If you want to know what I thought of TLJ without spoilers – and who wouldn’t? – read this. Even if you don’t think you care about spoilers, some of the things that happen in the film are better off seen without prior knowledge.
I have still only seen the film once, so some things aren’t as strong in my memory as they could be and I may have forgotten things entirely. That said, the more time passes, the more small and big issues I think of. So, as usual, this isn’t really a review – because I don’t know how to do those – it’s just a mess of thoughts thrown at the screen.
The humour is made apparent from the very first scene. The conversation between Poe and Hux is simultaneously very funny and concerning. Poe’s side of this conversation is fine – it makes sense to his character and helps us to continue liking him right away, just like the ‘Who talks first’ bit in TFA. Hux’s side, however, is too slapstick stupid. You can imagine he’ll next throw his hat on the ground and jump up and down on it while shaking his fist at Poe’s retreating X-Wing. It doesn’t fit the character – set up to be genocidal and almost Hitler-like – the dangerous and soon-to-be tragic situation, or Star Wars as a whole.
This humour continues to go too far. Chewbacca about to bite into the roasted porg when he spots a group of porgs watching him, their little faces horrified. Very funny. The close-up of the last porg with its lip quivering, stupid. Funny again, but something that should be in Shrek, not Star Wars. And what was that with Snoke redirecting Rey’s lightsaber (yes, I consider it hers now, not Luke’s) and hitting her in the back of the head with it? Was that meant to be funny? It didn’t hit her hard enough for it to be serious, surely? If it is meant to be funny, it’s totally out of place and wrecks the tension and drama of the scene.
It’s like the filmmakers watched Guardians of the Galaxy and thought ‘we should do that’. No, you shouldn’t. That’s not to say there weren’t times when the humour worked. The caretakers and their dislike of Rey worked well. And…other stuff…probably.
Luke Skywalker and Rey
These two worked well together, but when you look past the humour of Luke throwing the lightsaber away, the caretakers, the porgs, etc., the scenes on the island were actually fairly pointless. Luke didn’t teach her a damn thing. He just felt sorry for himself the whole time and then she left. He didn’t teach her to use the Force, he didn’t teach her to use the lightsaber (it’s fine that she could already use it well enough to surprise-defeat a wounded and distracted Kylo Ren in TFA, but now she needs to know how to wield it properly, like a Jedi – luckily she…just does), he didn’t teach her any Jedi principles.
Just as she randomly knows to use a Jedi mind trick on James Bond in TFA and how to pull the lightsaber to her, in TLJ she uses the Force without any training. All Luke teaches her is to reach out with her feelings, and then suddenly she can lift a dozen giant boulders with no problem. Even Luke struggled to lift the X-Wing in the swamp, and he had the most powerful Jedi Grand Master teaching him. I was looking forward to Rey lifting his X-Wing out of the ocean, too.
This part of the film needed so much more time. As I predicted, the film starts with Luke being the last Jedi, and ends with Rey being the last Jedi. The problem is, she in no way earned that title. How can she be a Jedi when Luke didn’t teach her to be a Jedi. She’s just a Force-wielder. There is apparently a whole training sequence cut from the film, but given that his first two ‘lessons’ didn’t really teach her all that much, who knows how much good the third would have been?
As for Luke’s final redemption, in a sense, it felt very much as though the only reason he was projecting himself there rather than being there in person was to surprise the audience. Okay, his X-Wing might be wrecked now after being underwater for so long, so maybe he doesn’t have a way off the island, but really it felt like it was just there to be unexpected. When they opened fire on him and he survived, I thought we were witnessing the power that a true Master can wield – despite the fact that technically, he never moved beyond being a Padawan and has been cut off from the Force for a long time. When Kylo’s foot scrapes the ground and reveals the red sand but Luke’s doesn’t, I thought it was just a nice visual thing because Kylo is a damaging, heavy-handed dark sider, while Luke is a harmonious blah blah blah…it wasn’t that at all.
The other problem is why the hell did he just randomly die afterwards? Kylo says that Rey can’t be linking the two of them because the effort would kill her, so I assume that is foreshadowing and letting us know in advance that the effort of projecting himself like that is not something that even Luke Skywalker can survive, but it just felt out of nowhere. I genuinely didn’t expect him to suddenly disappear like that. I thought that was his part done for TLJ and he’d go out with Leia in the next film.
Leia’s role in this was fairly small, as she spends half the film in a coma. She’s too accepting of everything. She no longer seems bothered by Han’s death, she gives up on their allies answering their call for help too easily, she admits that her son is gone too casually, and appears to have no problem with Luke dying. Perhaps we’re meant to think it’s because of all of the trauma she’s gone through since the originals, starting with Alderaan, and with each death – many of them the deaths of the people under her command – she has grown more emotionless, but it doesn’t come across well.
Then she dies. Except she doesn’t! In a throwaway scene that’s never mentioned again, she uses the Force to survive the explosion, the decompression, and the exposure, and Mary Poppinses her way back onto the ship. It’s quite good, and is more Force use than I expected to see from her (I expected some, but more in line with sensing Luke and Kylo than this), but it needed something more. No one even mentions it. All it needed was for someone watching to say ‘Well, I guess she IS the sister of a Jedi Master…’ and that would have been enough. I honestly think some newcomers and people who aren’t that into Star Wars won’t even understand what happened. This would, of course have led to the question of why didn’t she train as a Jedi, but all that would have taken was for her to respond with ‘Because my father was Darth Vader’, and everyone would have understood.
Finn, Rose, and Poe
This was a mess. Poe’s part in the film was perhaps the strongest of the three, but they really felt as though they were only there because they had to be. The film desperately wanted to be about Rey, Luke, and Kylo, but knew that these other characters had been introduced in the last film, and still had to be utilised somehow. The result is a completely pointless storyline where Finn and Rose go to a casino to find a hacker that will board the First Order flagship and stop them being able to track the Resistance through hyperspace.
And it is literally pointless. They find a hacker, go back, don’t manage to do the hacking, and the Resistance is nearly wiped out. Almost exactly what would have happened if they had never left. The only difference is that Benicio del Toro betrays them and tells the First Order how to detect all the little ships taking the Resistance down to the planet. This is not something that was worth all of that screen time. So much of that time could have been given to Luke and Rey so that there could have been some actual training going on.
The Rose/Finn romance is completely out of the blue and stupid. And now Rey is going to be jealous of her. Which I hate, because I’m sick of the idea that a male character and female character must automatically have some kind of romantic interest in each other. Why can’t Rey and Finn just be damn good friends, like Luke and Han? Oh, because their genders aren’t compatible in that way? Okay, sure.
Poe meanwhile has a hostile relationship with an admiral who takes Leia’s place. I think we’re meant to suspect that she’s working for the First Order, because they make a big deal out of Snoke laughing approvingly of how Hux is able to keep up with them as they try to flee, when it’s actually nothing special at all. They can just…track them. That’s all. So she refuses to tell Poe her plans, he mutinies, finds that she was actually in the right, then she dies heroically.
First, all of that could have been easily avoided by her not being a moron and actually letting Poe in on the plan – it’s only because that would have been inconvenient to the ‘story’ that she didn’t. Second, they killed of Admiral Ackbar in the blink of an eye – I didn’t even realise he had been one of the ones killed until it was mentioned – instead of giving him the heroic ending, which would have been more fitting. Third, that scene was one of the best in the film. It was visually stunning. The use of silence for it was perfect. I wouldn’t argue with anyone using the word ‘spectacular’.
Snoke is dead. This did not come as a shock to me at all. I think it was meant to be the biggest twist in the film, but really it was the only thing they could have done to keep it feeling fresh and not just working off the original trilogy template. I don’t have a problem with it; however, I do have a problem with the fact that Snoke seems to have been built up only so that we’d be surprised when he’s killed.
We don’t know anything about him. Background doesn’t really matter for someone like Rey or Poe or Rose, because what they are currently doing is more important, but we’re talking about a powerful dark side Force-user who seems to have been unknown by both the Jedi and Sidious. If he was a Jedi back then, why didn’t he get wiped out by Order 66? Is that why he has the facial damage? It’s unlikely, because he’s supposedly ancient (which only makes it more absurd that he’s now just suddenly dead). If he was a Sith or other dark sider all along, why didn’t Sidious know about him? Why didn’t he try to kill him – there should be only two, after all. Where the hell has he been hiding all this time. WHAT is he? We’ve been told before that he’s not Sith.
He’s dead now and we’ll either never know, or only know now that it doesn’t matter. I suspect a book will appear that will explain it, which is not okay at all. Don’t leave giant plot holes and missing information and the like because you know a completely different medium will take care of it. Most of us aren’t going to bother with any tie-in novels.
Rey and Kylo
Again, it felt like the film desperately wanted to concentrate on this stuff and ignore the Resistance. Rey and Kylo are done well individually and together. I was very pleased that Kylo stays bad and Rey stays good. Those were two of my biggest concerns going in. I also like that there was something there for those who wanted to see Kylo redemption. He wasn’t evil; he just wasn’t light side. He helps Rey arguably more than Luke does. You could say that it was manipulation to get her to come to him and Snoke so that he could kill Snoke, but I don’t think it was wholly that. It seemed a little more genuine – especially since Kylo invited her to rule with him.
I don’t think it would have suited either character to change sides, but it worked to have them connect with each other and actually begin to care a little about each other. There was no ‘Reylo’ rubbish, which also pleased me. They had a connection, and everything worked on that, but it wasn’t – or at least didn’t seem to be – a romantic thing. Which it shouldn’t have been. She hates him for murdering her surrogate father, Han, but is good enough to look past that and know that there is still some good in him, and try to bring him back to the light.
There isn’t much. The most obvious omission is any kind of dark side temptation for Rey. She senses the dark side, and Luke says that both sides are strong on the island. Then when she goes looking at the dark side pit, he claims that she went straight for it and so he won’t teach her. Well, that means nothing. She doesn’t understand about the light side and dark side – there’s no reason she wouldn’t go and have a look. No reason she would know to resist. It doesn’t mean her eyes will instantly turn yellow and her lightsaber will magically turn red.
When she physically goes into the pit, there’s nothing. Some mirror thing that seems utterly pointless. There’s nothing she has to face like Luke had to face Luke Vader in the cave. Nothing meaningful down there to teach her about the Force or herself.
The only drama, I think, comes from Luke vs Kylo. Except eagle-eyed fans, we didn’t know what was going to happen there. Luke couldn’t have won, but it didn’t feel like the time to kill him either. Those eagle-eyed fans would have spotted that he was holding the lightsaber that had just been destroyed, he looked younger because of more than just a hair cut and beard trim, his feet didn’t disturb the ground, and he’d already said to Rey something along the lines of “What do you expect me to do, walk out with a laser sword and face down the First Order?”. Everything else just tried to shock and surprise, and mostly failed.
Luke almost killing Kylo is a point of contention, I think. A lot of people don’t like that. But to me, it was a knee-jerk reaction to suddenly sensing Snoke’s dark side influence. Almost like he would have grabbed and ignited his lightsaber if he’d spotted Snoke peering in the window. I don’t think it makes Luke bad.
The Force in TLJ is almost a character in its own right. But only the light side. If it is strong enough to just turn Rey into a Jedi without any input from…an actual Jedi, lightning-strike a tree and destroy it, and so on, shouldn’t the dark side have been stronger too? I like that Rey isn’t at all tempted by the dark, as for me, that suits her character. However, if there’s not going to be that kind of temptation, couldn’t the dark side have whispered to her, tried harder to lure her or trick her down in the pit? Something?
And there’s Yoda. He was good. He was a puppet. That was nice.
And this has kind of fizzled out now. It’s too long, so the remaining stuff (before I watch it a second time and come up with more), I will put in a ‘questions I have‘ post.
Overall, I feel like The Last Jedi has far more problems than The Force Awakens did, yet I think I like it more. Rey remains my favourite Star Wars character. What did you think of it? What were your favourite bits, worst bits, biggest questions…?
Also Star Warsy:
The Force is with Leia – But Which Side?
The Force is Awake
My 11 Force Awakens Questions
Dawn of the Jedi
The Galaxy Needs KOTOR III