Star Wars: The Last Jedi is in theaters, and you all have to go see it or it might not make the $800 million it needs to break even. Presumably, most of the movie’s profits will be made over the holiday vacation from families who need a break from each other. I saw it last night since I don’t have a family.
The Last Jedi is a long, bewildering movie with too many characters and an overall message that’s either unclear or just stupid. It’s also funny, visually pretty, and surprisingly weird—but the plot is too cluttered, feeling like the product of dozens of very talented people disagreeing with each other and making bad compromises.
I don’t know if the movie can be described as having a plot, but here’s what happens: General Leia—once Princess Leia—is evacuating her troops from their secret base as the bad guys close in. (Her sideways promotion from Princess to General is the kind of fake promotion that people give instead of giving raises. Leia was always a boss.) Poe Dameron prank-calls the bad guys to distract them, and proceeds to blow up some evil spaceship turrets. It looks great, like the dog fight at the end of Star Wars: a New Hope.
Then, Poe disobeys orders to return to base and calls in a squadron of bomber ships, which fly in and explode like a domino effect. This sequence pulled me out of the movie: The Rebels have been at war for many decades and they haven’t learned to fly far enough apart so they wouldn’t blow each other up? It might seem like nitpicking, but The Last Jedi is full of moments where things don’t make sense and supposedly smart characters make dumb choices.
Meanwhile, Finn unceremoniously awakens from the coma he was in at the end of The Force Awakens and runs around in a see-through plastic suit, squirting liquid in all directions. At this point, it was the strangest thing I’d seen in a Star Wars movie (wait until later), which was pretty cool. He asks where Rey is, and we cut to her on that Irish island holding out Luke’s old lightsaber to the man himself. After a long pause, he takes it and throws it over his shoulder, which caused the audience to laugh and released some tension.
For some reason, Luke now acts like a jaded, pessimistic dick who wants to forget about all the Jedi stuff. Mark Hamill has publicly said that he thinks his character was written badly, and I agree, but he’s still a lot of fun to watch. Rey bugs him to train her, he curmudgeonly refuses, but eventually gives in.
The main villain is still Kylo Ren, and when we first see him he’s talking to his evil boss Snoke. In The Force Awakens, we only saw Snoke projected on a giant scale, and a popular fan theory arose that he was actually teeny; in The Last Jedi, though, we find out that he’s just a normal-sized, bad-CGI-looking video-game guy who hangs out in a beautiful throne room.
As Rey continues to follow Luke around the island, we see a giant creature standing upright
with what appear to be very large testicles but are actually bosoms (or udders). This is the strangest thing I’ve seen in a Star Wars movie, as Luke milks the giant beast and messily quaffs the beast’s milk. The island is also home to these very cute, Furby-like creatures called Porgs; later, we see Chewbacca roasting one over a fire, while other Porgs watch on and cry over the loss of their friend. That was also really weird. There’s another giant space battle in which General Leia gets blown out into space; it seems like she’s dead, but then she regains consciousness and floats back into a spaceship, which is also really weird.
Her job’s taken over by Admiral Holdo, who’s portrayed by Laura Dern. (Carrie Fisher completed filming before her passing last year, but it does seem like Dern’s role fills in for shots they couldn’t get to.) Holdo (and Leia) repeatedly tell Dameron that running away and surviving is better than fighting and sacrificing human lives, which is the big message of The Last Jedi—a message that comes across as murky and possibly dishonest. After all, the franchise isn’t called Star Peace.
After the second giant space battle, the good guys use hyperspace to escape the bad guys —but the bad guys immediately follow them, and the good guys can’t use hyperspace again because they’re running low on fuel and will be stranded if they do. How and where do you fuel up a colossal spaceship? I always imagined that these giant space ships had some sort of giant nuclear reactor powering them. Maybe that sounds like a nerdy complaint, but imagine someone saying that they couldn’t drive their submarine because it had a boot on it. Did they drive the Death Star to a giant gas station?
Finn—in the middle of the second Star Wars movie he appears in, possessing almost no defining traits besides cowardice—tries to run away from the good guys’ ship and is arrested for desertion by an annoying character named Rose. They discover that they need to go to a casino-like planet to find a codebreaker so that they can avoid being tracked by the bad guys, which kicks off The Last Jedi’s most unnecessary plotline.
The planet they go to has big band music and rich space people playing sci-fi slot machines. They meet Benicio Del Toro—sorry, DJ—who helps them in jail and betrays them soon afterwards. Arguably, The Last Jedi would be a lot better without this entire plotline and all the characters involved, which is pretty shitty because the plotline also contains the only three actors of color in the film.
Anyway: there’s a cool part where Rey goes into a hole in the ground and sees awesome psychedelic stuff, as well as a beautiful ground battle that happens on a salt-covered red planet. But the rest of The Last Jedi is bland mélange of explosions and disappointment. The bad guys keep using weapons that take a long time to power up before firing, Luke seems to die unceremoniously by disappearing into the air without warning, some other bullshit happens, the movie’s dedicated to Carrie Fisher, and that’s the end.
It’s easy to imagine the Star Wars franchise as a vast playground of infinite possibilities, but everything that’s happened in these largely weak and forgettable films since Return of the Jedi has revealed how limited Star Wars’s scope actually is. Capturing the feeling and tone of the original three films has stymied a lot of highly paid pros. The original Star Wars movies were simple stories with simple characters exploring richly designed locales. The protagonist of this new trilogy is supposed to be Rey,but we still haven’t learned enough about her, as The Last Jedi dedicates more time to other characters who don’t seem as important.
The reason George Lucas decided to kill the character of Ben Kenobi midway through A New Hope was because after the characters escaped the Death Star he had nothing left to do. The Last Jedi is supposed to be analogous to The Empire Strikes Back, but it actually has more in common with Return of the Jedi, which most Star Wars fans consider the weakest film of the original trilogy. If RotJ had focused on the freeing of Han from Jabba’s Palace and Luke’s confrontation of Vader, it would’ve been a better movie—but instead, it dedicates too much time to the forest planet of Endor, where a teddy bear army unconvincingly conquers a giant armada of well-armed space soldiers.
Similarly, The Last Jedi could have used less characters and less shit happening. Poe, Finn, Rose, DJ and Holdo were all unnecessary characters with pointless plotlines that added nothing but took away a lot. So far, the only character with any depth is Kylo Ren. Will Rey get a personality in the next movie? I guess we’ll find out.