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In 1977 my life changed. I was seven years old, and fascinated with dinosaurs. Then one day my parents took me to see a new movie that had just come out about a galaxy far, far away. I left the theater that day and started reading all about space and astronomy. And I was hooked. I even ended up getting a degree in space physics (which I haven’t really used, but that’s another story). It’s not an overstatement to say that Star Wars, which lead to a love of science fiction and then science, was a major factor in my life.
Yesterday afternoon I got to see The Last Jedi. As they say, I have thoughts. Feel free to share your own. All this is before reading any other reviews or discussions, so it may be that all the ground here has been covered elsewhere. And if the title of this didn’t make it clear, what follows is one giant spoiler of everything in the movie. Don’t read on unless you really want to know.
Overall, I enjoyed it. It wasn’t perfect, and there are definitely some parts I wish they had done differently, but I think it’s a better movie than The Force Awakens. I know some people found it unpredictable and said that the whole movie was an exercise in doing the unexpected. I disagree with that assessment. I found parts of it were extremely predictable. For example, when Rey handed Luke the lightsaber at the beginning of the movie, I just knew that Luke would look at it and throw it over his shoulder. Which is exactly what he did. Let’s look at the story by character or plotline.
I liked what they did with Rey in this movie. I’m particularly glad they didn’t try and make her Luke’s abandoned daughter. I know a lot of people were insisting she had to be a Skywalker, but I didn’t like what that would say about Luke. I thought that particular scene with Rey and Kylo Ren was powerful, with Rey admitting that her parents were drifters who had abandoned her and Kylo saying “You have no place in this story. You’re nobody … But not to me.” At that moment I could almost believe that there was a path to redemption for Kylo Ren. (More on him in a bit.) One bit that I thought was confusing was how Rey ended up on the Millennium Falcon at the end of the movie. She and Kylo Ren were fighting for the lightsaber on Snoke’s ship, the lightsaber blew up and knocked them both out. Clearly, she awakened first, but how she got from there to the Falcon isn’t explained. That aside, Rey is the character who shows the most growth in the movie.
First, Mark Hamill has definitely improved as an actor from the first trilogy. But that’s not a high bar to cross. His crazy eyes in the flashback scene where he’s tempted to kill Ben Solo are a bit over the top. As for Luke’s story here, he doesn’t do much productive. He doesn’t teach Rey anything she hasn’t already figured out, and once Yoda comes back to talk some sense into him it’s too late. She’s taken off to confront Kylo Ren. His scene where he’s “fighting” Kylo Ren out in the desert is the best part of his story. They made it really obvious that he wasn’t really there though, focusing on how everyone else was leaving blood-red footprints except him. What I don’t get here is why he dies after the fight. Are we supposed to think that projecting his image over all that distance is so draining that it killed him? And why show us the X-wing sunk in the water next to the island if he never uses it? Talk about Chekov’s gun not getting fired.
Kylo Ren (Ben Solo):
Emo Kylo was by far my least favorite character in The Force Awakens, and it’s not just because I wanted to be Han Solo as a kid. Kylo is better in this movie, but not by much. In the scene where Snoke is telling him to kill Rey, I was completely unsurprised that he turned on Snoke instead. Sith lords always die when they’re betrayed by their apprentice. Now that Luke is dead (and with Carrie Fisher’s death in real life), Kylo Ren is the only Skywalker left in the story. So I suppose that means the whole next movie will be his redemption. How they’ll square that with the idea that the Force requires balance and there will always be dark to balance the light is going to be interesting. I’m… less than enthused. The Skywalker story is the biggest part of Star Wars, and the only Skywalker left is an unlikable brat with very few positive qualities.
This part of the movie, along with the Finn/Rose storyline, was the weakest part. Why did Leia and Admiral Holdo keep secret the plan to abandon the cruiser and sneak over to the abandoned base? And when did they come up with the plan? If they didn’t know they were being tracked through hyperspace, why did they come out so far away from the planet? The plan only makes sense if they did know, and it still doesn’t explain why they kept it secret from him. Unless they were afraid they had a spy aboard who would reveal the truth to the First Order, there’s no point in not explaining the plan. And if there is a spy, they’re still screwed as soon as they land and the spy reveals the hidden base. The whole point seems to be to let Poe’s character grow from hotshot pilot to true leader, but it fails miserably. It drives him to mutiny and they just smile and pat him on the head for it. Poe is best as he starts. The smart-ass pilot taunting the First Order by “holding for General Hux” and then blowing their dreadnought’s cannons away.
Finn and Rose:
I liked Rose, but everything they did with these two was a waste of time. If the Resistance can’t broadcast their distress signal to the allies from the ship, how are Finn and crew supposed to be able to contact Maz Kanata (in the middle of her “union dispute,” which totally cracked me up)? And the idea that they can sneak off the ship, find this code breaker, end up with some other master thief codebreaker instead, and then get back in time to sneak onto Snoke’s ship to disable the hyperspace tracker that they just figured out must exist and therefore they know everything about it is stupid. As is the idea that the codebreaker somehow betrayed them. They were caught red-handed. Did he somehow betray them before they even got on the ship? And how did he know to suggest the “decloaking scan” that caught the Resistance ships sneaking to the abandoned base? And if they have a “decloaking scan,” why isn’t it standard practice to continuously run it to detect cloaked ships? This whole plot line just falls apart if you spend any of time thinking about it. One good part out of this part of the movie is that they got rid of the stupid Captain Phasma. She was a complete waste of screen time and won’t be missed.
Princess Leia (General Solo):
As cool as it is to see Carrie Fisher in the role this one last time, I was underwhelmed by her character. She’s passive, letting events control her and not taking any action to change what’s happening. The scene with her surviving being blown into space and using the Force to fly back to the ship was one exception. Beyond that, we see the rest of the galaxy ignore her personal distress code, clearly indicating that no one else thinks she’s all that important anymore.
Vice Admiral Holdo:
What is the point of this character? Other than to let Laura Dern have a role? She’s just there to act as a foil for Poe, and I already commented how that whole plotline made no sense. And then there’s this:
I can’t endorse this enough. That would have been perfect. What a wasted opportunity.
After all this, you may be questioning my assertion that I liked the movie. After all, I’ve torn apart every storyline except Rey’s. But that one story is enough. Rey going from a girl just looking for her place in the galaxy to one ready to take on her role as the next Jedi is what matters. And even though the rest of the movie disintegrates upon inspection, it’s still enjoyable if you don’t spend time thinking too much about it. Just let it be Star Wars and have fun.