As the title says, there are a lot of spoilers here. If you don’t want to know, stop here. And if you saw it, enjoyed it, and just want to leave it at that, I understand. I genuinely don’t want to attempt to ruin it for anyone who enjoyed it and doesn’t want to converse about it beyond that. For anyone else… let’s talk about how bad this movie really was.
- While Rey’s built-up backstory was blatantly disregarded, she was much improved in this movie. The force and lightsaber fighting still come far too easily for her, and her knowing better than Luke at every turn (the opposite of the Luke-Yoda dynamic of ESB) was questionable, but at least there was a bit of a journey for the character this time.
- Kylo Ren stepped up as arguably the standout character of the new trilogy (thus far). He genuinely kept me guessing the entire time.
- Poe Dameron is a fun character and Oscar Isaac is easily the most talented actor in the cast.
- Some of the scenes were truly amazing. The battle in Snoke’s throne room was one of the best Star Wars scenes ever. Yoda’s brief return and R2’s hologram were great additions. Poe’s X-Wing antics to start the movie were a lot of fun. It was everything that strung these great moments together that I had a problem with.
- The pacing. The movie felt about 5 hours long, partly because of the bad plots (addressed in the next point) that distracted from the big confrontation, and partly because the movie’s big, amazing climactic scene (Snoke’s throne room) wasn’t actually the movie’s climax. Imagine if Jabba’s Palace was tacked on to Empire Strikes Back after “I am your father.” That’s basically what this movie did.
- It didn’t feel like a Star Wars movie. The porgs and caretakers were cheap laughs taken straight out of a quirky Marvel movie. Luke milking the weird alien cow was pointless and ridiculous. Maz Kanata’s inclusion in the movie didn’t make sense, and her wink-wink sexual reference was bizarre. Also, while not filled with profanity, the movie had more than any Star Wars movie I can recall.
- Plot holes on plot holes on plot holes. And they built on each other. Let’s break down the most obvious.
- Luke. He created a monster that is terrorizing the universe, and as the only one who can stop that monster he refuses – letting billions die in the meantime – because he might create another monster? Totally makes sense. Also, there was the classic “I’ll never do _______” line that you know will be reversed in 5 minutes right as it’s uttered. “I’m not going to train you… ok, your training starts at Dawn.”
- The big chase. The fuel is running out. Holdo announces they’re going to remain on course. Poe, Finn, and Rose hatch a plot to introduce the worst section of the movie, a trip to a Monte Carlo-esque city to take a totally disconnected shot at alien horse racing and find the only man in the galaxy who can crack the First Order’s security codes so they can turn off hyperspace tracking and make a jump to some place where they won’t be found. This man is found, shown for 10 seconds, and then ignored. By pure luck, they end up in a jail cell with a guy who is apparently the other person in the galaxy with these skills. This ends up with them on the First Order flagship, fighting to the death with Phasma and her crew… and yet they never turn the tracker off. Meanwhile, Poe stages a mutiny against Holdo for preparing transports (life boats of sorts) to leave the ship that they’re trying to get into hyperspace. Leia stops him, and it’s revealed that Holdo’s plan all along was to get the ship close enough to a small base planet where the transports could escape to undetected. Yes, that’s right… everything that happened involving Finn, Rose, and Poe for the majority of the movie could have been ignored if Holdo had simply explained the plan. I repeat: LITERALLY TWENTY SECONDS OF EXPLANATION COULD HAVE CUT OUT 45 MINUTES OF THE MOVIE, INCLUDING THE WORST SUBPLOT. That large percentage of the movie could have been given to character development, backstory, explanation of Luke’s new understanding of the force… something. All they had to do was talk to each other. But that’s not all. As the transports try to get away, they’re picked off one by one. After over half of them are blown to smithereens, Holdo finally gets the idea to make a kamikaze flight through the Order’s fleet. Why did it take so long? If the point was to reduce the Resistance down to a handful of people, do it in a way that makes sense and isn’t just the result of stupidity.
- Crait. The great visuals of the white and red planet didn’t make up for the mind-numbing stupidity of what happened there. Locked up in the mountainside fortress with the First Order bearing down on them, the question is asked – is there a back way out? No. All options were explored. And they’re stuck. So, the resistance, down to about 30 people total, decides to send out almost half of their remaining force in rickety ships to try to stop the battering ram. Half of them die, so they decide to go ahead and let the battering ram win, so they can fall back to the soon-to-be-open fortress to die inside. Finn insists that he’ll make the sacrifice play to save his friends… only to be stopped by Rose. As she makes a weird profession of love, the door is blown open in the background. They and all of their friends are going to die, but at least she got to say she loved him (despite them knowing each other for less than a day). BUT WAIT! Remember how there wasn’t a back way out??? There is!
- J.J. Abrams left us with major questions 2 years ago, which was his job. This movie disregarded those questions completely. Additionally, the trailers seemed to confirm Abrams’ intentions for this movie, and they were pushed aside just as quickly. Snoke is big and bad and mysterious and – oh, wow. He’s dead. How Kylo was corrupted was explained in an underdeveloped series of 3 clips, and the Knights of Ren apparently don’t exist anymore(?). Rather than focusing on the history of the force and Luke’s struggle with what it means to be a jedi, we got about 3 minutes of that and 30 minutes of the utterly useless Finn and Rose plot. And of course, Rey remains a person who just popped up. Other than containing the same characters, the two movies could not have felt more different.
- Nobody has any backstory, which means nobody has any depth. As many have pointed out, not everybody has to be related in the Star Wars universe… but it’s hard to care about these people when they’re just… there. Snoke’s death was meaningless and his buildup as the “big bad” was useless as he was just a nobody who lasted a few minutes. Replace Phasma with a generic storm trooper and you don’t lose anything. Rose and her sister don’t mean anything to the viewer. Despite being the general of a movement that seems far stronger than the original trilogy’s empire, Hux is a pitiful joke. Holdo was as generic as could be. “DJ” was a total throwaway character created out of thin air to patch a plot together and then disposed of just as easily. Movies are driven by the strength of their characters, and that’s a big reason why this movie was so weak. Literally anybody could be killed off and it wouldn’t feel like a loss. The deaths of Han Solo and even Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon carried seriously weight. Snoke, Phasma, and Holdo were meaningless. Even if Finn had died… ok.
- The original characters that fans care for so much are either gone or useless. Han Solo got half a movie and suffered a death that this movie almost made meaningless. Luke had a pretty strong one-movie revival, but now he’s gone too (outside of the seemingly inevitable force ghosting). Sadly, though Leia is still alive in the trilogy, Carrie Fisher’s passing removes her character as well. Chewbacca was reduced to cheap comic relief. Even the original droids were given about 30 seconds of spotlight. So you have major characters being pushed aside in favor of new lead characters that haven’t been developed in a way to give them importance or a strong connection with the audience.
- What was the Rey mirror scene supposed to be?
- Mind-melding Rey and Kylo was weird, but plausible. Luke (tangibly) transporting himself to the other side of the galaxy was a big stretch. Leia’s space walk was absolutely absurd, possibly the most ridiculous moment in Star Wars history. I know it’s been established that she’s force-sensitive. But come on. That was another comic book-y scene that just didn’t fit Star Wars. And despite being able to do that, she was suddenly helpless when it came time to move the boulders at the end. The way the force was deployed in this movie is exactly the same as what happens when fan fiction writers let their imaginations go wild as to how it can be used.
My final thought is that I truly pity J.J. Abrams. He used his “mystery box” technique to leave us all wanting answers after Episode VII, only to see that box thrown in the trash. Now he stares down the task of directing the final installment with literally nothing to work with. Unless Kylo was lying about Rey’s family (a possibility) or they decide to go back and explore Snoke’s rise to power and influence over Kylo (doubtful with Snoke out of the picture), the only thing left to show is the Rey-Kylo collision course that will lead to the inevitable final victory for the resistance. Maybe somebody dies, but who cares? We don’t know these people. That’s really the true shame of “The Last Jedi.” It didn’t just ruin its own potential. It destroyed the good groundwork laid in “The Force Awakens” and left nothing for Episode IX to explore. The entire new trilogy was decimated by Rian Johnson’s dedication to shocking, directionless plot twists.
My ranking thus far:
- The Empire Strikes Back
- A New Hope
- Rogue One
- Return of the Jedi
- The Force Awakens
- Revenge of the Sith
- The Phantom Menace
- Attack of the Clones
- The Last Jedi