JReviews: Star Wars Episode VIII- The Last Jedi

So, I've just got back from seeing the new Star Wars film, which can only mean one thing. Review time.

I'll try to do this as spoiler free as I possibly can, but just a warning for any minor spoilers that may occur.

The Last Jedi is a great improvement on The Force Awakens. Where its predecessor played it safe and aped the originals to a T, The Last Jedi stands on its own two feet, being bold and taking risks, whilst still touching back on the original films with both small references and broader themes. One of my main fears for the film was that it was going to be a carbon copy of Empire Strikes Back (as Force Awakens was of New Hope), but whilst there are allusions to the Battle Of Hoth during one sequence and the escape from Hoth in another (alongside a mash-up of the asteroid run and the second Death Star attack during the former scene) it is nowhere near as obvious or intrusive as with Awakens. In fact, the main Empire comparrison that can be made is in the darkness of the story when compared to what came before and how much the storytelling and the characters have matured between the two movies.

Anyway, as I've made mention of the characters already, there are three that deserve mention, the first being Rey. I did not care for her in Awakens, her character was bland and felt more like a series of plot devices rather than a character I should care for. However, in Last Jedi, she is much improved. Not perfect yet, her personal motivations are still very impersonal (in that she seems to have no stakes in what happens other than she is the main character of the film and therefore has to. And this film also takes away her seeming primary motivation, being the knowledge of who her family is, though it is brilliantly handled) and Daisy Ridley still doesn't seem to have got her performance quite right, but there were flashes of brilliance in this film, especially in a few of her scenes with Luke Skywalker and Kylo Ren. And speaking of those two, they are the other two characters I want to talk about. We'll deal with Luke next, as he is the person most people are likely to be interested in. It has been reported that Mark Hamill clashed with the writers and director over Luke's characterisation in this film and, if I'm being honest, it is not hard to see why. This is not the Luke Skywalker we knew. This Luke is jaded by his failures and his past mistakes. He has, for all intents and purposes, given up. We already know the answer as to why, but as the movie goes on you question your preconceptions on what caused Luke to lose his faith, not only in himself, but in the Jedi as a whole. And once you know the whole story and see how Luke's arc plays out in the film, you understand why they wrote him the way that they did, whether you agree with it or not (for the record, I agree with it). Now, Kylo Ren. His character arc is my favourite of the film. In the last film, he felt out of his depth, both by design as part of his character arc and by weight of expectation (after all, he had to live up to not only being the new villain to follow Vader and Palpatine, but also live up to what had been done in the Expanded Universe and justify its dismissal, which for that film he didn't). In this film his character feels so much stronger and more secure by really expanding on his insecurities. His motivations are expanded upon and it gives every action he has undertaken in both films deeper meaning, from betraying his family in the lead up to Awakens to his actions in the superb final third of this film. This is more Kylo Ren's film than any other character, it's all about what he will do or what he won't do, more than Rey and more than Luke.

I must also make mention, as we are talking about the films postives, that the usual praise must be heaped upon the technical side of proceedings. The cinematography, effects, set-design and costuming are all top-notch, the best example probably being the casino scene that shows of the oppulant wealth of the richest beings in the Star Wars galaxy. Imagine the Mos Eisley cantina if it were based in Monte Carlo rather than Tattoine and you get the idea. And of course there isn't much I need to say about the John Williams score, because it is a John Williams score. There aren't as many sure-fire classic pieces amongst the numerous works on display throughout this film, but there doesn't really need to when this film sees the return of Luke's Theme from Return Of The Jedi and Luke & Leia's theme from the same film, alongside the excellent cuts from the previous film (Kylo Ren's Suite in particular), that make the score still stand amongst the rest of the Star Wars cannon with pride.

However, as much as I have given praise to this film, I must also administer critisism. My biggest critisism is over Supreme Leader Snoke's backstory, or abscence there-of. Unless they are planning further explaination of and exploration into the character of this enimga of a leader, then I cannot but see this as a waste opportunity to give us a truely great character. Where we could have had another Palpatine (a phenominal villain whose motivations and actions where given room to florish and grow, to be built upon with each appearance) we instead appear to have another Darth Maul (an admittedly cool character who wasn't explored to his fullest potential in the films).

My next problem is with Finn's subplot for the film. Finn was my favourite character from the last film and still remains my favourite from the new trilogy, and I have already praised the casino on Canto Blight for its aesthetics, but Finn's expedition to Canto Blight felt like an unnessescary distraction from the main thrust of the film, as pretty as it was. The scenes felt like they dragged you away from where all of the real action was going on, where the film you wanted to see was happening. And Benicio Del Toro's character DJ, who is a fairly major part of this sub-plot, is a disappointment. The character felt done already, the type of archetype you've seen done in a much more interesting way a dozen times before and the job he is brought in to do is hyped up to be almost impossible, but ends up looking less complex than R2 opening the doors on Cloud City.

And there lies my final problem with this film. Too many characters that you just don't get a reason to care about. In Empire, they brought in Lando Calrissian, who was given enough build and enough personality for fans to invest in him. They also brought in Boba Fett, who fans invested in purely because of how he came across (as the baddest guy in the room when that room also contained Darth Vader). This film introduced Rose Tico, a Resistance maintenance worker with a dead sister who can apparently disable First Order equipment because reasons, Vice Admiral Holdo, who is basically a clone of this films Princess Leia when this film already has a Princess Leia (though she does get the best jump to light-speed scene in any Star Wars film) and the aforementioned DJ, who I've already talked about. Add on the once again criminally underused Captain Phasma, the first proper appearance of Supreme Leader Snoke and what little they actually do with him, plus the fact that you have increased roles for Poe Dameron and General Hux (whose actor, Domhnall Gleeson, gets an honourable mention for dishonour for how slimey and nasty his performance is) and you have too many characters with things going on that we're apparently meant to care about that it is impossible to really care about t such an extent that when an important character moment happens you're more interested in what one of the characters they've actually built up already is doing. None of the characters are bad, per-se, but there could have been a better balancing for the characters between this film and the previous film, where some of the characters introduced in the last film got moments to shine in that film so as those introduced in this film didn't have to war for the spotlight.

So, in conclusion. Not the best Star Wars film, but it stands above it's predecessor and all of the prequels as the best "Star Wars Trilogy Movie" since the originals. It builds on the groundworks nicely, has some excellent scenes and improves a lot on characters that were lacking previously, but has problems with other supporting characters and a distracting subplot that interupts the pace of the main story, taking time away from expanding on certain characters. However, all in all, the problems aren't major enough to really detract from the enjoyment of the film and, as I have said already, it comfortably outstrips all other Star Wars films released since the 1980's, with the possible exception of Rouge One (and that is purely down to taste).

Final Grade: B+

So, what did you guys think of the film? Did you like it or did you hate it? Let us know in the comments below.  Also, if you are going to discuss particular parts of the film in the comments please put SPOILERS at the start of your post so as to warn anyone who has yet to see the film, thank you.

May the force be with you.

JR19759

About JR19759

Email: jr19759@hotmail.co.uk Twitter: @jr19759 Deviantart: JR19759 Deviantart HM Group: Heromachine-Art

7 Responses to JReviews: Star Wars Episode VIII- The Last Jedi

  1. How to say it?

    On average, a good movie, live 6-7 out of 10, but with dreadful moments that drop to 0-2, and, worse, break the suspension of disbelief.

    I don’t like or agree with what they did to Luke. Age of not, this isn’t the man who saw good in vador and felt compassion for him, far from it. If you keep this in mind, the scene with Ben Solo makes little sense. I can still force myself to get behind it (they need to put old actors aside to make way for the new), but his very last scene is dumbfounding.

    The Monte Carlo bit is boring and a useless sidequest because they didn’t knew what to do with Finn and were afraid of doing too much dialog anc character exposition. It’s not a great flaw, but a waste.

    The best scene. The worst scene. To quote you “the best jump to light-speed scene in any Star Wars film”
    It was magnificent and breathtaking.
    Yet, it breaks the universe, more than any force-shennanigan. To put this clear, this is “Your prowess in the force comes from the midichlorians in your blood” levels of breaking, if not more so.
    This is so evident, you needed beforehand to find reasons for this not to work. And yet, it does, perfectly. Which means that Ep 4, 5 and 7 fall apart, since you’re now asking “why didn’t they do this, even if just with a few x-wings?”.
    Even if you tie yourself in knots by saying that people were stupid enough not to even try it, going forward, this becomes a known tactic, and should entirely change the look and feel of things. Wanna bet it doesn’t, and we never see such a thing again?

    Oh, and that bit near the start when explosions, seen from space, are the size of an european country (a little smaller than the ones in T3: Judgment day, for comparison), whereas, from the ground, they are just building-sized.
    It screams of “We can’t eradicate everyone on the ground with explosions more massive than any nuclear weapon, but need to show something impressive from space in order to look cool”.
    Screw you. Either one would have been good, but this middle ground is just so stupid.

    There are other such bits, but, IMO, there are the worst.

    I didn’t hate it, but I prefer a “5/10” consistent movie I can get into than a 6 or even 7/10 I regularly get out of screaming. Personnal taste.

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  2. SPOILERS

    @Arioch- The best explaination I’ve seen for the difference between Luke/ Vader and Luke/ Ben Solo is that Luke came in to Vader’s life after his fall and only tried to help him after he found out that he was his father. Whereas if you compare that to his relationship with Ben Solo, Luke was there from the beginning, we don’t know how many times he’d tried to talk Ben out of going to the dark side. On the one hand you have someone he barely knows, who he has taken upon himself to redeem as part of a broader conflict to free the galaxy from tyrany. On the other, you have a child, his nephew, who he trained and watched fall to the dark side and threaten to bring that tyranny back, despite his best efforts. Ben Solo is Luke’s biggest and most personal failure and, as we see in the middle part of the film, Luke was unwise as to the virtues of failure. It’s not that he couldn’t handle Ben failing to the dark side, he couldn’t handle failure. It isn’t a perfect explaination and, as I said, I can see the problems people will have with Luke in this film, but it’s not one of the things that I’ll lose any sleep over from this film.
    As for the “Jump to Lightspeed” well, we’ll see how many Corilian Cruisers they have left to do it with. Looking at it, they wasted the biggest ship in their fleet to destroy the Star Destroyer that held the Supreme Leader of the First Order and only managed to break off a side. It was still in service for long enough to launch a ground assault on their nearest base. And there we’re talking about the equivelent of two ocean freighters ramming into each other. To them an X-Wing is a car, and what happens when you ram a car into a ship? What about if you try ramming a ship into a small moon, like a Death Star, or a planet like Star Killer Base? You’re gonna make a dent sure, but unless your aim with ships in lightspeed is good enough to hit vital systems, you are only being an inconveniance to those things. Crashing a Star Destroyer into the second Death Star wasn’t enough to take it out of the sky in Return Of The Jedi and, yes true, that Star Destroyer wasn’t going at lightspeed, but the station was a) structurally incomplete and b) having a massive reactor meltdown at the time. As a last resort tactic, it worked fine (and as a cinematic specticle, it worked even better), but as a viable battle tactic… the Resistance is going to run out of lightspeed capable ships that can do any damage, long before the First Order run out of things to throw them at.
    As for the beginning bit, didn’t notice at the time but now that I think back on it yeah, that is stupid.

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  3. Spoilers!
    I enjoyed it over all, 7-8/10. Felt meh on the first half and then great on the second half. Lots of cool moments in the last act, namely the aforementioned lightspeed scene, two specific lightsaber duels, and the payoff on the whole theme of failure and learning from it. One of those duels also contained one of the coolest lightsaber moments ever IMO with a saber being turned on into someone’s head. Per the lightspeed breaking point, I’ve heard arguments that in the EU, which I know is know is now officially non-canon, that ships normally have a limiter/sensor to prevent this sort of thing. The argument being that the FO turned their’s off so they could jump at a moments notice. It’s not a great explanation, but it is enough for me to allow it, as it is probably my favorite moment in the movie. I’m also usually a proponent for rule of cool.

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  4. Ok, I’ve been thinking about this film because something has been bugging me and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it until now and I may have to down grade my rating from B+ to just a B. I’m not going to put this as an edit in the main review because it does involve spoilers, so I’m just going to put it here with a spoiler tag. If you don’t want to be spoiled, read no further.

    SPOILERS

    Finn’s entire subplot was, if you think about it, completely pointless. Now, from a story perspective this subplot is mainly there to give the new character of Rose some character building and to introduce a new character, whilst also adding some tension to Poe’s power struggle subplot against Admiral Holdo. Both Poe and Holdo’s escape plans fail because of the fact that Finn’s crew are carrying out this plan, they get found out really quickly once on the flagship, hence scuppering Poe’s plan, and that leads to Holdo’s plan being ruined because information on it has been overheard by DJ, who proves to be untrustworthy.
    However, did Poe really need to send Finn and Rose to Canto Blight to find a codebreaker? Well, as is made obvious by the film, no he didn’t. Holdo’s plan was sound. They were already heading towards Crait and it’s proven that, without the information gleened from Finn’s failed mission, The First Order would not have known about the escape-craft. Sure they probably would have had some information on Crait and ended up searching the planet, but the Resistance would have had much more in the way of forces and would have already been able to have met up with Rey safely (probably even have a number of the higher ranking members escape on the Falcon to get help before the First Order realised what had happened). So, it’s Poe’s fault that this falls apart right?
    Is it? Who actually knew Holdo’s plan? By all indications it was Holdo and Leia and that’s it. I’m not being stupid here am I? Maybe the Captains of the other ships that end up being destroyed when they ran out of fuel, but there’s no actual evidence of that. A good number of the crew sided with Poe, so it wasn’t that she’d only kept Poe out of the loop for being a dangerous idiot. Yeah, ok a General doesn’t tell every soldier detailed battle strategies, but at least every soldier is given orders and knows there’s a plan. The only indication Holdo gives to anyone that there is some sort of master plan is the speech about hope she gives early on. Even when Poe actually finds out that the escape-craft where the plan all along, she denigns to tell him that it isn’t as stupid of a plan as he thinks it is. She handles the situation very poorly throughout. She knows Poe is an impulsive hot-head, but she must also know that he’s popular. And there’s always the fact that someone who says they have a plan is going to be more appealing in a time of crisis than someone who says (in effect) not to do anything. I mean, compare this to Leia at any point during the original tiology. Death Star coming to kill us? Everyone knows to grab a fighter and blow up that exhuast port. The Empire sending AT-AT’s to kill us? Grab a snowspeeder and distract them whilst we evactuate. Whereas, Holdo in this film is the equivelent of “Running out of fuel with a Star Destroyer chasing us? Sit on your hands and twiddle your thumbs whilst I don’t tell you my actually pretty good plan because reasons.”
    So why did she not tell her troops that there was a plan, let alone what the plan was? There isn’t any reason I can think of other than it was a plot conveniant way to have Poe undergo some character development and to give Finn something to do in this movie. Either that or they were trying to write Holdo as a character with a galaxy sized martyr complex. It’s just sloppy and once you realise that the whole thing is contrived, it makes the already disposable Finn subplot an even bigger problem this film has.

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  5. @JR
    Sadly, all tentatives of explanation I’ve seen fall appart when you examine them just in light of what happens in the movie-s. And even taking these into accounts, why not try this everytime your ship is gonna go down? But I’m tired of this 😉
    It was a very cool moment, but, to me, this is a JK Rowling moment: Introducing a cool Deus Ex Machina to solve a situation you’ve cornered yourself into, without regard for how universe-breaking it is.

    The whole finn/rose plot was because they needed to do something with Finn, and wanted some kind of “action”, which is sad. Finn was much more interesting in Ep 7. Now he becomes #random rebel ####.
    They could have used that time to develop his character, play him with and against others (including rose), but they didn’t chose that, instead going for more action and spectacle. Maybe rightly: I’m not sure people would have liked to see, for exemple, scenes with finn being set apart due to his imperial background, being split between Poe and Holdo, or trying to convince people that #notallstormtroopers.

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  6. SPOILERS
    @JR
    I actually like that the finn Rose plot doesn’t go anywhere to a point, it ties into the theme of failure that the whole movie has. It also gave Finn a reason to support the resistance. It was at the “beautiful dirty town”, Finn saw the true injustice of the First Order and gained motivation to fight. Throughout the entire movie, he was trying to run to save his and Rey’s life, not thinking about the bigger picture. But his little adventure made him realize that giving oneself to something bigger has merit. This is seen in his decision to kamikaze himself into the battering ram cannon. Don’t get me wrong, the sequence in the movie dragged a little, but it held thematic purpose.
    I also do believe both Holdo and Poe should’ve communicated better. I’ve heard arguments of the resistance not knowing how they were being tracked, maybe they had a mole. This would explain Holdo not telling the crew. She could’ve told Poe, but that’s not the movie we got.

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  7. SPOILERS

    My over all opinion of this film is that it’s definitely better than force awakens, but still comes second last in my ranking (I do like the prequels, even JarJar, but then I am a millennial). I feel like nothing really happened, the rebels just left one planet and
    Landed on another with a brief pointless excursion to a casino. Snoke was handeled terribly, we still have no idea who or what he is, and his disturbing lack of face. Also I have been put of off Porgs. They looked super cute, but when I found out they were birds they lost all cuteness. And don’t get me started on Phasma.

    The Luke Rey arc was the best and most engaging part and the only part I felt acutually progressed the storyline and was relevant. Plus PUPPET YODA! How has no one mentioned puppet yoda, the best part of the whole film IMO.

    There were some really great parts though. The beginning with the bombers and the struggle with the final one was done well. I liked the casino scenes even if they were pointless. I still feel BB-8 is just a budget Artoo, and we don’t see him having enough shenanigans. And Leia using the force was a great twist.

    I just can’t shake the feeling that this is just really high budget fan fiction. Which in essscence it is. I know George Lucas hated working on StarWars (and so did Harrison Ford) but I feel Disney is just doing it for the money more than the story. (I mean they’re making a Han solo film and an Obi Wan film, just hope they’re good). Plus the fact that there is so much canon and novels (even those without, the main cast) that they could have used but instead discarded and told us were no longer canon.

    Anyway, I enjoyed it and if I had to say one thing it would be: PUPPET YODA!!!

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