Today is August 5, 2017, and it has been three days since I saw the latest entry into the Star Wars franchise. After initial acclaim by critics and the audience, the Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score dropped to 56%. I was kind of disappointed by Episode 8 too, but I wouldn’t say it is not enjoyable and think it is actually a good movie and really worth watching. And here is why:
Disclaimer: This is not a review in the sense that I will give a comprehensive and objective opinion, but rather what I felt about particular decisions by the filmmakers, written in a stream of consciousness style. There will be SPOILERS. I also apologize for my English, it needs improvement and I always like to hear how I can improve my writing.
After the obligatory title scroll, the movie opens with a fleet of destroyers that tries to destroy a rebel outpost and prevent the evacuation of the rebels. The First Order is interrupted by the pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), who distracts them by prank calling General Hux (Domnhall Gleeson). I am not kidding. The first scene of Star Wars: The Last Jedi includes a prank call to one of the biggest antagonists of the movie. And this is one of the jokes that actually sort of work. While The Force Awakens was filled with a bunch of good jokes the Last Jedi tries to be as funny as its predecessor but never reaches the same level of hilariousness. That is not to say that the movie is entirely unfunny, but many more of its jokes miss. Before the movie came out the Porgs, a species that looks like cuter penguins, got a lot of attention and from the moment I first saw them I feared that they would be similar to JarJar Binks, one of the things to ever come out of StarWars. And I was almost right. They are never as obnoxious as the Gungan, but they come awfully close. Most of the “humor” derived from the Porgs is slapstick that loses its edge after the first two times. But there are really funny moments and glimpses into what could have been without Porgs, most of them due to the clever use of BB-8 as an inventive problem solver with incredible resourcefulness.
The villains are one of the best and worst things about The Last Jedi. On the one hand is Kylo Ren, played by the incredible Adam Driver. He is without a doubt the standout character of the film and is be the best blockbuster antagonist in a very long time. Never have the villain’s arguments to join him sounded quite so compelling. Furthermore, it is interesting that Kylo’s views are very similar to Luke’s in that both of them want to erase the boundaries between the force users. Although the movie doesn’t go all the way, it is very clear that the distinction between the light and dark side get blurred until they are barely distinguishable. An example for that is Luke (Mark Hamill) trying to kill his nephew because he is afraid of him, which is definitely not the path a Jedi would take. But for Kylo Ren to be as good as he is there have to be sacrifices made. General Hux and Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) are caricatures to a point where it is actually ridiculous to see them interact with fleshed out characters like Kylo or Rey. In an equally comical moment, Snoke is killed off and dies a sudden and pathetic death he narrated himself. While many hate this because they fell too far down the rabbit hole of fan theories, this is a brilliant move. It highlights a break between all the other movies and The Last Jedi and tells the audience that the movie just does not give a fuck about the fans and won’t let fanservice get in the way of the artists. Kudos to Rian Johnson for having the guts to tell the biggest fanbase in the world to suck it!
But before I sound too much like a fanboy, let’s get into the weakest part of the film: Finn (John Boyega) and Rose (Kelly Marie Tran). This side plot takes up a big chunk of the running time and does nothing to advance the story. The only reason to endure these scenes is that BB-8 is a great comic relief and interacts fairly well with DJ (Benicio Del Toro). There is a lot of stuff to make you think that Episode 8 is criticising capitalism (especially ironic in a Disney film) and animal cruelty, but it is in no way subtle and the criticism is shallow and does not go deeper than “look at those animals and children suffering while the rich party”. It even takes a weird turn when DJ reveals that the resistance is benefitting from capitalist opportunism and after that the topic is never touched again. It just feels like they forced this into a movie that is mostly about two young adults figuring out their place in the universe (Rey even says this about herself) and learning to distinguish between right and wrong. But back to Finn and Rose. They are both fine characters but I kind of expected more from Finn’s character arc. Don’t get me wrong, I really like him and Rose getting together at the end, but the way they get there is what I don’t like. Their entire mission is pointless, not only because the bad guys catch them, but because there is already an escape plan put in place by the leadership of the resistance. Their story exists in a weird void, unimportant to every other character.
Now is the best time to talk about something I hate in many films: lack of communication. It just frustrates me when so much trouble could’ve been avoided and the protagonists don’t tell each other important things FOR NO GOOD REASON. If it makes sense because of the characters within the story this is not a problem, but in The Last Jedi it does not. Vice Admiral Holdo has no reason whatsoever to not tell Poe her plans. There is this nonsensical explanation that she does not tell him because he is a daredevil and gets people killed, but this doesn’t hold up since it should be obvious to everyone that not telling him will lead to him taking action. This is especially true because Holdo lets Poe think that she doesn’t have a plan other than hoping something will happen. That leads to me sympathizing with Poe and disliking Holdo and only after her sacrifice I somewhat liked her.
Talking about that sacrifice: That looked amazing, right?! I mean there are many things to be said about this movie, but damn it looks awesome! Pretty much every frame of Kylo’s duel with Luke is pure joy to look at. The set design and VFX teams really did an outstanding job of filling the movie with eye candy.
In the end, this movie will probably go down as one of the most polarizing in the Star Wars Saga and I love it. Art should be polarizing and I’m tired of by the numbers superhero movies. Yes, this movie is flawed in many ways, but ultimately it is extremely fun to watch the director break almost all the conventions for a movie of this franchise. Considering that Rian Johnson will be responsible for another trilogy of Star Wars movies, I have just one thing to say: Go get ’em, Rian!