Normally, I don't review movies. It's not because I'm not a fan (I am), but rather, I'm just not qualified to do so. If it's a franchise that I love, I'll do some research after I watch the movie to get more information on the things I had likely missed out on during my initial viewing, but for the most part, I'm definitely what you'd call a casual viewer. I don't mind spoilers, because they don't necessarily influence my opinions, and because I'd like to know what I'm getting myself into. That being said, there is one franchise that I will always avoid any and all spoilers for, and that is Star Wars.
Going into Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, I went into a total media blackout. I implemented filters and blocked keywords from almost all of my feeds because I wanted to experience the film with fresh eyes. Growing up, I never got to experience the original trilogy in the theaters. We only had the prequels. So with these new movies, it's finally my chance to experience a truly great Star Wars story in all of its glory.
That being said, after seeing The Last Jedi, it's all I've been able to think about for the last few days, and so I wanted to write down some of my thoughts and do a pseudo-review of this film. I'm almost positive I've driven my girlfriend mad with my incessant Star Wars talk, so hopefully, this gets at least some of it out of my system.
Oh, and this is your SPOILER WARNING. Past this point, I will be talking freely and openly about The Last Jedi, so if you haven't seen it yet, do not read this. Save this for when you have.
Episode VIII is probably my favourite Star Wars film to date. Yes, there are some very obvious flaws with the movie (which I will get to), but it does so much right that I'm willing to overlook those few shortcomings. I'm not going to go into a scene by scene breakdown of the movie (or any fan theories), but rather, highlight some moments that stood out to me.
The first thing that really mattered was the overall presentation. Right from the first scene with the Star Destroyers warping above the Resistance Base planet, D'Qar, you get an immediate sense of just how large their world really is. From the bombers trying to take out the Dreadnought, to the Gorilla Walkers (AT-M6) on Crait, to the incredible arc of the First Order chasing the Resistance through space, everything is larger than ever before, yet still manages to have an element of intimacy.
Personally, I think that the Last Jedi can be broken down into four overall themes
- Snoke was always a red herring
- Failure is the greatest teacher of all
- Hope will always be reborn
- Letting the past die is what we needed to happen most of all
Snoke was never meant to be an important figure. Yes, he was certainly mysterious, especially in how JJ Abrams presented him in The Force Awakens, but as a whole, he was only ever meant to serve as the Emporer-like figure. In the original trilogy, we never really knew much about the Emporer. He was always a mysterious figure we knew was powerful in the ways of the dark side of the Force, but we didn't know much about him nor his motivations. It wasn't until the prequels did we get that backstory of his. The same can be said of Snoke, in that, he is largely a figurehead, a red-herring of sorts.
Through The Force Awakens and the first two-thirds of The Last Jedi, we're led to believe that Kylo Ren is just a puppet of Snoke and that he will eventually be redeemed. However, while The Last Jedi certainly borrows from Episodes V and VI (slightly rearranged, however), what differs is that the end result is largely different. Rather than the pupil killing the master to redeem himself, we're left with Kylo killing Snoke in order to become even more powerful and further prove himself as the most powerful Sith in the entire Galaxy.
What eventually did Snoke in was his hubris, an echo of Luke's rant to Rey about how it was the Jedi's hubris that was their eventual downfall, and how they had failed to recognize the threat under their nose. It was this failure that led to Snoke reading Kylo's resolve, but misreading his aims (and led to one of the most kickass tag-team fight scenes in all of Star Wars history).
Failure is the second large theme in The Last Jedi. Throughout the movie, we learn how Ben Solo ended up becoming Kylo Ren. While Snoke had already begun to creep his way into Ben, his turn to the Dark Side started with Luke's rejection of him as he attempted to kill his nephew in his sleep. Luke's failure is that he tried fighting what he hated rather than trying to protect what he loved. It wasn't out of character either, as Luke did this once before, during his fight with Vader, before he stopped himself.
Rey's failure is two-fold in this movie. The first is her willingness to let the dark side in and the second is her failure to bring Kylo back over to the light side. After Kylo kills Snoke, he begs for Rey to join him, to which she responds, "I have failed you." This entire scene was set up to make you believe that Kylo was redeemable, but ended with such an emotional gut-punch of Kylo slipping even further into the darkness.
Much like what Yoda said, "Failure is the greatest teacher of all." Luke, Rey, Leia, Poe, Rose, and Finn - all of them learned through their repeated failures in this movie, and that only helps to grow them as individual characters.
While it may be divisive, I thought that the whole Rose/Finn storyline was important. Without those two characters, the Resistance would die. The scene on Canto Bight demonstrates that despite all of their losses, the Resistance will always help those in need. Because of this, the light side/Resistance will always be reborn and be the victor, as they spread a new hope throughout the galaxy.
The Kylo and Luke fight at the end demonstrates that Kylo and the First Order are fighting nothing (symbolized by a holographic force projection of Luke), and are so blinded by their hatred, they do not realize that their fight is for nothing. Because their fight is for nothing, the dark side will always ultimately lose in the end.
This overall theme of most explicitly stated by Rose: "Don't fight what you hate, save what you love." This is why even after being wiped out, the remaining Resistance fighters aboard the Millenium Falcon seem happy and joyous. They know that they will eventually come out on top.
Kylo and his need for acceptance follow this as well. After he kills Han, Snoke reprimands Kylo for feeling the pull to the light side and feeling weak. After he kills Snoke, and Rey refuses him, he realized he killed the only person whom he thought understood his internal conflicts for naught. Maybe Roses' quote will apply to Kylo as well, and he will have the chance to save someone/something that he loves.
Throughout this movie, Kylo kept repeating that the past needed to die, and he was absolutely right. In order for Star Wars to be taken in new and truly exciting directions, they needed to end their love affair with the original trilogy with this movie. The Force Awakens was largely a rehash of Episode IV, and The Last Jedi was a retooling of V and VI. What's important is the last third of this film, because it's the area that has the most implications going forward.
Kylo revealed to Rey that her parents were, in fact, common, non-force using, junk traders. Up until this point, it was thought that to be a Force user, it had to be hereditary. This dialogue exchange, along with the very last scene of the movie with the orphan boy summoning his broom, changes that entirely.
Now, with this revelation, anyone and everyone can be Force-sensitive. It means that with Rey's training incomplete, Kyo's internal conflict between the light and dark, Snoke's death, and Luke being the last true Jedi, we can finally step away from the long history of Jedi vs. Sith. We can open up the storytelling possibilities, which are now endless.
And that's what excites me the most about Episode VIII. It was an amazing movie, to begin with, but all of the groundwork it laid for the future of the saga is just so tantalizing. I can't wait to see what Abrams does with Episode IX, and what Rian Johnson does with his own standalone trilogy.
Now, the parts that bugged me about Episode VIII
- That whole scene with Leia flying through space. I mean, what?!
- Holdo not telling Poe what her plan was. It would've saved so much time and effort.
- Captain Phasma was once again thoroughly underused.
- How did Yoda summon lighting as a Force ghost?
- Is Chewbacca a vegetarian/vegan now?
- Why was there a map to Luke?
- Who and where are the Knights of Ren?
Overall, this was an excellent movie, and while it's definitely not a perfect one at that, it's an absolute joy to watch from start to finish.
And now, my definitive ranking of the Star Wars saga:
- Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
- Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
- Episode IV: A New Hope
- Episode VII: The Force Awakens
- Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
- Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
- Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
- Episode II: Attack of the Clones
- Episode I: The Phantom Menace