed the little stable kid and his “the next Force-wielder is YOU” messaging. That whole scene felt like a bad commercial for Disneyland…and it kind of was come to think of it. It made me cringe and was almost too “Disney” even for Disney. It just felt wrong.
THE LIGHT SIDE
Wow, that was more exhausting than I thought. Let’s put some positive energy into this review as I explain a few things I actually enjoyed. I’m a huge STAR WARS fan after all so there had to be a few cool things right?
First, I didn’t expect to like Kylo Ren or Supreme Leader Snoke. Neither really did it for me in THE FORCE AWAKENS and they just seemed like lesser versions of Vader and Palpatine. Kylo actually had a very interesting arc in THE LAST JEDI that definitely went against my expectations. Instead of Kylo getting his chance for redemption, he actually doubled down on being a true villain. He’s a bad dude with some seriously disturbing emotional issues. And even though it appears Johnson doesn’t want anything to do with Snoke, he stole the damn show. Snoke was effectively menacing, powerful to the point of boredom, and Serkis’ performance was spot on. Just when I was getting use to this dude, poof!, he was gone. Sure it was unexpected, and I appreciate that, it’s just not the direction I would have gone.
And while I wasn’t a big fan of General Hux, that subtle little moment when he almost killed Kylo was perfect.
Seeing Yoda again was a highlight for sure. And the little time we had with him was effective. I like that we’ve seen two versions of Yoda over these films. He was the all powerful Jedi Master in the prequels until he was broken by Palpatine and reduced to a funny little hermit with a good sense of humor. It was nice seeing that version again, and a few of his lines were the only times I actually laughed in this film.
The 10 year old inside me really liked seeing Luke’s X-Wing sunken off the shore of Arch-To.
And I really liked it when R2-D2 projected Leia’s hologram from A NEW HOPE to Luke. It was a nice touch.
When the credits rolled, I felt like Johnson pissed on everything I love about STAR WARS. I felt like he trolled the fans. The pacing and tone was completely disjointed and the direction he went with Luke was not only unsatisfying, it was a damn shame. I felt like he fumbled the really important shit to the point where I just don’t know how much I care anymore. I wasn’t challenged as a viewer in the right way. Part of me just wanted to be a gushy little nerd for 2 hours and be transported to a different galaxy for a short while. I wanted to root for my heroes and watch the villains go down. I didn’t want the joy I get out of a STAR WARS film to be challenged and tinkered with in this way. There’s nothing wrong with escapist fun every once in awhile.
At least the next 2 years won’t be all that hard. I can wait for Episode IX as long as it takes. We need some time apart. It’s not you…it’s me…ok, it’s you but some time apart will be healthy for the both of us. I won’t steal your records or anything.
As the twin moons set, I reach the denial phase of this whole shit show. Why should I believe Kylo? He’s just a brat with an attitude. Maybe he was lying to Rey about her lineage. It’s possible Snoke will grow mechanical legs just like Darth Maul did! Maybe this was all some kind of fever dream and I need to see it again!
JJ Abrams reminded us why we love STAR WARS, Rian Johnson tore it all down, and now it’s up to JJ to build it back up from scratch. Maybe this was the plan all along. I felt like the game of mind-chess played between Kylo and Snoke was being played between Rian and the audience. And we lost.
I can’t really argue with fans that loved THE LAST JEDI. It’s a story and we all interpret stories in different ways. No one is right or wrong and I can actually see why someone would enjoy this. All I ask is that you are nicer to people that loved the prequels. We can all understand each other a little better now. I just hope the next film will find a balance that sits somewhere between the two extremes we’ve been presented with THE FORCE AWAKENS and THE LAST JEDI.
Help me JJ Abrams, you’re my only hope.