Friday, December 15, 2017

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (SPOILER FILLED) Review

Now that my spoiler-free thoughts on Star Wars: The Last Jedi are out of the way, I can finally really dive into this movie and discuss all my thoughts on what the movie did, didn't, and ultimately revealed. Remember, SPOILERS AHEAD.
Right away, I love the direction this movie took. I really enjoyed how it treated the story as it pertained to Rey, Luke, Kylo Ren, and Poe Dameron. Unfortunately I don't think we'll get to see a more in-depth resolution to Finn's character until next movie, given what he was willing to do during the final battle of The Last Jedi. 

Let's get the spoilers left dangling from The Force Awakens out of the way, because they're actually quite critical to some of the themes of both this movie and of "Star Wars" as a whole:

Who are Rey's parents? Desert drunkards that sold her for money.

That's it. And thank GOD. I got chills at the Kylo Ren's line of, "You don't belong in my story" which DIRECTLY translates to, "You're not a Skywalker, why do you matter?"

It flies directly in the face of what so many people thought would happen and is such the right call. Because this is a GALAXY. It's huge, and not everyone is going to be related. Some people may complain that The Force Awakens sets up Rey to be something major, but, really, I think all those ominous looks from Han come as a means of sparing Rey from the truth. Because she's a nobody, and nobody wants to be told that.

Daisy Ridley's performance when Kylo Ren makes her say that is absolutely tragic. She kills it as Rey in every emotional beat she has.

It's also well foreshadowed in her mirror scene, one of the best scenes of the entire film and of the last two movies. When it's all the Rey's in a line looking into the mirror, as if it were all the little bits and pieces of her mind trying to wrap their heads around one idea, just to find one answer, that ultimately, she can't get, because maybe, there is no answer. Her parents are dead. Instead she sees herself and rather than realize that who she belongs to doesn't matter, she instead flies straight into the hands of the bad guys, and it makes sense.

There are sparse few character moments in The Last Jedi that don't make any sense, and we'll get to those. I'm glad Kylo Ren, when he first sees "Luke" down in Crait orders them to just light him up and incinerate him. Why even bother with the polish? Just dust him. And his rage to wipe him off the face of the planet is so genuine, and it comes at such a reward to learning that, from his point of few, Luke was a psychopath that feared someone possibly surpassing him.

This movie really plays up the idea that Luke Skywalker could never get past his own expectations of himself because he listened to, at the most basic level, his own hype. He started to believe the legends about Luke Skywalker, the great Jedi Master that we all believed him to be. But, as it was revealed in the truth behind that tragic night that effectively ended the Jedi, he wasn't. He snapped, he lost control for a split second; all because he was never properly trained. Ben trained him to learn about the Force and Yoda taught him some spiritual angles but he never returned to complete his training. All he had were books that, it's implied, he worshiped more than he practiced.

Luke and Anakin are both incredibly tragic figures for different reasons. Anakin is tragic because love made him turn dark, and for Luke, it was darkness that made him turn from love. We're left to wonder what might've happened if he never goes to Ben Solo's hut that night. Maybe Luke's training would have eventually swayed Ben from Snoke, maybe Ben could have seen the light and the Jedi would flourish. It's impossible to say, but it shows the flaws in Luke's character that we haven't seen explored since his showdown with Vader in Return of the Jedi.

Another bit of resolution from The Force Awakens: Supreme Leader Snoke. All the theories and questions and nonsense was thrown out the window because he was cut in half by the weapon he'd been hunting for decades now. And it was so satisfying.

Not only was it an excellent moment for Ben Solo as a character, but it's so not what you'd expect from that moment. You expect Ben to hand Rey his lightsaber or for him to draw that lightsaber and then the two of them team up to defeat Snoke, who gets away and will get them next time or something. But no. Snoke's dead, and now Kyle Ren is the Supreme Leader. That's such a brilliant move, because now, you have a power struggle between the impulsive, reckless Sith-lord and the cold, calculating mind of General Hux. Ren has the power, but, is anyone going to really speak up if Hux gives them an order that Kylo Ren isn't aware of? The villains are interesting in "Star Wars" in brand new ways. Sure Sidious planned to have Dooku killed but that was to set up Anakin, not to gain political power. Now though? What happens if Kylo Ren kills Hux? Can he really lead the First Order?

Shouldn't be that hard; this movie practically wiped out the Resistance. All that's left of them is on the Millenium Falcon. But maybe not, as we see with that last shot.

What's so refreshing about The Last Jedi is how nuanced it is with where it left our heroes and our story. We're not left with theories about "who's who" or "what does ___ mean?" We're more left with, "What happens next?" I find that far more compelling than "oooo maybe Finn's actually dead, oooo."

I don't know if it's possible to talk enough about Rey and Kylo Ren's dynamic, so, I won't shut up about it. The two play off each other so well, and their Force-connection conversations were incredible. It would always seem that Kylo Ren was in control but Rey had just enough grasp of what was going on and how to come out on top that she really shone in those scenes. When they were actually on screen together was even better, especially after he kills Snoke and Rey realizes that this is it, this is the vision she saw.

I'm curious if Kylo's vision he supposedly had of her turning was the moment she Force-pulled his lightsaber to attack Snoke. If so, it's neat that both of their visions came true, but neither were actually true. Rey undoubtedly saw him fighting side-by-side with her but didn't anticipate that he would have his own moment of weakness and realize there was a power vacuum, and ultimately go power-mad; likewise, Kylo saw Rey wielding his lightsaber probably told him that she'd turned to the Dark Side. After all, anyone with a red lightsaber is automatically evil, right?

They're fight was also marvelous. That slow-shot of all the guards closing in on them while they took their stances is the stuff dreams are made of and I want that shot as a poster.

Now. Like right now.

It is interesting that Kylo's argument for her to join him almost made sense. To get rid of the old ways and restart with a new one; problem is, he has to be leading the charge from an imperial standpoint. And really, what other way does he know of? Luke's way? From his point of view that almost got him killed. And Rey hasn't been around long enough to know what to do other than to bring Kylo Ren back so that the First Order can fall. But after that?

Eh, leave it up to Leia. Rey, like Luke before her, doesn't have a plan beyond what she hopes to accomplish in the immediate moment, and the movie plays with those consequences. What would she do if she bested him in a lightsaber battle, would she kill him? Did she retrieve enough training with Luke to hold back, or would those residual temptations from Snoke compel her to kill him?

Again, I'm speculating, but I'm not speculating on what will happen, moreover on how certain elements are effecting the characters.

Let's also talk about Luke for a moment, because there are some Force shenanigans that are pulled in this movie that I'm perfectly okay with, but need to be addressed. First off, Force projections. That was pretty darn awesome. I've seen some think that this is transference of matter but I think it's Luke more projecting himself into the area around him. I'd say it was all in Kylo Ren's mind but General Hux saw Luke down there as well, and it was Luke going out there that inspired Poe to retreat back into the bunker.

It makes sense, too; it's almost as if this is Luke's final expulsion of all his potential. He'd locked himself off from the Force for so long, but, he performed this act at a place that was dense with the Force itself, and he did just probably have a nice chat with Yoda about how to see this all play out.

I honestly can't think of a better way for Luke to go out, and his final moments did make me cry. I was worried he'd be killed in battle (almost had for a second when the walkers unloaded on him), but him transferring himself into the Force DURING the binary sunset just...just killed me, man. I'm still choked up about it just thinking about it. What a powerful exit for one of the most impactful, important characters not just in Science Fiction but in CINEMA, man. It's Luke Skywalker, and his story wraps at the completest of circles. Everything that needed to happen for Luke to pass the torch has happened: He got one final lesson from Yoda, he trained a (potentially) successful Jedi, and he once again inspired hope in a galaxy that had none.

"I will not be the last Jedi."

GOD. What a line. What a killer line. Props to Mark Hamill, man, unending props. He delivered on every aspect of the character. And the legacy is in great hands, because when they showed Rey moving those boulders it was one of the most satisfying moments in "Star Wars." You want hope? There it is, right there, in the hands of an amazing young woman.

And we're not even done yet. How, you say? Well because there's yet another torch to be passed, one I didn't expect at all.

Leia and Poe's relationship was fantastic. Leia treated him with tough love because sometimes that's just how you make a good leader. I've heard some arguments that Poe should've been in on the big plan the entire time, but, he totally would've messed that up as well. He's a hothead, he would find some way to alter it, or he would've been the one to sacrifice himself. I think that's, ultimately, why Leia stunned him: they had to carry out the plan and she knows that the Resistance is nothing without Poe Dameron, and overall optimistic guy.

His arc carried a surprising amount of the movie, and it's themes resonated throughout the entire thing, and were echoed by Yoda: failure is the greatest teacher. And it is. Luke failed Ben Solo, but learned from that, and has created the vessel of hope for this new rebellion. Poe failed the Resistance once, but knew better than to let his gut move him again, and led them to safety. Snoke, as someone who thought he never failed Kylo Ren, was ultimately defeated by hubris. Hubris betrayed Luke and Snoke, but only one could truly learn from their failures, as they did something about it.

I'm glad that most people aren't seeing Yoda's inclusion in the movie as something ham-fisted or forced. I thought it was perfectly timed, perfectly placed, and perfectly acted. When Luke says with a hint of dread and surprise, "Master Yoda," I felt like we'd just gone straight back to Return of the Jedi. It was helped by Yoda, I believe, being a practical effect, being a puppet. And Yoda's imparting of wisdom was great, his comedy was spot on, he was Yoda. The only thing missing was a Ben Kenobi cameo, but, I think Yoda was more than enough, and a great surprise.

One thing I fully, fully anticipated going into this movie based on personal speculation was for a Hayden Christensen cameo as Anakin Skywalker. When we saw Force Ghost Yoda I really anticipated Anakin to arrive before Luke could burn the tree, and instead of telling him to stop, would encourage his son to let the past die, as it was something he could not do. But I don't think it was a wasted opportunity--not because I doubt Christensen as an actor, but because Yoda's conversation with Luke filled that emotional resonance, anyway.

The Last Jedi is definitely a thought-provoking "Star Wars" movie in the same vein as The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. I wouldn't be surprised if I wind up writing more about when I see the movie again, because I'm totally seeing the movie again. There are dozens of amazing moments worth analyzing, so many more themes and character beats I didn't go into, and just tons more to talk about. I do think it's a step up over The Force Awakens (despite a dull plot that ultimately killed Phasma and only led to a startling reveal of some street-kid having the Force) and definitely worth checking out to see where the Skywalker Saga continues, because it's anybody's guess at this point. And for that, I'm so thankful. I cannot wait to see where Episode IX takes the characters. 2019 can't come quick enough.

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