This piece is hugely spoilerific, it contains my thoughts on the main events of the film and therefore it is advised you watch The Last Jedi Before reading on.
I have already offered a spoiler-free review of The Last Jedi, I have also recorded a more spoilerific episode of my podcast for those who have watched the film in which we discuss its events in great detail and I felt compelled to write in a little more detail on what I took from the film here on the blog also. Apparently it’s not a popular opinion amongst a proportion of the fandom to say good things about The Last Jedi but I do, lots of them because they are there in abundance.
Ok, so we pretty much pick up where we left off in Force Awakens with Rey seeking the tutelage of Luke Skywalker to hone the powers she possesses and be steered to using them righteously so as not to end up like Kylo Ren, but there’s the rub, Luke feels directly responsible for the way young Ben Solo has turned out after a failure on his part to draw his student toward the light, I say failure, Ben woke to find Luke, his teacher, standing over him with an ignited lightsaber, ready to do him in. Luke feels a great amount of guilt for how he failed Ben, sensing the dark in him and opting to kill him rather than risk another Anakin Skywalker falling to the dark, Luke is angry at himself for failing his student, more-so because he was family and is therefore reticent to make the same mistakes with Rey. This explains Luke’s self-enforced exile on Ahch-To, he wants to be far away from anything to do with his past through fear of failure, that fear also feeding a passage to the dark side which he actively wants to avoid. It’s an arc that through no accident mirrors Obi-Wan’s failed tutelage of Luke’s father, a thought that hangs heavy on the old Jedi’s mind and his haunted expression at the end of Force Awakens corroborates this when a young girl arrives on his island home in possession of his lightsaber. He thought he was out but they drag him back in. It’s the news of Kylo murdering his father and some sound advise from a returning Yoda, a really great scene, on the purpose of learning from our failures, it being one of the prime lessons Yoda taught him before his death that spurs Luke to train Rey, when he sees how much of an unmatched threat Kylo has become and that his own father, Luke’s dear friend couldn’t save him he feels obligated to do his part to bring back balance knowing the fate of the universe rests upon someone being able to face Kylo and not lose another untutored force-user to the darkside, it’s all very Shakespearian, wonderfully so in fact.
The Resistance is fighting a losing war with the First Order, forced to evacuate their base of operations when discovered by an enemy fleet, from the off they are on the back foot. The opening battle sequence where the First Order attacks is outstanding, heart-stopping and brutal in its surgical precision to stem this uprising, led by Kylo Ren in his own swish tie-fighter, desperate to prove to his master that he is not weak and can do what is asked of him without hesitation but still he can not pull the trigger to kill his mother, this supposed killing blow is delivered by his subordinates. It shows in this moment he is not totally lost to the dark, he still hesitates, he still struggles with the act and it’s quite telling of how complex this character has become, it’s not totally black & white. The struggle within Ben Solo is still very much present at this point but I feel ultimately builds toward his total loss to the dark side. This is just another failure, a failure to do what was asked of him, failing his master again, he was afraid to pull the trigger, he was angry that he lacked the courage to do so and we all know where fear & anger lead in the Star Wars universe. He may not have done the deed himself but it is still a turning point that points him ever in the direction of his fall. I am hoping by the end of this trilogy we’re not going to see another Anakin moment of him seeing the light, Kylo Ren has totally lost his way to a point of no return with the murder of his father, his claiming of power from Supreme Leader Snoke and his attempt to sway Rey to join him in ruling the Galaxy, it would feel like a cheat to go back on that now. A lot of anger and “humorous” jibes were aimed at the aftermath of this scene where Leia, floating in the void of space pulls herself back to the damaged ship, some going as far as to call her Leia Poppins due to the way she flys through space, this is indicative of a lack of understanding, wilfully so in some cases, in the source material I feel. It is known since the original trilogy that Leia is force sensitive, she senses Luke on Bespin, she has always sensed they were related and this is because of her bloodline. Skywalker’s are strong with the force and in that moment where she is stranded in space and slowly dying, she uses the force to pull herself back to the ship. I wondered at the time if it was a function of the tracer bracelet she was wearing but once it was pointed out to me by my podcast cohort Chris, it made perfect sense, thematically and narratively.
The parts I wasn’t so fond of in the film for me, I feel still serve a purpose in the grand scheme of things even if in the moment they felt a little disappointing. The death of Snoke was great, it was a brutal seizure of power by Kylo Ren leading to an amazing side by side battle with Rey which was exhilarating, however, I did feel as though Snoke was a little wasted, like there was more to be said of the character even though really he was just a devise to further the story in installing Kylo as the chief antagonist for the next film. The same with the truth of Rey’s parentage, to find out they were nobodies who abandoned their daughter felt in the moment, a little cheap, however, this information is utilised brilliantly by Kylo to try and make Rey angry, to facilitate her turn to the dark side so I totally get the decision. The story arc for Finn this episode also felt a little sidelined which was a shame. He spent much of his time in the film with the affable new character Rose on a mission to find a master code breaker to save the ailing Resistance fleet and in that we were given DJ, a roguish criminal who is very much out for himself and is a character I hope gets more screen time in the next instalment to add some greater depth to an oddly likeable anti-hero. Finn also got to duke it out with Captain Phasma which was cool but we also lost this trilogies Boba Fett, a cool, badass character they could have done so much more with. It really felt like Finn’s arc could have been better fleshed out but in a film that’s already over 2 hours long, the focus remained in the right place I think.
One of the main points of contention online seems to be the choice to kill Luke, for him to finally meet his end, it’s also a choice I feel was totally the right one from a narrative standpoint. Luke’s story is one of redemption, of making amends for his past mistakes and making piece with himself, he had to die by the end of the film, as in all great stories of redemption, a sacrifice had to be made for the greater good. By the films close Luke is secured as one of the most powerful Jedi’s ever, astrally projecting himself across the universe to inspire hope in the flagging Resistance and to finally prove that Kylo is beyond saving in his actions to attack and “kill” Luke during their duel. That entire sequence was just like a samurai film or even a western, the wide shot of the two standing off with one another, the sacrifice of a good man’s life to inspire hope in the downtrodden, it needed to play out this way to fulfil Luke’s redemption story and make him a true legend to inspire a new generation of Force-users, to pass on the torch if you will and it was executed to perfection irrespective, in my opinion, of what is said of it in some corners of the fan community. A “true” Star Wars fan couldn’t be behind this decision? I don’t see how a true Star Wars fan could not be behind it, giving a truly heroic and selfless ending for one of cinemas most iconic heroes.
Now I’m sure many people will disagree with the points I have made, I’m sure there will be a thousand and one tiny little holes to pick away at just to drag this film down because it isn’t the film some people wanted, but come on, you were warned in the trailer that this wasn’t going to go the way you thought and I for one couldn’t be more proud of that fact. In The Last Jedi, possibly the bravest and most bold film of the entire series has been crafted, a statement of intent for the series going forward, bidding goodbye to the past and passing the torch over to the future of one of the most enduring film franchises ever. The future of Star Wars going forward is an undiscovered country I for one can not wait to explore.