The Rise of Skywalker is almost here, and it’s supposedly the conclusion to the Skywalker Saga. So, I’ve decided to attempt a full canon rewatch before it releases, reviewing each chapter as I go. That’s all the movies, as well as the Clone Wars, Rebels, and Resistance TV series. We conclude our journey today with Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
I mentioned this in my Force Awakens review, but every time I watch these new movies, I’m afraid the light switch is going to go off and I’m suddenly going to agree with the incredibly loud internet. It happened to me with the prequels, and while I’d like to think I’m older and wiser enough now to be able to make rational decisions about these sort of things, every time I fire up The Last Jedi, I’m struck with fear that I’ve been wrong about liking it thanks to the constant tireless campaigns in every corner of the internet bent on making sure everyone on the planet knows their “factually correct” opinions. I don’t seek it out, either. It’s literally everywhere I look in every fandom I’m a part of. It doesn’t matter if I’m watching something about the newest Mario game or checking out a video about deep frying pizza, someone is always ready and waiting to find a reason, any reason, to loudly complain about how Disney, Kathleen Kennedy, and Rian Johnson ruined Star Wars, The Last Jedi is the worst movie ever made, and everyone who disagrees is a libtard soy boy/Disney shill. (I’m not making that up, I’ve seen those literal words used on many occasions to describe “anyone who defends this trash.”)
The fandom menace HATES this movie. Fortunately for me, every time I see The Last Jedi, I like it a little bit more. I think it’s a fantastic film. I think the good stuff vastly outweighs the bad. Maybe I was a little too harsh when I said Return of the Jedi is just as flawed as The Last Jedi. It’s not, but it’s close. The Last Jedi has some genuinely bad stuff in it and makes some pretty hefty mistakes, but it’s far from broken, and I still love it.
So let’s see what I can do about tackling the big problems everyone seems to have with this movie. Here are the loudest ones I’ve heard that I just don’t understand (and a few that I do).
“There was no plan for the new trilogy!”
Yes there was. There weren’t full script treatments or anything, but this trilogy is exactly as well thought out as the Original Trilogy was. Vader wasn’t Luke’s father when A New Hope was written. Leia wasn’t Luke’s sister when Empire Strikes Back was written. Yes, Rian Johnson did things in his movie JJ Abrams didn’t expect which he then had to write around for Rise of Skywalker. That’s what happens when you have different directors play in the same sandbox. This happens in Marvel movies all the time. When it’s time for the crossovers, they have to come together and make sure they aren’t contradicting one another. It’s not a flaw, it’s just how storytelling by committee is done.
I came across a lovely little video on YouTube the other day that pointed to a magazine interview where JJ Abrams cleared this whole thing up.
“When I arrived on this new Star Wars trilogy, there was a general plan for the three films. I focused on TFA, as there was a deadline. I couldn’t project myself beyond this film while working on it. Rian Johnson saw what we were making, we had a meeting… He followed his inspiration, but he didn’t undo the things we were thinking about. I’m insisting on it. There was a general plan, but no fully written script for Episodes 7, 8 and 9.”
Oh, look at that. A plan. Who knew? It’s almost like Disney has some experience making movies or something.
Let’s move on.
“They ruined Luke! It’s character assassination!”
No, it wasn’t. I get that people want Luke to be this all-powerful Jedi who would never lose hope and never make the mistakes that he did in this movie, but that was never Luke. He only wanted to save Vader after he learned he was his Father, likely as a way of coping with that revelation in the first place. If Darth Vader his my father, there must be some good in him, right? Luke also complains and gives up plenty of times in the original trilogy, which is fine. It’s a character flaw he has to overcome to become the hero he’s meant to be. “Always with you it can not be done.” Yoda wasn’t just saying that for funsies, he was commenting on his actual behavior. So yeah, faced with the reality of Ben Solo, this is exactly how Luke would have reacted, especially when going into exile is just kind of what Jedi seem to do. It isn’t secret. It isn’t hidden. It’s all pretty well explained right there in the movies.
Well, almost all. I guess I can see how the movie showing different versions of “Luke tries to kill Ben” can be a little confusing. It shouldn’t be, but I can see how if you’re already in there hating what you’re seeing, you might miss what the movie very specifically and obviously tells you when you finally get to see the version of those events as they actually happened. The first time Luke is telling Rey half of the truth (Just like his old mentor Obi-Wan!) Ben was bad and he turned on Luke and burned down the temple. Then we see it from Ben’s perspective. Luke came in the room to murder him in his sleep for no good reason. Then we finally see what really happened. Luke had sensed Ben’s problems. So did his parents, that’s why they sent him to live with Luke in the first place. He went in there and sensed the surprising depths of Ben’s evil and for a split second of pure instinct he thought “Crap! This is beyond dangerous! He’s going to kill everything I ever loved! He must be destroyed!” But it was just that, a split second of fear. It went by faster than it took you to read this sentence. Then it was over, and Luke immediately regretted reacting that way. But he was afraid. Because that level of darkness is frightening, even for a Jedi.
“But Luke saved Vader! He never would have thought that about Ben!”
He says in the movie the evil in Ben was more than he could have imagined. So Luke, the guy who sensed the good in Darth Freaking Vader, came across evil that not even he could have imagined. That’s pretty darn scary. The context isn’t exactly hidden. If this guy is showing Luke a depth to the Dark Side that even scares Luke Skywalker, things have gone south in a big bad way.
Ben wakes up and sees Luke there, overreacts and goes full blown evil, kills the other students, burns down the temple, and basically becomes a giant intergalactic ass.
And from Luke’s perspective, it’s all his fault because he believed in the Jedi. He believed his own hype. He failed the people he loved most, and it broke him.
“Luke would never throw his lightsaber away.”
I’ll just leave this here…
THAT’S NOT FAIR! THAT’S COMPLETELY DIFFERENT CONTEXT!!!
Okay, sure. We can do that. Look at the scene in The Last Jedi. It tells you everything you need to know about where Luke is right now. He’s in the middle of freaking nowhere because he’s done with the Jedi and everything they stood for. He thinks the galaxy is better off without him and all things Jedi. But somewhere deep down he’s still Luke. Look at his face when he takes the saber from Rey. He thinks about what it means. He feels what it all means. Then he comes to his senses and tosses it away because after that brief bit of nostalgia, he remembers his purpose. The Jedi ruined everything. Being a Jedi cost him Ben Solo. He failed his sister and his best friend. He failed his nephew. That lightsaber is the physical representation of all of that.
You’re damn right he shows it no respect. Luke is lost, and this is the movie telling us that. Yes, it’s funny and played half for humor, but it’s more than just a cheap laugh. It’s in service of telling the story.
“Canto Bight is stupid.”
I completely agree. There’s some neat stuff in there, and I like the idea of showing Finn that there’s more nuance to the galaxy with the bad guys selling to the bad guys AND the good. But the way it’s all put together just doesn’t work. I don’t like the slapstick humor of the little alien dude stuffing BB8 with coins. I HATE the pointless stutter they gave DJ. This character is Jar Jar all over again. No, he’s never quite as annoying, but like Jar Jar, he’s a character that wouldn’t be much of a problem if they didn’t add some pointless and borderline offensive vocal tick to him. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be people who stutter in the Star Wars universe, but having Benicio del Toro pretend to stutter doesn’t work. It’s terrible and I hate it.
So yeah. Fathiers are creepy. The casino is dumb, and the movie would have been better if Canto Bight didn’t happen.
“Leia looks like Mary Poppins and it’s dumb”
I’m sure this sounded great on paper. I’m sure there was a way to shoot this that showed off how bad ass it was. Unfortunately we wound up with this. I like the idea of it enough to just get over how silly it looks, but there’s no denying that it does, in fact, look silly.
“Bombs falling in space? That doesn’t make any sense!”
Uhh, yes it does. This one isn’t even hard. The only explanation this scene needs is to be looked at with eyeballs. The bombs are in a ship. That ship has artificial gravity. The bombs are contained inside the ship with the artificial gravity. When the bombs are let go, they fall because of the artificial gravity. When they go beyond the point of where the artificial gravity has an effect on the bombs, the bombs aren’t going to start floating away. They’re going to continue with the force they already have behind them from the artificial gravity.
Once more for the people in the back. There’s artificial gravity on the ship. That’s what makes the bombs fall.
Artificial. Gravity. In the ship. The pilot falls because of artificial gravity. She almost loses the remote because of artificial gravity.
There’s artificial gravity. Where the bombs are.
Okay, I’m done.
“I could have gone the rest of my life without watching Luke drink that green milk.”
That isn’t an internet criticism, that’s me. I said that. And I maintain it. I get what they were trying to do, but they didn’t have to do it that way. I hate it.
“We never got to see a fully powered Luke kick ass!”
I hate this argument for the same reason I hate Yoda fighting in Attack of the Clones. I don’t need to see that. What we do see at the end is WAY more effective. Luke finding a non-violent way to inspire the Resistance, stall the First Order, piss off Kylo Ren, and look completely badass at the same time is pitch perfect. Luke sacrificing himself to save Leia and everything she believes in is amazing. Several things about this movie didn’t click with me the first time around, but this wasn’t one of them. I absolutely love this movie’s treatment of Luke, and I think it’s the best performance of Mark Hamill’s career.
“Why is fuel suddenly a thing?”
I’ve seen this one around a lot and, well, why wouldn’t fuel be a thing? I get that it hasn’t been explicitly brought up as something they need to worry about in the movies, but… did you think they didn’t need fuel to run? Was that guy plugging a big tube into an X-Wing in the background just using a really big vacuum? Of course the Star Wars universe uses fuel.
“ReY iS a MaRy SuE. ShE nEeDs MoRe TrAiNiNg!!! RRRRAAAAAAA”
I touched on this one already in my Force Awakens review. She isn’t, and that argument is stupid.
“Why can Yoda make lightning?”
I don’t know. Why are Force ghosts wearing clothes when they leave them behind when they die? Why did Obi-Wan need to move a branch out of the way as a ghost? Dude sat down on a log, didn’t he? Why would a ghost need to do that? Also, Force ghosts haven’t exactly been around very long. The only oneS to exist before Yoda in the movies and TV shows are Obi-Wan and Qui Gon. Force Ghosting itself is a pretty new move, and it stands to reason that maybe these characters are still learning to do new things with it. Not everything has to be stagnant after the Original Trilogy.
“Even Mark Hamill hates this movie”
No he doesn’t. I know there’s no way to convince people of this, but it’s not like he’s been secretive about his feelings. He said when he first read the script that he didn’t like the treatment of Luke. And that’s what the internet glommed onto. But he went on to say that after having seen the movie he thinks it’s great. Of course people think that’s just Disney telling him he has to say that, but come on. Stop it.
“Why didn’t Snoke get a backstory?”
Why would you want one? This guy is powerful and evil, then he dies. That’s all we need to know about him. I didn’t need Palpatine’s backstory because it wasn’t about him. He’s a big creepy villain, and his only purpose is to move Kylo Ren’s plot along. Also, we haven’t seen Rise of Skywalker yet. Maybe he does have a story. We don’t know.
“Why didn’t Holdo tell everyone the plan?”
I don’t know, and that’s a problem. The way it comes off in the movie is that Holdo is trying to teach Poe a lesson. It’s possible she doesn’t trust him. It’s possible she thinks there’s a mole and that’s how the First Order keeps tracking them through hyperspace. There’s any number of reasons Holdo wouldn’t tell Poe, or seemingly nearly anyone else her plan, but the movie doesn’t tell us that she even has one. When Poe is pissed at her for fueling the escape pods, the movie seems to want us to be pissed too, but it just doesn’t make any sense. She had a good plan, and now is not the time to be teaching Poe a lesson. It would have taken so little effort to have this bit make sense and it wouldn’t have had to sacrifice anything to get there. They just didn’t, and that’s a legit failure on this movie’s part.
“The Holdo maneuver breaks Star Wars”
This one confounded me for a bit. So we’re all on the same page, I’m talking about the scene where Holdo crashes her ship into the First Order ships at light speed.
When I first saw this scene, I was in awe. It’s beautiful, and incredibly clever and cool. Then people started asking questions like “well, if she can do this, why didn’t they just light speed ram something into the Death Star?” Which, well, that’s a pretty good question. I never thought of this move, but the more I thought about it, it doesn’t make sense for nobody to have used it before, or at least some version of it.
But it didn’t bother me, and I couldn’t figure out why. This should bug the crap out of me. Have you met me? I’m insane, and I hate it when things break Star Wars. It’s one of the things I hate most about the prequels. This was right up in my face, and it wasn’t bothering me. I actually thought it was cool.
So I did research. I watched videos and read articles on both sides of this argument, and I’m not going to get into all of that here because the conclusion I came to is far more simple. It doesn’t break anything because it was already broken. The Holdo maneuver existing changes nothing but the question itself. The answer is still the same.
Check it out. Imagine the world before The Last Jedi came out. You’re watching A New Hope and the Falcon comes out of hyperspace in the ruins of Alderaan. Wow, hyperspace is dangerous! It’s a good thing they didn’t land inside one of those pieces of the planet floating around, as Han said when he was explaining to Luke why he needed to make precise calculations to use hyperspace in the first place. Now it’s the Death Star battle and you suddenly think back to that scene and wonder “Why don’t they just launch ships into the Death Star at light speed?”
There is no canonical answer to that question to the best of my knowledge. The answer is the same as “Why do the lightsaber blades stop where they do instead of working like lasers and just shooting on forever?”
“I don’t know, but there’s probably a good reason.”
Yes, the lightsaber thing is explained in some article or book or something, but there are two things about that you have to take into consideration. One, that answer didn’t exist when they made the movies. Someone thought that up way after the fact. Two, that answer was never once explained in the movies or TV shows. That’s just the way lightsabers work. Suspend your disbelief.
Fast forward to a post-Last Jedi world. If Holdo can do that, why haven’t they been doing that in space battles for years? What’s the answer?
“I don’t know, but there’s probably a good reason.”
It’s literally the same answer. This has always been a bit of a hole in the Star Wars universe, but the answer isn’t any more or less important now that someone’s done it in the movie. The reason nobody has succeeded in pulling it off before is the same as it is now. We don’t know, but I’m sure there’s some reason. Go ahead, try to think of one. I bet you can think up at least three reasons why it would have worked for her in that moment but it would have been dangerous or downright impossible for anyone else in any of the other space battles we’ve seen.
That the movie didn’t make any sort of attempt to sort of cover the scene’s inevitable fallout is a fault. A simple line that at least clearly brings us back to “there’s probably a good reason” should have been attempted. Same for Holdo not telling anyone the plan, or that there was a plan. The movie shouldn’t be making us fill in blanks that are this important. Leaving stuff up to the audience to figure out is one thing, but this goes a little bit too far.
The bottom line is this, though. The Holdo maneuver only breaks Star Wars if you want it to. And that’s where I think the line is to this point. By and large (not 100%, mind you), the vast majority of the vocal critics want this to break Star Wars. They want to be able to point to a thing and say “that’s objectively terrible and the whole movie is trash.” But it doesn’t work that way. Indy in the fridge was dumb, but that’s not why Crystal Skull wasn’t good. (For the record, I like that movie too, but let’s not get into that here).
I don’t think it’s a stretch when I assume that a large portion of the overly toxic Last Jedi-hating crowd are people who have a problem with women, as evident by the language that usually accompanies their complaints. Intolerant jackasses who love to call people “soy boy” hold tight to the flaws that don’t have anything to do with Holdo and Rose being women, so they can then say “I’m not sexist, it’s just bad! There’s the proof!” But that’s the thing, it isn’t “just bad” This movie isn’t “just” anything. The criticisms, good and bad, are complicated.
The Last Jedi is the hardest Star Wars movie out there to take for what it is because hating Star Wars has become the cool thing to do. Making long-winded videos on YouTube about how Disney ruined Star Wars is a legitimate way to make money. The internet loves cynicism. It sells. But it’s way more complicated than that. And that’s one of the things I love most about this movie. It’s not just fun to watch, it’s fun to talk about.
Also, Poe didn’t make a “your mom” joke. A “your mom” joke is “Your mom’s so fat when she sits around the house, she sits around the house!” Poe made a joke at Hux’s expense that happened to involve Leia having a message for Hux about his mother. Star Wars isn’t making “your mom” jokes. Stop it. And while we’re here, I’ll take this movie’s humor over The Phantom Menace’s poop and fart jokes any day of the week and twice on Sundays. You know, the poop and fart jokes George Lucas himself put in the movie?
Also, calling him General Hugs is hilarious.
Oaky, let’s get to the good stuff proper. I love Poe Dameron. He’s wonderful, and I love the whole thing with Leia trying to teach him to be a leader. Being a hotshot pilot is great, but having a hotshot pilot also be an effective leader is exactly what the Resistance needs. Poe Dameron is great.
Finn is still great too. I wish he had more to do in this movie, but I love where he starts and ends. At the beginning he’s still all about saving Rey. By the end he’s 100% resistance. Rose’s protecting what we love line is corny, and her kissing him at the end came out of left field and I don’t buy them on a romantic level for a second, but Finn’s development is great.
I love Captain Phasma and I REALLY HOPE SHE’S STILL ALIVE SOMEHOW! Seriously, the fight scene with Finn is great. I don’t mind him beating her because of a lucky shot. She still got way better than Boba Fett did. But man, her blaster-proof armor. Her imposing stature when fighting Finn. Her speed. Her power. She’s so freaking cool! And I didn’t see a body. I saw her fall into flames, but that armor was blaster proof. If she comes back all scarred and stuff, man, that would be super cool. There’s a great deleted scene with her too. Look it up.
I love everything about Luke in this movie. I love the direction his character took, I love him explaining the hubris of the Jedi, I love his sacrifice, I love him teaching Rey, all of it. I couldn’t possibly have been happier with Luke’s portrayal, and in the end, he chose to let the universe believe he was the legend they needed him to be. It’s wonderful.
I love Rey and Kylo Ren. (No, I’m NOT a Reylo shipper) I love that he kills Snoke, and I love that he gets away with it because he’s able to manipulate what Snoke is sensing. It’s perfect. And I love the throne room fight. I know the internet loves pointing out the flaws in the scene, but I don’t care about weird background stuff when what I’m actually focusing on is so cool. And that Rey basically “pulls a Luke” thinking she can go save Kylo Ren from the dark side and being so very wrong about it (which I thought she wasn’t allowed to be, right internet? She’s all powerful and never wrong! What happened?) Daisy Ridley is a joy to watch, and Adam Driver is freaking fascinating. Their mind link stuff is super interesting. The way they’re basically forced to talk to one another against their will, leading Rey to understand Kylo Ren more, is genius. Man, I love this movie.
I like Rose. I wish I liked her storyline more. But as a character, she’s fine. Her theme music is nice.
Oh, and the salt planet! Oh, what a great visual! Those speeders kicking up the red sand underneath the salt, so cool. And how about Chewbacca flying the Falcon through the caverns? I feel like that scene doesn’t get nearly the respect it deserves, probably because it’s surrounded by so much other awesome stuff, but we get to see what Chewy is made of as a pilot, and it’s really darn impressive, especially considering he isn’t a force user. Everything in Crait is stunning. Well, the crystal foxes look like CG, but they’re still cool enough that I don’t care.
Killing Admiral Ackbar off screen was a mistake though. Joking aside, that was just plain bad.
I also like Porgs. They look delicious.
But the best, the absolute best for me is Yoda. Yoda being a puppet again instead of CG was great. I missed him so much. But the dialogue in this scene moves me to tears. Yoda basically telling Luke to snap out of it is one thing, but the words about failure make me well up every single time. That Luke needs to pass on what he has learned doesn’t just apply to the Jedi Order’s methods, but its failures as well. As a parent in particular, this really hits me in the feels. We are what they grow beyond. Absolutely beautiful, and one of my favorite scenes not just in this movie, but in any movie I’ve ever seen. I love it with all my heart.
So I’m going to call it there. I love this movie, and I love talking about it. I can not wait to see where Rise of Skywalker takes us, and where it leaves things off. My hype levels are through the roof, and I hope against hope that it doesn’t let me down. I trust JJ Abrams to deliver something that will live up to my expectations, and what’s so exciting is how nonspecific said expectations are. I have literally no idea what this movie is actually going to be about. I love so much of what these new movies and shows have brought to the Star Wars canon. The galaxy far, far away has never felt so full and alive to me, and I’m looking forward to sharing it with my kids for decades to come.
Thanks for coming on this ride with me. That was a lot of Star Wars in a relatively short period of time, and I hope you’ve had as much fun reading my thoughts on these movies as I’ve had writing them all down. May the Force be with you all, and I’ll be back with one more article about my thoughts on Rise of Skywalker… as soon as I can catch my breath.