Review – Star Wars: The Last Jedi
This is part 8 of my review series. If you want to go back to that start, you can head back to The Phantom Menace, catch up on last week’s at The Force Awakens, or if you don’t care you can stay right here.
If The Force Awakens seemed like an unnecessary add-on to the franchise, I’m not sure what this movie is. TLJ is not congruous with anything that has come before. Welcome to Star Wars: Battlestar Galactica.
From a story perspective, there is nothing good that I can say about this film. Sure, the score is fantastic. The production is very good. The visual and audio parts of the story are the quality we expect from a Star Wars film, but the story… the story is hideous.
The opening sequence with the bombers when one exploding takes out one either side is where this film lost me. That happens at 9:12 minutes into the film. Already my suspension of disbelief was wavering because the silly scene with BB-8 head butting the electric panel (and that working) had happened, and the First Order destroyed the empty base over the populated (and moveable) fleet. If they fire at the fleet first, nothing in this movie happens. But it was the bombers exploding that got me. If they could be so dangerous to each other, why are they so close? Where the hell are the Y-wings that are suspiciously absent for this battle when they were in the last movie? Why are the top military leaders so incompetent? Plot reasons. This is symptomatic of the whole film; everything happens because plots reasons, nothing is organic.
When we go back to Rey and Luke on the hill, which shows us that this film is directly after the last film, and Luke throws the lightsaber, I’ll admit I laughed when I first watched the film. But I don’t think it was the laughter that Rian Johnson was looking for. It was the nervous laugh of realising that someone was murdering something you love and there’s nothing you can do but sit and watch it.
His father’s lightsaber, given to him by Obi-Wan, lost at Bespin. Luke would never throw that away. If you wanted a laugh there, I would have had Luke say, “You didn’t find a hand with it, did you?” Even in the film, this doesn’t make sense. Assuming that Luke has given up - we have three movies showing us that isn’t his character, but whatever – he doesn’t have to wield the saber. As a memento, the item is worth more to Luke than just to throw it over his shoulder. In interviews after the movie, Mark Hamill said that he came to think of the character in this movie as Jake Skywalker because he wasn’t acting at all like Luke. I have to say that I agree. Luke Skywalker, who runs to save his Aunt and Uncle when he finds out they are in danger, who goes to his friends and confronts the biggest badass in the galaxy to defend them, who throws down his lightsaber because he will not fight his father. That Luke is not in this film. I don’t know who is in this film.
I know it’s not a new take, but the entire Canto Bight sequence adds nothing to this film. You could remove it entirely, and nothing would change, except for the First Order finding out about a planet that you can see with the naked eye; so honestly, that doesn’t seem that hard to fix.
The whole chase scene in this film is just stupid. They can’t jump because the First Order has a tracker. Ok, that’s already stupid, because the Empire has trackers in A New Hope, so the rebellion must have a way around those. They don’t even try anything. If you had to have this in the film, then instead of a long, ponderous chase, it would have been better to have a series of jumps punctuated by battles. Instead, we got a maximum arbitrary range trope and told that the bigger ship couldn’t catch up to the smaller ships. Umm… why doesn’t the Supremacy fall behind the Star Destroyers in the fleet during the chase then? Why is it that the first scene in Star Wars, back in 1977, was a Star Destroyer catching and capturing a CR90 Corvette – you know a big ship outrunning a small ship? The First Order regularly throws cannon fodder at problems but instead, they send four ships to attack the Raddus? The ship has 8 Star Destroyers accompanying it plus a crew complement of 2,225,000 people, but they only have 4 TIE fighters? Considering the damage that just 4 TIE fighters did, you couldn’t spend a couple of fighters to eliminate the last of the Resistance?
What the hell is going on with Poe in this film? He’s treated like a child, and what’s worse, is that every decision he makes is actually vindicated or avoidable if he was treated like a respected member of the Resistance. He’s reprimanded for destroying the dreadnaught; then we find out that the First Order can track the Raddus, and if they hadn’t destroyed the dreadnaught they would have been destroyed. While I thought the mutiny was a bit far, it’s hard to fault Poe and the others when they think there is no hope at all and the leadership is failing them.
The new force powers in this film poke at the question of power creep. If force skype is a thing, why do the Jedi Masters (who are at least as powerful as Snoke) use holograms to talk to each other? While the flying through space of Leia Poppins did wrench me out of the film, the actual power to float through space isn’t what was annoying; it was that Leia uses the force while unconscious, and she’s never been shown to have that kind of power before. I have more to say about that scene in a minute. Luke’s projection at the end seems unnecessary; after all, we are shown that he has a ship and could have come in person. But projection is just another kind of force skype, so it’s not like it’s that much of a stretch, it’s just that why would Luke commit suicide instead of fly the available ship? The force powers added in this film don’t fit with the character’s motivations or make sense in context.
RIP Admiral Ackbar. A beloved character who dies off-screen when the bridge is shot. He doesn’t even get a mention. This has to be one of the most egregious things that happens in the film, to kill a character that is in three films and never mention it. If I were going to re-write the scene I would have the bridge blow out and Leia create a force bubble around the bridge, holding the atmosphere in. She could still be losing some atmosphere resulting in decompression, which still allows for Leia to be shown to be strong in the force, and for the bridge crew to be incapacitated.
When Yoda calls down the lightning, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Having force ghosts affect the environment changes a lot of the canon. Sure we’ve seen dark force users have power in their own tombs in the games, but for a Light Side force ghost to do such things is a perversion of the lore of the highest order. Everything that has happened is now in question. Why couldn’t Obi-Wan or Yoda help Luke from the grave in any of the previous movies? Apparently Qui-Gon has just been standing around for 40 years letting the galaxy go to shit and not doing anything about it.
The Holdo Manoeuvre is the last point I want to highlight as canon destroying. If such damage can be done with a hyperdrive, why would the rebellion lose so many pilots in dog fights when one ship piloted by a droid could take out a Star Destroyer? If ships in the universe were vulnerable to an attack like this, then bigger ships would be a huge disadvantage. The clone wars would have turned out very differently if they could have used this as a weapon.
The Last Jedi changes the galaxy of Star Wars in irreparable ways. The lore of the old movies is broken and left in tatters, and don’t see how it could be fixed other to de-canonise the movie. JJ Abrams has his work cut out for him with Rise of Skywalker.