You remember the story, don’t you? Boy with a promising young future goes off to deal with his own psychological demons, primarily on his own while some enigmatic or neglectful trainer gives him too much time on his own before he falls apart and loses an appendage. And then the group the boy belongs to gets into an all-out war. All of this preludes to the boy granting himself the title of master of moving things in the air and hitting people with deadly lasers. And you know what that means, don’t you? Of course, you do. It means today I review Star Wars: The Last Jedi, a Lucasfilm production, and a subsidiary of Walt Disney Studios.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the second in the latest trilogy of Star Wars movies involving the family Skywalker. Being born in the 70’s in the U.S., and a boy, I grew up fully enmeshed with the Star Wars Lore and fully invested in the richness of the story. (Han shot first. Just saying.) It’s a part of my childhood I would not take back. It was the closest thing Generation X had to its own mythology. There were magical powers, strange looking beasts, sons who were coming to terms with the absence of their own fathers, and heroes galore. Luke, Leia, Han, Chewbacca, and Lando were so familiar to us they were like members of the family.
And for those of us who loved those Star Wars movies of the 70s and early 80s, we wished to bury our heads in shame when we were confronted with the vision that Lucas gave us in the 90s and 2000s. Between the little boy who came about through the second immaculate conception, the whiny Jedi who I can hardly imagine would be able to successfully woo a beautiful woman let alone one of Natalie Portman’s caliber, to the complete Frankenstein monsterization of Anakin Skywalker, they made a series of missteps in the creation of the prequels. (Notice I didn’t mention that character who rhymes with Har Har, and who shall not be named despite those who try to turn him into a Sith Lord.) And I say this knowing full well my daughter loves the trilogy and especially he who shall not be named.
So when they released Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I nervously awaited the outcome of that film. Knowing that Mickey Mouse would take on the Jedi did not make me any less anxious, despite the success they have had in recent years with the Marvel movies and the Pixar investment. But I was pleasantly surprised when they released the first film. Bringing Rey into the fold as a Jedi made perfect sense. The Jedi order could definitely use some more X chromosome oriented characters as we headed into a new decade in the Star Wars universe. And despite the ending of a beloved character, It made me happy we entered this trilogy in full force as opposed to a mild menace.
But the second movie in a trilogy, any trilogy, is pivotal. It sets the tone for the third and final film. It creates the reason for all of the conflicts which follow. As a film that exists on its own, it almost never makes sense. Because resolution doesn’t come at the end of a second film. The resolution comes at the end of the trilogy. (Unless you are the Indiana Jones trilogy, and then Lucas and Spielberg made three distinct films. I don’t count Crystal Skull.) The second film almost always leaves our intrepid heroes in a bit of a cliffhanger. So I walked into this new installment full of hope. The following is my review.
Review Of Star Wars: The Last Jedi
(** Spoiler Alert**)
When we last left Rey, she found herself climbing up a mountain in the center of an island to meet the enigmatic Luke Skywalker, who hid away from the world. And the Rebel Force going up against the First Order was able to take out the World Destroyer. In fact, the older Senate was destroyed by the world destroyer, leaving a world in chaos. We knew Snoke was lurking out there in the background with his legions. The question was, how many and what were they going to do? Finn was recovering from his injuries at the end of the first movie and we did not know how he would fare.
As with all of the Star Wars movies (and any good Shakespeare play), we are given background at the beginning as some of the action they did not feel inclined to show takes place off stage. Evidently, the First Order still had guns. Lots and lots of guns. And they were intent on taking out the Rebels. Secondarily, it appears the Rebels have shrunk down to a tiny army residing all on one planet, making themselves easily taken out.
On the other end of the world, the meeting between Rey and Luke does not go smoothly. Luke became a bitter old man in the meantime. The failure to teach students and his own nephew the ways of the Force crushed him. Trying to become a new Yoda never occurred to him. When in comes R2-D2 to save the day, reminding Luke of the boy he once was. Brash and unafraid, Luke took on the galaxy and ultimately his own father to save his soul, even if he lost his body in the process.
Kylo Ren, on the other hand, chose Snope to be his new father figure. And we begin with the understanding it has not gone over very well. Snope seems to be disappointed in his “son”. And Kylo Ren (Ben Solo) seems to be disenchanted with the relationship he has with this new father figure. Feeling betrayed by Luke, abandoned by Han, and unloved by Snope, Kylo has nowhere else to go. He seems fixated on making the world anew.
Once again focusing on failing parents, specifically fathers, Rey cannot even get her third shot at a father figure to work. Through a late reveal by Kylo, Rey recalls her own parents were nobodies who sold her off for money. Kylo snuffed out her second father figure’s life in Han before Rey even had a chance to develop anything. (I think the possible relationship between Rey and Han could have been one of the central redeeming opportunities of the new franchise had they taken the opportunity to explore it.) And her final shot at a parental figure exists in a crotchety old Jedi named Luke, who seems to be even more out there than Yoda did in Empire.
As for Poe Dameron, the attempted reincarnation of Han Solo, he continues to be the brash know-it-all pilot. He is better than everyone else. And he knows it. Poe finds himself on the wrong end of things quite often, but for very different reasons than Han. Han was never short-sighted. Poe seems to not be able to see two seconds into the future. Then again, if the people in charge would actually talk to the command staff, maybe . . . just maybe, bad things wouldn’t happen.
This finally brings us to Finn. In The Force Awakens, Finn seemed to make a lot of sense. We were Finn, caught up in the madness of the war between two sides. He wrestled with his inner demons and came to the conclusion that the First Order lacked moral ground. Unfortunately, he could not see the Rebels as being an improvement over his standing. But he seemed to care for Rey. And he was going to make sure she lived at all costs because he knew there was something special about her. It almost cost Finn his life.
1) The Porg:
2) The Relationship between Rey and Kylo Ren:
I know this was prominently played out in the trailers, but I believe for good reason. The moments between Rey and Kylo are among the most riveting of the film. We needed to see two characters utterly conflicted about their direction. And for a moment, we can begin to see the possibility of their directions colliding. I think this moment makes the film. And for one moment, we had the possibility of a third way between the two sides. Unfortunately, Kylo doesn’t see his wish for the destruction of all old things as a mirror image of his grandfather’s tearing down of the old Jedi order to bring about peace and prosperity through power. Maybe Kylo could sense the dark designs of Snope and wanted different. This question remains unresolved.
As for Rey, coming to terms with her family background was essential. And Kylo forced her to confront her own inner demons. Yes, we had the obligatory dark cave scene where you realize you are the inner demon oppressing you. And Rey faces that. But Kylo necessarily confronted her driving her character forward. Unfortunately, after everything Rey still looked for salvation outside of herself.
Who doesn’t love Yoda? Really? The one thing Yoda does to everyone is to force them to reflect on their current plight and not get caught in the chaos which surrounds them. And Yoda does this for the one person in greatest need of it here. I won’t tell you for whom, but I bet you might be able to guess. He might not be quite Empire form, attacking R2-D2. (Which I am curious why neither seems to recognize each other in Empire, but I digress.) But Yoda definitely makes his presence known.
4) The Wide Open Future:
I am trying not to spoil it as much as possible. But one thing I really liked was the unexpected turn of events at about the 2/3 point in the film. Something dramatic happened which sent the series spiraling in a whole new direction. If you hated the fact they rehashed much of A New Hope in The Force Awakens, this should shock you out of your slumber, re-imagining another Empire Strikes Back. Whatever I may think, I like the fact that the final act in this trilogy will be much more unpredictable.
1) The Lack Of Strong Male Characters:
While I do not mind them flipping the script on its head, giving females a stronger role in the new Star Wars films, the lack of any male lead of consequence with a strong role does a disservice to the series. At least the first trilogy had Leia. She was not weak. But with so many male characters out there and all of them weak, with the possible exception of Snope (although even that has its problems with the end of this film), it marks a truly sad turn in the Star Wars franchise, especially for the vast male audience ready to embrace a new generation of Star Wars lore. Here is my list of prominent characteristics of every male lead in the film:
Poe Dameron: Unhinged
Kylo Ren – Whiny
Luke Skywalker – Quitter
Finn – Coward (Although not entirely fair here.)
Generally Hux – Narcissist
2) Whats Going On With Finn –
Whatever you thought of him in the first movie, his presence in the second was unfortunate. First, they basically made him rehash his role in the first movie. Guy trying to run away gets caught up with everything. And his sole goal is to protect Rey. I guess they brought in a love interest with Rose but given the best interpretation of the events, I would have to say it was awkward. I had the same reaction to their kiss I now have watching Leia kiss Luke in Empire. (And for those who never watched Star Wars, let’s just say it shouldn’t have happened.)
3) Poe As Fake Solo –
Everyone knows they wanted to make Poe into Solo, except for maybe the split second they wanted to turn Rey into Solo in The Force Awakens. But he’s not. Solo and Poe may run into situations. But Han always had a purpose. Sometimes this purpose wasn’t for altruistic reasons. Sometimes he just wanted money. This made his transformation from paid assassin to willing general in Jedi a complete makeover of the character. It displayed character depth and growth. Poe has no reason to do what he does except recognition and a general recklessness. It’s unfortunate they tried to make Poe into Solo. And if Poe and Rey end up together, I might get sick. They played around with this at the very end of The Last Jedi.
4) Luke As Quitter Luke –
Everyone changes. Everyone has things which affect and change them. But Luke went from believing the best in everyone to finding darkness in everyone and everything. Maybe he failed Ben (Kylo Ren). Or maybe Ben failed him. But to quit on everyone after not quitting on his Dad who had already wrecked half the Galaxy and murdered a bunch of little Jedi children??? Seriously? It’s like he forgot who he was.
My Final Review
There were more things I could have gotten into. But honestly, I did quite enjoy the piece as a whole. The story-line took me along and carried me away into another world for a few hours. I never felt like the movie dragged, and contrary to other naysayers, I nothing felt forced. I just think they were too conscientious about trying to reboot a series they made some choices about the direction of the story I wouldn’t have taken. Plus the ending felt like something more in line with early Spielberg and less Lucas. Overall I give it three out of four stars.
Rating : 3 Out Of 4 Stars
Continue The Conversation –
Given the movie already made 220 million on opening weekend, I am guessing many of you have seen the film already. I would love to know what you thought. If you haven’t seen the film yet, what are you most looking forward to? And if you aren’t a Star Wars fan at all, are you interested in going to see this one? Do you have a favorite film from your youth? And would you want them to try and make it today?
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Until next time, this is me signing off.
David Elliott, Single Dad’s Guide to Life