Star Wars is like poetry, right?
When the last eagle flies over the last crumbling mountain
And the last lion roars at the last dusty fountain
In the shadow of the forest though she may be old and worn
They will stare unbelieving at the last Jedi
You may sense a great conflict swelling within me.
My takeaway from The Last Jedi is pretty much the same as from The Force Awakens; I love the characters, but the plot sucks.
Now the rest of this is going to feel like filler. Oh, well. Let’s own the feeling and wrap up some lingering questions from the Awakens review. And remember that for the overwhelming number of moviegoers, if the information is not in the movies, it doesn’t exist.
- Why is it up to a tiny paramilitary group to fight the First Order instead of the New Republic Military? We still don’t know.
- How big is/was the New Republic? We still don’t know.
- Where is the New Republic Military? Still AWOL.
- Is the First Order a terrorist group or a government? It is a government with control of several star systems and has a sizeable starfleet.
- Is the First Order the Empire’s leftovers? Probably?
- Who even is Snoke and where the hell did he come from? We still don’t know and almost certainly won’t ever find out.
- Is Snoke a Sith Lord? Implied by Kylo Ren to be so.
- Is the Resistance fleet really just a couple dozen X-Wings and a troop lander? They actually have an A-wing and some bombers of a previously unseen design (but why the hell didn’t the bombers attack Starkiller Base?). They also had some capital ships and plenty of transports, but they were conducting an evacuation of the Resistance base off-screen.
- What’s the deal with Captain Phasma? We still don’t know, and she raises an extra question in this movie when we discover that her armor actually protects against laser blasts. No need to protect anybody else, I guess.
The writing is actually sharper and less rushed in Episode VIII, but that doesn’t necessarily result in a better plot; rather it just means there are fewer artifacts from early drafts and pointless cul de sacs.
In fact, the vast majority of the plot occurs because Resistance leadership choses to keep their backup escape plan secret from everybody who isn’t in leadership for absolutely no reason other than to make the audience think all has been lost. Unfortunately, they needlessly trick the cast into thinking that, too, provoking them into desperate and horrifically counterproductive action.
The writers were also foolish enough to have a dramatic countdown based on time when they could have relied on a far more subjective number, such as the Resistance fuel supply level. This means that while Ray spends days, if not weeks, with Luke Skywalker in the B plot, the A plot explicitly takes place over 18 hours.
And the final strike is that the movie had a chance to elegantly fill in the missing details in the Star Wars universe as it exists then, and instead casts them off as entirely unimportant.
But like I said, the good things are the young characters. They all have great chemistry with each other and have a lot of interesting things going on on a personal level.
Kylo Ren and Rey both take a giant, decisive step toward whatever shall be their destinies in Episode IX. Poe, no longer an afterthought, starts a character arc in which he’s seen as a future leader of the Resistance who still needs some seasoning and Fin is still trying to get used to a place in the universe he’s only worn for about a week or so. New to Star Wars: The Next Generation is Rose, a mechanic who the plot mercilessly keeps punching in the feels and whose backstory provides some insight into the First Order that was sorely missing from Episode VII.
The old characters are ok. Chewie, R2 and C3PO only appear briefly, but just do what you expect them to do. Leia has a crowning moment of awesome which shows that she hasn’t let her latent talents go completely to waste even though she didn’t follow in Luke’s footsteps. However, this is countered by Luke coming off as a college freshman who has never been on a date and just read about ladder theory, only the ladder theory is about the Force instead of women.
There’s also an unexpected cameo. When it happens you’ll get caught up in the rush. After, though, you’ll wonder why it didn’t happen years ago, story-wise.
Verdict: Rental (3/5). I am now very impatient for Episode IX to wrap so they can give the young cast a trilogy all their own. PLEASE tell me they’re getting more movies after these.