This could be an odd place to do this. I mean, a Star Wars movie review on a Star Trek site? Blasphemy! But I did see this film, and I have an opinion on it, and I have this soapbox to speak from. Plus, this film has some loose connection with the comic, so why not?
First, as always, let’s talk about the good. It’s always best to play up the things you like about a product before you tear it to ribbons, that way you don’t seem like too much of a dick. I enjoyed the exact same things about this movie that I did about the The Force Awakens: the characters. I don’t usually “ship” characters, but Poe and Finn have a sexy chemistry that I wish would have blossomed more in this film. Rose was a wonderful addition and I appreciate that, for once, a female character is motivated by her devotion to another woman and not her daddy, brother, or boyfriend. I love Rey. She is a bit aimless and without any real goals in the first film, but she shapes up well in The Last Jedi, having clear desires and allegiances befitting a franchise carrying hero. Seeing Rey as a “Mary Sue” is a true nerd litmus test, and I have always fallen on the side that does not consider her one at all. Her incredible powers and abilities have clear roots, and every one of her victories is earned. If farm boy Luke can raid a space city, blow up tie fighters, master a fighter he’s never been in, and take a shot no one else can make, then Rey can fix a few mechanical issues, hypnotize a dumb stormtrooper, and best a guy with a bleeding blaster wound, and a shoulder burn.
Kylo Ren is probably one of the best villains in modern fiction, with a background and depth even more worthy than Darth Vader. Betrayed by those he loves as well as those he follows, he is an anarchist with a strong desire to not just rule the galaxy, but to tear down and replace its well constructed paradigms and dichotomies. This is not your farther’s Force. He and Rey create something completely new based, not on feelings and seductions, but on philosophies and politics. Rey has her rage and her raw power, but she has a clear sense of where to use it. Ren is not a “Sith” and Rey is not a “Jedi”. They are something else altogether. That’s exciting.
Beyond the characters I enjoyed the humor and a lot of the action, especially on the casino world, which was a highlight of the film. I also liked everything that happened between Luke and Rey on the Jedi Temple island. I think we were all ready for a Rocky-style training montage, and I was utterly relieved that it never took place.
Where “Last Jedi” smacks hard into this comic is the struggle between Leia and her heir-apparent Holdo, and the testosterone-poisoned Poe. Both Leia and Holdo are no-shits-giving leaders who have logical plans that are carefully crafted to save their respective crews. Poe is a maverick in the vein of all movie mavericks who thinks he knows better than the higher ups. He goes as far as mutinying to carry out his overly complex plan, and in the end, when it utterly, and, against all movie logic, fails it’s quite satisfying to see him blasted into a bulkhead. He does all of this because he’s an entitled ass who thinks leadership owes him an explanation of their ever move. This, of course, was the exact same plot of “Basis of Proof”.
Unfortunately, where this film fails it fails really, really hard. Ground-shatteringly hard. Like a lot of modern genre fiction I’ve reviewed in the last ten years, including all three J.J. Star Trek films, Discovery, Battlestar Galactica, Lost, and The Force Awakens, the characters and ideas are beyond criticism, but the situations these character are tossed into are the absolute pits. Everything in The Last Jedi that isn’t directly character driven makes zero sense. Zero.
For one thing, the film is too long. At two-and-a-half hours, it’s a total slog to get through. This could have been easily fixed considering the film has three flipping endings. The film ends when Snoak is unexpectedly killed, the two force-abusing kids beat the red knights, and then have as stalemate in which Rey escapes. Ending two has Holdo turn her cruiser toward the First Order fleet and ram them at light speed allowing the transports to escape. The third happens after a huge salt flats battle I was too exhausted to give a crap about. The fix is simple. Cut two of them. Leave a cliff hanger. Put Leia and company in the base calling for help that comes in the next film. Then we’ll see how Ren’s new, off kilter leadership philosophy leads to the First Order’s collapse. As it is, I don’t know what’s left for this cast to do in a third installment, but I’ll address that in full later.
None of the space combat in Last Jedi made a drop of sense. What the hell were those bombers in the opening scene? Even when compared to the World War II-in-space aesthetic Star Wars (and every other space opera) revels in they’re too slow and stupid. And gravity bombs that need to be dropped directly down on their target? Are you kidding me? There’s no flipping gravity in space. and everyone has guided missile tech. We don’t drop bombs anymore. Why do people with hyperdrives?
But everything moves stupidly slow in this film. Whoever’s idea it was to have a chase scene that was so slow people actually left to do something more interesting and came back later should be shot with a stun ring into a bulkhead. For a film that enjoys playing with Star Wars tech and tropes one has to wonder why the First Order don’t just hyper jump around the resistance and head them off or call in another ship to jump in front of them and block them from continuing. I mean, Leia expected allies from the Outer Rim to get to them in time on the salt flats. Certainly, the First Order could have had people fly in equally fast. They literally had days.
Holdo’s entire ending is utterly pointless. No one I watched this with could understand why they killed off Laura Dern, the living actress, and left in the one that can’t be in any more films no matter how beloved every inch of celluloid she’s on may be. For one thing, there’s no reason why Holdo needed to act out the whole “someone needs the pilot the ship” trope that was equally silly in Star Trek 2009. This is a futuristic space ship with autopilot and Droids. It just needs to go straight. Even when we see Holdo on the bridge after the transports have left she’s just standing there doing nothing because there’s nothing to do.
Adding insult to injury, Holdo’s ramming solution could have been done days earlier without her sacrifice. They had two other ships they just let get blown up with their captains on board. Why not turn those around and use them as missiles? Hell, I was thinking about it while watching them slowly drudge through the film. And I only had a few hours to consider it. They had days.
But worst of all, the film is utterly bleak. So bleak I couldn’t eat my lunch afterward because I was in a total funk. Here we have all these characters I really love and the film makers keep beating them with a stick over and over again until they are all but broken. It’s Empire Strikes Back times three. There’s a very good argument to be made that this new trilogy is a pointless exercise in cynicism. Luke fails to reëstablish the Jedi. The New Republic fails. Han and Leia suck as a couple and as parents. These were all things we just assumed would work themselves out after Return of the Jedi, but, apparently they didn’t and we find ourselves simply rebooted into the same situation we saw in A New Hope. That’s really, really bleak.
To make things worse, we still know nothing about the New Republic, what it was, and why we should be sad it’s gone. Critics complained about the tell-not-show nature of the prequels, but we’re faced with the same thing with the New Republic. What about this system made it prone to a new fascist order worse than the previous one? How does an imperial remnant build a star sucking planet? How do they continue to be economically feasible after it’s destruction? You’d think the New Republic, having lost only a handful of planets, would still be on the same level as the defeated First Order, but they’re not. Why? I’m glad Rey’s JJ mystery box was killed dead in this film, and I don’t particularly care about where Snoak came from, but the story of how we got from a celebration on Endor to this utter mess needed at least a little fleshing out for me to give a crap. We know how Luke failed and we’re better for it. How did Leia fail? What does she have to answer for in forming a new government based on “hope”?
On a final note, it’s been said that this should have been the last Star Wars film ever. I disagree with the reasons Techcrunch gave – that being these new characters can’t carry a film without the original cast propping them up. That’s complete BS. This new cast is in every way as lovable and endearing as the previous. But I do agree with the statement itself. After The Last Jedi’s ending what else is there to do with this new, young cast? We’re bluntly told the rebellion is over. Allies have refused to join in. What’s left fits on the Millennium Falcon. Our only hope is the next generation of oppressed kids who want more. They won’t be ready to rise up for another twenty years. So where does that leave us? The Last Jedi’s ending leaves no room for a sequel with this cast except as aged sages helping the stable kids make a name for themselves. They certainly have no story left to tell as the stars. It’s quite a corner for them to paint themselves into, and I’m not sure I’m willing to see how they write their way out of it.