Movies

‘The Last Jedi’: The Good and the Bad

Star Wars: The Last Jedi has been one hotly-contested film since its release. After garnering a 91 percent certified fresh rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, the audience review only rose to a staggering 51 percent. This makes it the biggest gap between critic reviews and audience reviews in the franchise’s history. I consider myself a relatively big Star Wars fan. I wouldn’t have Han Solo and Princess Leia figurines sitting atop my wedding cake, but I would dress up as Rey on the film’s release day. Coming out of The Last Jedi, I had mixed feelings about the film in its entirety. Here are some of the best and worst aspects, in my opinion. (Warning! This goes without saying, but many spoilers ahead, for those of you who haven’t seen it.)

The Bad:

CANTO BIGHT: 

Do you remember watching the prequels? When Obi-Wan started investigating in that club on Coruscant, and you silently prayed for the sweet, merciful relief of death as opposed to watching the rest of that film? This was as if Rian Johnson said, yes! That’s what’s missing! Now, don’t get me wrong, I am a proponent for any scenario in which Finn is able to have some outer space escapades of his own, so long as they end up tying in with the overall story arch by the end of the film. The Canto Bight sequence, however, seems to be a big pile of fluff. Rose, a character we’ve known for a good ten minutes, is able to put her fist through that “beautiful, lousy town.” Cool. So… can we get back to what’s happening with the Resistance? And yes, I know, the reason they went there in the first place was to find the master codebreaker and turn off the tracker and blah blah blah. I know. Once we arrive, the focus seems to shift. It becomes more about Rose fulfilling a lifelong dream than anything else, and without a character in tow to point out the sheer ridiculousness of their situation, the scenes do more harm than good to the film overall.

FINN & ROSE (RINN? FOSE? STORMPIPECLEANER?):

The majority of the internet is rooting for stormpilot. The Force Awakens set up a romance blossoming between Rey and Finn. You know what this movie needs? Another romantic interest for Finn. You have to hand it to John Boyega — he’s made the character of Finn so dangerously likable, I wouldn’t be surprised if they struck up a love triangle between him, Rose and Chewy at this point. In all seriousness — why? They have known each other for SO little time, and NONE of it has been them connecting on a personal level. They’ve been adventuring, but not falling in love. Why isn’t a friendship enough in this case? This not only makes Rose one big character foil but adds to the ever-growing list of plot points for JJ Abrams to take care of in the next episode. With all the questions up in the air, I worry that the final installment will be more watered down than the sprite I brought with me into the theater.

FINN (IN GENERAL): 

Listen, I love Finn. After I saw The Force Awakens, he was immediately my favorite character. A stormtrooper gone rogue, Rey’s guardian angel, a man with a heart about three sizes too big for his body. This is why I was so disappointed with how he was handled in The Last Jedi. Finn is experiencing the rebellion through fresh eyes, allowing some genuine laugh out loud moments in The Force Awakens. (“Stay calm. Stay calm.” “I am calm.” “I was talking to myself.”) In The Last Jedi, his personality is put on the back burner. Finn is simply a body, a convenience for a certain storyline to take place. Some lines are so uncharacteristic of him they actually took me out of the movie, like when he’s fighting Phasma and refers to her as “chromedome.” What?

ROSE (IN GENERAL): 

What a miss. When we’re first introduced to Rose, things are looking good. Her initial interaction with Finn has a few laughs, and she’s sweet enough to have audiences rooting for her within the first few minutes of her screen time. How did it go SO wrong from there? Rose is essentially if a Disney Princess tagged along on a Resistance mission. Full to the brim with heart, there’s little personality to back that up. Also a shame, she delivers one of the cringe-inducing lines in the film: “That’s how we’ll win. Not fighting what we hate. Saving what we love.”

THE ENDING: 

Disney really left its mark here. A bunch of kids in Newsies outfits gathered around, telling stories about the legend: Luke Skywalker. This is promptly broken up by their owner (seemingly), who yells at them to get back to work. One kid, who I am going to be referring to as Mary Poppins Chimney Sweep Extra #2, walks outside. He reaches for a broom, which is brought to his hands by the force. Looking up into the night nobly, a shooting star crosses the sky as the music swells. Barf. There are so many unanswered questions, and you’re telling me not one of those is good enough to frame the next episode? We know the force will be passed on — that’s implied with Rey’s entire character. If forced emotion is the way Rian Johnson wanted to go, we could’ve ended on Finn, Rey and Poe all having a big slumber party while Leia tucks them in and hands them each a teddy bear.

The Good:

LUKE: 

Saying goodbye to the protagonist of one of the world’s most beloved film franchises is no easy feat, and Rian Johnson managed to pull it off. Unlike the sudden and tragic demise of Han Solo in The Force Awakens, Luke is sent off with what Rey perfectly surmises as “peace and purpose.” The same hero who we watched eagerly join the rebellion all those years ago becomes the man who enables it to be reborn in it’s most desperate hour. Most importantly, he doesn’t lose his character, which seemed to be a big issue in this film amongst other heroes from the new trilogy. We watch him reunite with R2, share a touching moment with Leia, and even get schooled by his old master, Yoda. In terms of film sendoffs, this is how you do it!

REY & KYLO (REYLO): 

Let me admit forthright: I ship Reylo. Attack me at will, SJW’s, but I think that they have the potential to be the epic romance Star Wars has been craving throughout ALL its films. (I ship stormpilot, which is Finn/Poe too. I just love bearing crosses.) However, ship them or not, their scenes are the best in The Last Jedi. This was smart on the part of Johnson, because although it was Luke’s turn to say goodbye, it’s important to the legacy of these films that the emphasis be placed on the new crop of characters that we’ve gotten to know and love. What surprises both the audience and the characters is just how much Rey and Kylo identify with each other. On paper, they’re polar opposites. Rey is the new hero to the resistance, the stem of a new line of Jedi and the Resistance’s most important asset in the future demolition of the First Order. Kylo is Darth Vader’s heir apparent, the new leader to the First Order and a man willing to murder his father in order to prove his allegiance to the dark side of the force. Now, strip all of that away. At their core, what you’re left with is two characters crippled by intense loneliness. Rey has nowhere to turn in regard to the awakening of the force inside her, while Kylo has nowhere to turn in general. He is being trained as a robot, rather than a person, and we see his machinery falter with Rey. In their final scene together, we see them being connected by the force for the last time. Rey recognizes this, and without a word, shuts the door to the Falcon. Kylo sinks, looking (dare I say) crestfallen. He had his chance to join her. I’m sure this isn’t the last we’ll see of these two together, and I’ll be waiting for more until then.

KYLO (IN GENERAL): 

More than anything, The Last Jedi has cemented Kylo Ren/Ben Solo as the most interesting character in Star Wars history. He possesses a level of depth and unpredictability we haven’t seen in a Star Wars film before, and it makes for a unique brand of villain. As an audience member, you feel as if you yourself are constantly switching sides, rooting for and against him. You sympathize with his corruption and are repulsed by his gravitation to violence and anger. Some of the credit here goes to Adam Driver himself, as the acting had to be pitch-perfect to pull off such a simultaneously aloof yet raw and vulnerable character. Which side of the force Kylo will end up on by the end of the final installment remains a mystery; one good enough to bring fans flocking back to the theater, whether they be hardcore or casual.

In summation, I liked The Last Jedi. It felt as if I watched two different films, but the parts I loved, I really loved. I’ve gone to see The Last Jedi more times in theaters than I did The Force Awakens, and I plan to go again. This is a testament to how much more connected you feel to the characters by the end of the film and how effortlessly it slides in with the franchise overall. Most importantly, I’ve fallen so deeply in love with the characters and the world they’ve reintroduced us to that the idea of the next installment being the final one makes my heart break. I’ll still be first in line at the theater, though. Giddily shifting on my feet. Dressed as Rey.

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