Guest contributor Mikey from Japan gives his thoughts on the new Star Wars before Joe does a podcast about it.
Where some fans felt The Force Awakens was too reminiscent of A New Hope, The Last Jedi goes heavily against the grain. Quite possibly the most divisive Star Wars film since the phantom menace but also the most challenging since The Empire Strikes Back. The idea of this review is not to convince people to change their minds and like the movie but rather give perspective on why it’s being so well received by critics and the other half of the Star Wars fandom.
TLJ has a few underlying themes:
1) Learning from one’s mistakes. This is demonstrated quite well with Luke and Poe’s stories. While Poe’s was about learning from his mistakes and changing, Luke’s was about coming to terms with his mistakes and realizing he couldn’t change what happened. As Yoda says, passing on everything including mistakes.
2) Knowing when to and not to fight. Poe’s arc is excellent and shows him grow into a great leader. Rey also demonstrates this at the end when she senses Kylo and decides to close the door on the falcon, realizing they need to leave if they’re to survive. Whereas Luke comes to the realization that he couldn’t stay away and do nothing and uses everything he has to buy time save the resistance.
3) The biggest one. Out with the old and in with the new. Kylo’s arc is not about turning to the light side or dark side but rather being his own and not following old traditions. The same way Rian Johnson gives us a Star Wars movie that defies expectations and traditions. No wipes for scene transitions, no lightsaber duel, the film starts right where the last one left off with no big gap, the entire story takes place in a very short period of time with a majority of it being a chase in space, no limbs lost in the 2nd entry of the trilogy – both the Attack of the Clones and The Empire Strikes back had the main hero lose a limb. In contrast to getting rid of the old, Yoda destroys the tree with the books inside only for us to see later that Rey took them (shown in the drawer Finn opens on the Falcon), you can’t completely erase the past, this is true for Kylo as well – as hard as he tries to erase the past, he is constantly reminded by it, i.e. seeing the Millenium Falcon, Luke, the dice and of course Leia; he will always be the son of Han and Leia and the descendant of Skywalker, nothing will change that.
Some of the controversies:
1) Rey being from no one – I’m fine with this, why do the chosen ones all need to be Skywalkers? The force chose her to balance the force. A lot of the complaints state that episode VII hyped up her lineage…this is untrue. Everyone she met asked who she was – implying they didn’t know her –although there was mystery about who her parents were, it was the fans who assumed she had to be the descendant of a known Star Wars character. However, let’s not forget that when Kylo and Rey looked into each other’s hearts she saw Kylo redeeming himself in the future which is now seeming like it won’t happen. Kylo saw into Rey that she was from no one and she knew it. Perhaps they were both seeing each other’s inner conflicts? Kylo’s struggle with the light and Rey’s fear of her parents never coming back for her. We’ll just have to wait for episode 9 and see how it plays out.
2) Snoke being nothing special – some people are upset and I fully understand. But we were never fully invested in Snoke so making him a throwaway character isn’t that big of a deal, maybe he was all talk. People were under the assumption that he was all powerful and more powerful than Palapatine and Vader, but the only backstory we know is that Snoke was partly responsible for Kylo’s turn to the dark side. It was never stated that he defeated Luke or had shown he was more powerful. Or, maybe he’s not truly dead…maybe he truly is all powerful and will somehow come back. He did after all wear a ring with the 4 ancient philosophers of the force (Braata, Faya, Sistros and Yanjon) also seen in Episode III as statues in Palpatine’s chambers. Again we’ll have to wait for 9 to see if there’s more to him or if he was just a sith fanboy.
3) The humor – First, humor is HIGHLY subjective. What one person finds amusing another might not. That being said, let us not forget that Star Wars is not a rated R movie for adults but rather a family film – lighthearted and silly at times. There are plenty of comedic moments in the old films that fall flat, doesn’t mean they’re bad but rather for a different target audience. I for one found most of the humor in TLJ to be quite entertaining, especially Poe messing with Hux to buy more time. And the MVP of TLJ was definitely BB8 who probably kicked the most ass in the entire film.
4) Luke’s overall storyline. Even in Lucas’s original concept for 7, 8 and 9, Luke was meant to be an Obi-Wan-like mentor character. 4, 5 and 6 were his films, the new ones are not. Hamill gave a tremendously great performance with hints of Obi-Wan and Yoda. His mistake that pushed Kylo over the edge forced him to shut himself off from the force and through Rey, R2 and Yoda, Luke was able to get back on his feet and help one more time. Luke saying “I am not the last Jedi.” was great, he was ready to pass the torch. Kylo would’ve constantly searched for Luke until he found and killed him but Luke went out his own way and will be able to mentor Rey in the next film. I know fans wanted more from Luke but that end scene with him was enough badassery. *brushes shoulder
Personal highlights for me were:
The opening scene – like a WWII-esque battle in space.
Holdo going into hyperspace through the other ships.
Mark Hamill’s performance.
Rey and Kylo vs the guards – just awesome.
R2-D2 and Luke’s moment together
Leia and Luke getting a proper farewell, and Luke’s wink to 3PO.
Luke going out to face the entire First Order alone – so want a wallpaper of that.
Praising aside, if I were asked about the flaws I would say that Finn’s and Rose’s trip to the casino planet was not necessary – I would’ve had her be a code breaker and just have them go from their ship to Snoke’s, cut out like 20 minutes. The only good thing that came from the casino story was Del Toro’s character showing the gray area in war. Who really are the good guys and bad guys? But the scene isn’t terrible, some fun moments.
The Leia floating in space scene I get this shows us that she does have a decent connection to the force but I think it came off as a little cheesy, I would’ve rather have seen the bridge get hit and she use the force to stay in the ship. But it is what it is for that scene. Other than these 2 minor complaints, I had no other issues.
Final thoughts, this movie challenges the audience like no other Star Wars film has done before – which is why it has mixed reactions from fans and not critics. Critics see a remarkably made film and ignore fandom. I was upset at first to see fans divided but now I’m at peace with it. Similar to the prequels there will be fans that love them and fans that don’t. Many fans wanted to see a lot of what was expected in a Star Wars film and what they thought would happen with the characters – only to get the opposite. There’s nothing wrong if you were disappointed by it, I completely understand but I do feel that this is the right direction for the future of Star Wars. As the story in TLJ perfectly portrays, things don’t always go the way you want. Where we all went into TLJ with some knowledge of what could happen, the fact that so much changed we honestly have no idea what’s going to happen in Episode IX, which is very exciting. This movie wants audiences to see that although Star Wars will continue – it will also evolve into something more. And maybe in time, fans will be able to reevaluate it.