Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi Spoiler Review
Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi is an space opera epic film written and directed by Rian Johnson. It is the second film in the Star Wars sequel trilogy, following Star Wars: Episode VII:The Force Awakens and the tenth film in the overall Star Wars saga. If readers want to read the thoughts on the saga as whole, click here. This film has returning stars of Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong'o, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, and Gwendoline Christie. They are joined by Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, and Benicio del Toro in supporting roles. This review will have MAJOR SPOILERS for the entire Star Wars saga in it so if you have not seen the films, please see the them first.
The Story/The Direction:
This film focuses on Rey (Ridley) as she receives Jedi training from Luke Skywalker (Hamill). She hopes to learn from him and also bring him against Kylo Ren (Driver) and the First Order. While this is all going on, the First Order has tracked down the Rebellion and venture to kill them off. They arrive as the Rebellion are escaping where they were at the end of The Force Awakens. Poe Dameron (Issac) leads an effective but a costly attack on the First Order right before they jump to hyperspace. This sequence is probably one of the best in respect to how it looks. The effects here and also throughout the rest of the film look fantastic. The cinematography looks absolutely amazing throughout the film and the wide angle shot create this big environment that really does not exist. This film has one of the best choreographed lightsaber scenes when Kylo and Ren face the guards.
Writer/Director Johnson is able to create a film that both intertwines the older films with The Force Awakens. You really see his passion to tell a story. Any fans of his prior work such as Looper or Brick will notice his ability to take a genre that is well known and add his own flavor to it. In Brick, he essentially told straight forward American detective story but kept it fresh with intense cuts and in an environment that a detective/mob story had not entered before, a high school. This film is no different as he is clearly influenced by both Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. There are plenty of sequences that align directly with those films such as the protagonist going to an isolated place to learn the ways of the Force from a so-called Jedi master and that same protagonist facing the main antagonist with redemption motives. In addition to the protagonist and antagonist journeys being similar, the other cast members are trying to escape the First Order like Han and Leia were in Empire. Whether or not someone likes this film, the parallels are there. Unlike the prior film in this trilogy, this film however takes risks like The Empire Strikes Back. While The Force Awakens did what it needed to do to set up a new story in a way that was familiar and nostalgic, that's pretty much all it did. It went along the ideas of "if it's not broke, why fix it?" It was safe. This film does not do that and it is intertwined with another brilliant score by John Williams. Unlike the prior films, this score really felt like a Star Wars score and it was ultimately really refreshing to hear again after the mediocre score in The Force Awakens. It mixed in old themes with new ones flawlessly and had the audience right back in the Star Wars environment. The film looks gorgeous and full of color as shown in the final scene and Snoke's throne room.
When Rey asks Luke to train her and then return to the Rebellion, he initially refuses even after he learns that his best friend/brother in law, Han Solo has been killed. After being persuaded by R2-D2 in probably the best call back to the Original Trilogy, Luke agrees to teach Rey the ways of the Force. Hamill is at his best here playing this disheveled and tragic version of Luke. As he starts to teach her, he feels that her power rivals that of Kylo. During his teaching, she learns more of Ahch-To and the Jedi history, everything that the audience knows from the Prequel Trilogy. She finds out that the Jedi were too confident in their abilities that they let an empire and Darth Vader rise to power underneath their noses. She is told that after the Empire was destroyed, he took on a few students of his own including his nephew to teach them the Jedi ways.
He eventually tells her that he felt the power and Snoke (Serkis)'s influence inside Kylo and momentarily thought of killing him in his sleep. He thinks that the Jedi Order allowed this ultimate evil to come around and kill so many people. He was able to save his father eventually but only after years and years of innocent deaths. If he was able to prevent those deaths by killing this person before all of that, he would do the galaxy a great service. Within moments though, he realizes the error of this as his choice was not made yet. Kylo could choose to go to the light side like he did when he fought Vader in Return of the Jedi. By killing him, he would be taking away his nephew's choice. When Kylo awakens to see Luke standing over him, he thinks he is about to murder him so he defends himself and his hatred towards the good side comes out. Kylo proceeds to destroy the Jedi temple that Luke had built. Due to that momentary thought and essentially causing Kylo to become who he is currently, he feels he failed Kylo and the Jedi ideology itself. As such, he feels that the Jedi Order needs to die with him. He disconnects himself from the Force and his family and friends to do this. He feels that if he is there, he will always be looked on to be a hero, when he's not. He is not the person they think he is. When he feels the same power in Rey, he becomes afraid of what his teachings may do. Rey's decision's don't help him much either.
She is "Force-skyping" with Kylo who is giving her his side of the story and trying to influence her as Snoke did him. While it is not said explicitly that that's how Snoke influenced Kylo, it can be implied as Snoke was the one who made this connection in the first place (more on that later). Rey and Kylo could see each other and talk to each other through this connection. They are essentially in the same room with each other and items can pass through such as water and eventually they can touch. This shows a very powerful connection between them exits. This connection could push her to the dark side as Luke is telling her that the Jedi must die and that he isn't the hero she thinks he is. She grew up hearing legendary stories of the Jedi Order and Luke Skywalker. To her and many audience members, Luke was someone to look up to but he is drastically different than the stories. This is very similar to when people idolize celebrities but when they actually meet them, they don't even want to take a picture with them. She may be thinking that maybe the Jedi aren't all good especially when someone from the other side of the spectrum are saying they aren't. She is being fed information from someone else and also when tempted to go to the dark side of the island, she goes to find out who her parents are. The dark side is temptation to do something that you are told not to do. Anakin was tempted to help Padme and he became engulfed by it, Luke was tempted to kill Vader to save Leia when Vader said he'd turn on her next but he chose to not to. Luke states this is due to the "balance" of good and evil.
The island, just as Luke has, has a dark area. Luke essentially tells her its not a good place to go but she goes anyway in curiosity. In the area, she asks who her parents are and sees only herself. This is a very powerful moment to say to her that the answer is in herself and she already knows it. The dark side does not have anything to really offer her. This is the moment where the audience can tell she is going to not go to the dark side. She may not know it yet but the audience can figure it out. Through a few more "Force-skype" sessions, she feels a similar conflict in Kylo and feels he can be redeemed. She leaves the island and goes to confront him without Luke who thinks Kylo is too far gone. When she leaves, Luke attempts to burn the ancient Jedi temple and the Jedi books but he encounter's the force ghost of Yoda (Frank Oz), who destroyed the temple before Luke can. This was one of the best surprises of the film for anyone who appreciated him in the Original Trilogy. From how he was mostly created using CGI in the prequels, it was refreshing to see him again as a puppet as done in the originals. This However, he still looked a little odd but not enough to bother. Anyway, he tells Luke that he did fail but he should learn from it that is very similar to how Rafiki says "The past can hurt but...you can either run from it or learn from it" to Simba in The Lion King. Luke ran away from his problems instead of facing them. This is what pushes him to help the Rebellion at the end of the film.
While Rey is with Luke, the Rebellion comes out of hyperspace, Poe is then demoted by General Leia Organa (Fisher) for his reckless choices that killed off a lot people when they could have just escaped with a lot more people and weaponry. Fisher is great here as she is given a lot to do, more so than in The Force Awakens. Poe is trying to be this hero 100% of the time even there's a chance of getting killed. He is known as being the best fighter pilot in the Rebellion and he thinks he knows best. He is shown as being this hero so the audience will side with him thinking he is right and the best for everyone. He thinks he is basically ready to take over when Leia is put in a coma after the First Order attacks. When that doesn't happen, the audience is meant to go along with him when he thinks otherwise. He's the one whose plan destroyed a dreadnought when no one else did and its an injustice when this essentially unknown, Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo (Dern), takes over and does not tell him her plan. Then when the plot states that The First Order tracked them through hyperspace, the film implies there may be a mole of some sort and has you think Holdo is behind it all. He then goes so far to conduct a mutiny but ultimately it is shown that he is wrong and that Holdo had a plan to save everyone. His changed behavior is shown in the climax when the Rebellion charges at The First Order with speeders, he realizes that its a better idea to retreat back to the base. Furthermore, he realizes the point of what Luke does when he shows up and goes out the back of the base.
When Rey gets to Kylo, she is brought before Snoke who reveals that her efforts are futile, the Rebellion will be killed off. Snoke is motion-captured fantastically by Serkis. This whole sequence is directly paralleled in Return of the Jedi, even with the antagonist showing the protagonist the killings of the Rebels out a window. He then proceeds to command Kylo to kill Rey. Kylo ultimately kills Snoke through misdirection to establish himself as the true villain of this trilogy. This was probably one of the biggest shockers in the film as the mystery of Snoke was one of the biggest questions left from The Force Awakens. He seemed to be this era's Emperor however any fan theories based on him were thrown out the window as he was a huge red herring. Having Kylo do this really showed his development of a character. He has progressed from the essential padawan learner to Snoke to the master. This is a step that even Palpatine did in the past when he killed off his master, Darth Plagus. His arc is potentially the most interesting in this trilogy as he is the obvious villain but he is also the most conflicted. Anyone who was not a fan of his whiny and temper tantrum having character in the prior film will have their worries eliminated. In The Force Awakens, he killed his father and this hurts him. He was pushed to do this to prove himself to Snoke. Snoke believes that to be a true villain, Kylo must be willing to kill those around him including his loved ones. He killed his father but yet Snoke still feels he is not worthy of his grandfather, Darth Vader. As his ship attacks the part of the Rebels where Leia is, he hesitates to pull the trigger. Why? Because he can't and this is completely understandable as not even Darth Vader would be able to do this as he could not even let his son be killed. Driver as Kylo is brilliant here to show this character's complexity and damaged background. As him and Rey fight the guards, there is more than just an amazing scene. The audience thinks that he has been redeemed and all is well but then he turns around and says "Join me Rey." All he wanted to do was start his own Empire and had not changed at all. He truly was the villain the entire time and honestly oversteps Darth somewhat. Darth chose to save his son and come back to the Light Side when he killed the Emperor. He potentially could have chose the same as Kylo but didn't. Kylo chose to rule. The way he turns on his master is done in a very similar way to Empire as well just with a different outcome. Both heroes are being tortured by the master when the true villain kills him. This is not saying he's a better villain than Darth but rather he's a tad darker as he remained on the dark side when he could have chosen otherwise. However, this may change in Episode IX. He then exposes that Rey's parents aren't anyone great. They were drunks that left her for money. While some would say that he's lying and this could be a toss up. Vader also revealed that he was Luke's father in Empire Strikes Back and there is the same amount of reason to trust him as there is Kylo. The outcome is opposite but the point of the scene is the same.
After Rey escapes, she heads to find the Rebellion. They are on their last leg of people and when they try to reach out for help, no one responds. They are also joined by Finn (Boyega) and Rose (Tran) (more on them later) and start on an attack against The First Order. This sequence is perhaps the best looking one in the entire film. It is almost a direct copy of the sequence in Empire Strikes Backon Hoth. The Rebels are hiding on a majorly white planet and the Empire/the First Order attack them with imperial walkers and the Rebels defend themselves with speeders and shoot from trenches. When Rey, Chewbacca, R2-D2 show up in the Millennium Falcon, it was similar to how Han showed up in A New Hope. The scenery on this planet looks fantastic especially when the tie fighters follow the Falcon through the red salt caves. Ultimately however, the Rebellion are pushed into a corner and almost lose hope. That is when Luke or a later shown projection of Luke shows up. He greets Leia in perhaps the best way possible. He begins to apologize but then Leia counters in a way that shows their connection of brother and sister. They are able to touch because they are both Force sensitive similar to what Rey and Kylo did earlier. He then moves on to face Kylo. Interestingly, he does not look like he did when training Rey. He looks younger and more cleanly shaven as he did in the flashback with him and Kylo. This was probably done to antagonize Kylo when he has to face him as this is is the last image of him that Kylo has.
In Kylo's mind, this is the Jedi that tried to kill him. As Luke exits the base, Kylo fires all weapons on him to which because he is a projection. Kylo then proceeds to leave his ships to fight Luke one on one as he does not know Luke is a projection. This later revelation is foreshadowed though if enough attention is paid towards Luke's feet. Throughout their fight, his feet do not show any red footprints or sand to be kicked up unlike Kylo's. Even though he is a projection, this scene is reminiscent of that between Darth Vader and Obi-Wan in A New Hope however because of the development they have both had over the course of the single film, it may be even more powerful. There's more emotions and feeling in this fight. While that scene in A New Hope now includes the Prequel Trilogy, there is some added significance but this scene is majorly due to The Last Jedi, alone. The Rebels realize that Luke is only delaying Kylo so they can escape and start anew. They escape out the back of the base to join Rey in the Falcon. As Kylo moves in for the final blow, it is shown that Luke is a projection of himself. He never left the island, whether because his X-Wing was below water or because he wouldn't make it there in time. All evidence show that this is possible throughout the film. Kylo and Rey were able to talk and touch each other and even be seen by Luke eventually. The gift that he gives Leia is similar to the water that passed through with from the island to Kylo as it disappeared eventually. This projection requires him to use all of his power and ultimately he peacefully becomes one with the Force. He may not be the main protagonist of the story any more but he has a strong arc.
The way he becomes one with the Force is done in such a great way showing the two suns to bring the character full circle. Both Leia and Rey feel his passing but know he was at peace. Leia reassures everyone that the Rebellion will rise once again and it is implied that Rey will become stronger as she took the Jedi books from the island and that she'll be able to teach those who have the Force in them like the child on Canto Bight. This may also explain how Yoda is all knowing as he knew the books were not there so he lit the tree on fire before Luke could see that they were gone. This ending is again very similar to Empire Strikes Back as the Rebellion is down to a little amount of fighters, Luke is gone, and all they have is hope to fight another day and things will get better.
This film is going to go down as one of the most polarizing films of all time. Some love it and some hate it and honestly they are both right and completely understandable as this film is flawed. While Johnson did decent arcs on Kylo, Rey, Luke, and Poe, he seemingly forgot his other characters. InThe Force Awakens, Finn was made to be this significant character however here is more of a side character. Yes, he learns not to run like he does did in the prior film and a few times in this film and becomes willing to sacrifice himself for a cause. However, it seemed very lacking in comparison to the others. He tries to sacrifice himself in the final battle but it is ultimately prevented by Rose who saves him at the last minute. Then she unexpectedly kisses him then faints. He then somehow carries all the way back to the base from probably one hundred feet the First Order, which seems unlikely to occur. Their whole interaction is beyond pointless. After learning that the First Order is tracking them through hyperspace, they figure out a way to disable the tracker. However first, they must get the help of the best tracker in the galaxy according to Maz Kanata (Nyong'o) in her brief cameo.
They then travel to Canto Bright to find him and it does look fantastic. Finn becomes enamored with the place but this facade is eventually brought down by Rose, as she exposes both Canto Bight's animal cruelty and the source of its patron's money. Ultimately, they end up in prison and find another hacker, DJ (del Toro). They escape prison, release a few abused racing Fathiers, and head to destroy the tracker. The infiltrate Snoke's ship but are captured by Captain Phasma (Christie) who again barely does anything in the film. It is then revealed that DJ betrayed them and told the First Order Holdo's plan after overhearing from Poe when he told Finn. After Holdo sacrifices herself by running the Rebel ship into Snoke's at lightspeed, Finn and Phasma have a battle together of which Finn comes out on top. This would have some pull to it if there was development of their relationship but there isn't. Then Finn, Rose, and BB-8 fly back to join the Rebellion. The problem with this entire bit is that it is only a supporting mission. Nothing really comes of going after this MacGuffin aside to help the plot along. If this doesn't happen, then the Rebels will have more people and Poe's arc wouldn't be as significant. Yes, there is a good message about those who get rich off of selling arms to both sides of a war. Yes, there is a good message about not abusing animals. Yes, there is a character introduction that will set up future films. However, the former two things are unnecessary and the latter one could have been done in another way.
In addition, another flaw is the film's use of the Force. They seem to bring up new powers such as "Force-skype" or essential flying ability that Leia finally uses the Force, as she's never really used it before. As this film is aligned with Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, there was less explanation of what the Force than those films. This brings up the question of continuity between films. Is this film trying to act on itself or rely on the all the prior films in the saga? It seems to be doing both and that can take away from the film. A lot changed between The Force Awakens and this film due to the change of directors. Since J.J. Abrams is coming back to direct Episode IX, it can only be hoped that all this unraveling that Johnson did won't be again unraveled by Abrams. This film also has a lot of jokes some of which do not hit and some are annoying after awhile like the opening "I'm holding." It seems very similar to how Disney is treating their Marvel Cinematic Universe and the amount of jokes do take away some emotional toll on a scene. Lastly, General Hux (Gleeson) seemed more comedy relief than anything else which took away a lot that The Force Awakens made for his character.
This film is similar to that of Empire Strikes Back more than people give it credit for. It isn't filled with hope and courage in the same way The Force Awakens was. Like A New Hope, it showed the audience who was good and bad. This film is more mature and tells the audience two things: one, your heroes are not always what you imagine them to be even if they have powers and two, everyone fails but how you learn from it is how you succeed in life. As in Empire Strikes Back, this failure keeps heroes grounded even when they have powers but it makes their wins more significant. Hopefully, this will lead to that in Episode IX. Johnson is able to keep the saga fresh by not only remembering the prior films but also mixing things up. His choices have definitely divided the Star Wars fan base down the middle but whether or not you enjoy the film, the impact that he has made cannot be denied. At the end of the day, this film was enjoyable and if any readers dislike the film after one viewing, it is definitely better the second time around. Leave your expectations at the door and you'll be able to appreciate this film more. No idea what they're going to do in Episode IX with Fisher's Leia as she unfortunately passed in 2016 but her character survived this film. This is perhaps the biggest question coming out of this film. However, this film is definitely better than the Prequels and potentially The Force Awakens. Though it has flaws, this film has a lot of good moments that make it a good part of the saga and that is ultimately worth buying on Blu-ray.
Rating: 3.5/5.0 bowties
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