As I get older, I get more and more leery of sharing my feelings online. It just seems like such a liability–and if you really want to know what I think, why not just ask me? I knew something monumental would be required to drag me back to blogging. Well friends, The Last Jedi is something monumental.
Here is my 100% SUPER SPOILERY review–so don’t you dare read it until you’ve seen it! You have been warned.
First of all, it was totally overwhelming. I feel hungover today, just lost in fog of the implications of this movie. I think I loved it? I loved most of it. Some of it was unecessary. At 2hrs30, it was about 15 minutes too long, and I could tell you exactly what needs to be cut. (Start with EVERY SINGLE ANIMAL and you’d be close. Seriously. Even the fathiers [space greyhounds/horses] were just too much.) But–it also blows the entire franchise wide open without betraying its heart. It’s an evolution, and a necessary one–perhaps even a rebirth. And it blew my frickin mind.
First, the bad. Poe Dameron, a man I dearly love, is a mansplaining jerk here. His subplot (fight with no-backstory Laura Dern while Leia is out of commision) is the weakest one, and that includes the previously mentioned space greyhounds. In TFA, he was a brilliant, goofy, loyal pilot–a new kind of hero, confident without swagger and sneer. Like Han Solo but so much less alpha-male posturing. And I loved that. I really did. I want my son to grow up in a world where heroes can be masculine without toxic masculinity. And Poe was that for me, 100%. This new Poe is just…off. He’s either a high-ranking member of the Resistance or he’s not, right? So his push to get secrets from Laura Dern, then override her command, just feels dated and gross. Sure, Leia was too easy on him and now he’s chafing under new authority, I can buy that. But trigger-happy flyboy was not a good look for Poe. It’s almost as if the showrunners were like, “wait, this kid is TOO enlightened! Let’s back him off emotionally a little bit so he can have a character arc where he matures into the leader we will need him to be when Leia’s gone.”
Speaking of that–my goodness, it was pretty traumatic watching her die again. And then not? The Force-flying was cheesy as hell, and if Carrie Fisher was still with us we’d all be jeering, but as it is we were all too busy crying. So that whole thing was weird.
This movie will forever be a product of its time. It’s no coincidence that the Resistance and the #Resistance share a name (and a hero–Princess Leia features prominently on many signs, tees, and other protest gear). Losing Carrie in the middle of this trilogy makes it all the more poignant–the world of The Force Awakens is not the same world of The Last Jedi. Things are darker, bleaker. We don’t trust our heroes to protect us, we believe in evil because we’ve seen it firsthand, we know all too well how a fringe lunatic can marshal a repressive regime into a totalitarian state, and we understand that light and dark is a lot more complicated than we originally thought. We are sadder but wiser. And we need hope now more than ever.
That’s maybe why I liked Rose, the new character, as much as I did. Because she’s us. She’s some low-level tech whose heart is ready for greatness, who gets the chance to do the right thing, and even though she’s hurting, does it. She pours love on the fires of hate, and it’s so, so right. I was more than a little invested in the Finn/Poe love story, but I will gladly give Poe the boot for Rose. I thought her kiss came out of nowhere, but there’s potential in that pairing.
Another pairing that took me by surprise was Rey and Kylo. It makes a lot of sense (the other two boys frankly can’t keep up with her) but I was not expecting it at all. And it was…super hot? Their interaction was the beating heart of the movie, and it was perfect. Sometimes people do unforgivably bad things, but they are still capable of good. Sometimes good people are tempted to be bad. Rey and Kylo are two sides of the same coin, and their force-bond was the most compelling part of this film. More than a little of that is due to Adam Driver/Daisy Ridley’s fantastic acting work. I am so, so curious to see where this goes.
The space battles were incredible. Holdo blowing herself up to destroy the First Order fleet was literally breathtaking. The battle on Crait with the red salt was gorgeous. The lightsaber duel between Rey/Kylo and the red guards is maybe the best duel in all Star Wars. Visually, this whole movie was stunning.
I am torn on the Finn/Rose/codebreaker thing. It was not well-fleshed out and so clearly a McGuffin, but then it planted the seeds of the whole new Star Wars direction. Benecio was so useless he didn’t even have a name. I think he was supposed to do some more work in the “heroes aren’t perfect, good and bad are abstract” camp (which I feel was adequately covered in Rouge One) but he was just a waste of movie time for me. And Phasma’s death was pointless. What a waste of a character–really. And the fathier-chase was endless. However–I cried several times during this movie, and once was definitely when Rose showed her Resistance ring to the children. Because the Resistance isn’t leaders and powerful rulers–it’s always been the little people, the poor, the unrepresented, the weak. This movie absolutely wrecked the Powerful Bloodlines trope of Star Wars, and proved once and for all that anyone could be a hero.
Rey being not important felt really authentic to me. I never thought she was a Skywalker–it was just too obvious. I love that she’s just a nobody, because she’s going to save the whole damn galaxy and isn’t that a great role model for all the nobodies out there (like me)?
I think this movie managed to subvert all expectations while still meeting them, which is such a tightrope act. I think it tied up a lot of loose ends and opened up so many new ones, which leaves Ep. 9 in a really good place. I have no idea what’s coming next, and I love that. I know Disney wants to keep pumping out new Star Wars movies forever and ever, and now they’ve got a great chance to do it in a way that doesn’t seem exploitative or overly commercial. Because, now, everyone can be a hero.
Luke dying didn’t hurt as much as I thought it might, because a)he wasn’t gunned down by AT-ATs (which, in a Trump world, I thought could happen) and we know that heroes end eventually. It felt like a passing of the torch, on Luke’s terms. The central theme of this movie might have been Yoda’s little speech–do your best, but know that your kids will be better than you (very loose paraphrase obviously). Star Wars has grown and changed so much in the 40 years since its creation–to strictly adhere to the same format would be folly. Rian Johnson has given us a new blueprint to move forward. And that’s a heck of an accomplishment.
I look forward to seeing it again. I think I will catch a lot more nuance when I’m not hyperventilating with excitement! What did y’all think?