[Warning: deeper into this review, you will be walking onto the muddy streets of lawless SPOILERTOWN. Ye have been warned.]
This will be less a review of The Last Jedi (Episode VIII) than it will be… my thoughts? An analysis? Me opening my head like a flip-top Pac-Men and seeing what globs of brain-goo I can grab and hastily smack into the screen?
If you want my review, it’s this:
*pant pant pant*
NO WAY DID THEY JUST
OH HOLY SHIT
WAIT BUT THAT MEANS
I fucking loved it.
That’s it. That’s my review. It’s mostly just a series of excitable sounds with the occasional twirling around until I’m dizzy. But I’d rather look past my gibbon-like hoots and my strange, erotic dances and see what lies within. What lurks deeper. What do I see when I enter the DARK SIDE CAVE to have the truth revealed to me?
Your Expectations Will Not Be Met
Fandom is a tricky bear to wrestle. We love a thing so deeply, we entwine ourselves within it. We thread a little bit — sometimes a lot — of our identity into the thing. And we come to believe we own that thing, and further, we join a tribe of fellow owners who all have threaded themselves into it both intellectually and emotionally. We feel excited by what this thing can bring us. We develop pet theories. We craft and conjure the path we would take if we were ever handed the keys to the Thing We Love. We become excited and obsessive, a little bit. Sometimes a lotta bit.
But here’s the thing:
Stories can never be written for the fans.
Fan service isn’t a bad thing, per se, but it is sometimes a fairly lazy thing — it’s a comfortable signal, a soft chair, it’s Norm from Cheers where everybody knows his name. It’s to say, “You’re lost here, but look, here is a familiar friend to help you through. It’s to let you know that despite all the strange flora and the eyes glowing in the dark, you’re still a known quantity in a known land. This is a safe place.” When done overmuch, fan service does more than just introduce a few friendly faces. It burns down the trees. It lights up the dark. It slides a jukebox over and slams the top of it like it’s fucking Fonzie and suddenly, the Greatest Hits begin to play, just as you love them. Maybe in an order you don’t know, but still the songs you know and you adore.
The Last Jedi is not without its fan service moments, but they are few and far-between, and even when they exist, they exist to challenge you more than they do to bring you succor.
The Last Jedi will not meet your expectations.
Oh, it knows them.
It is well-aware of them, in fact, and is well-aware that you have them. And it willfully… I don’t want to say disregards them, precisely, but in a sense, it has weaponized them against you. It knows you’ve seen all the movies. It knows you know the narrative beats, the tropes, the rhyming couplets of George Lucas, and then it gently puts them all in a magician’s hat, and then it reaches into the hat, and instead of pulling them back out, it pulls out a porg.
And then the movie hits you with the porg.
That metaphor may have gotten a little out of hand, but I think you grok me.
The Last Jedi cares very much about your expectations.
It’s just not going to meet them.
You, a fan, have explicit ideas about what a Star Wars movie can and should do, and it’s going to use that against you. And it’s going to play for a larger audience, as it must. It can’t work just for you, dear fan — never mind the fact that fandom is not a singular, globular entity, like a giant amoeba with one set of desires to be met. It has to go bigger. It has to please a wide variety of viewers while trying to make new fans along the way.
This message is clear within the first 20 minutes of the movie.
[Once again, turn back, for HERE THERE BE SPOILERS.]
We expect Luke to take his old lightsaber — really, Anakin’s old lightsaber — and regard it as the way one should regard something that was last seen in your pre-severed hand. I mean, if last time I saw a Hummel figurine was in my hand that got lopped off, and then decades later you traipsed up to me on my creepy hermit island and handed me that very Hummel figurine, I’d look at you like you were Jesus Christ Himself, because, what the fuck. But that’s not what Luke does. He regards the lightsaber and instead, chucks it behind him, where a couple of porgs try to murder each other with it.
We expect Poe’s half-wit fly-boy hero plan to work, because in these movies, the dimwit hero plan always works — Han Solo always gets them out of a scrape by doing something very Han Solo, for instance, and so we trust that Poe is living by his instincts, and those will save the day. Except that’s not what happens. His efforts fuck it all up. Arguably, much of the film is based on his gigantic fuck-up. Lives are lost because of Poe Dameron.
We expect Vice Admiral Holdo doesn’t know what she’s doing, and that the snappy man who demands the plan is in the right. But he’s not. We expect incorrectly. She’s right. He’s wrong. She doesn’t owe him shit. And yet he, the demanding man, is assured that he is right and must be told the plan, and his Sexist Hero Man routine gets people killed.
We expect Rey to turn. Or Kylo to turn. They don’t.
We expect Snoke to be a grand puppetmaster, the Emperor Palpatine of the trilogy, and that he’ll — ooh, oops, he’s now cut in half? Or more than half? Was that a hand still sitting on the arm of his throne room chair? Somebody get some antibacterial ointment in that joint, post-haste.
We expect that our heroes must be chosen ones, that they come from special families, that they have been born of destiny — not that they are the children of drunken junkers, not that they once mopped a star destroyer, not that they are a lone mechanic weeping over the loss of a sister.
Often, our expectations are based on what we know of the former films — we know that the big AT-AT battle means a scrappy band will take some of those AT-ATs down and they’ll escape, but this escape is not so plucky, nor does it begin the film. It ends it. And it nearly ends the resistance. The heroic sacrifice of Finn — an expected moment — is thwarted by Rose, who kisses him. (We expected that to be Rey, didn’t we?)
In the throne room, we expect it will go like it did in Return of the Jedi — and it does, a little. Snoke is ultimately the Emperor, in that he’s a Sinister Puppetmaster with a lot of buildup but not a lot of meat on those bones. (Remember: Palpatine/Sidious only gets those deeper character beats much, much later, long after ROTJ left theaters.) The dark apprentice does turn on his master to save another, but Kylo’s turn is not the sacrifice of Vader but rather, a Sith-like move to eradicate the master and take on a new apprentice: Rey. Kylo does not turn to the light-side. He simply turns against Snoke. He fulfills the Dark Side’s wishes. (And then promptly begs and negs Rey when she won’t take his hand. “You’re nobody,” he tells her. “Please.”) And all of this happens in the second film of the trilogy, not the third — another subversion.
And that’s the word to note.
Ripples from thrown stones.
A Mirror, Slowly Cracking
It goes like this:
The Force Awakens was a little bit comfort food. It needed to be. It needed to play off our nostalgia. It needed to have the cut of A New Hope’s jib. We needed a reminder that we know this thing, that we love this thing.
But to go back to the jukebox metaphor, it didn’t play The Greatest Hits only. Or rather, it played them, but they were played by a new band, or performed live, or remixed, or played in a different key. The Force Awakens was comfort food, but with a few odd ingredients thrown in — “Wait, what the fuck is shiso? Is this bison? Are persimmons a real thing? Is this a persimmon or are those fruits you get in Narnia?”
The Force Awakens birthed mutations into the narrative code of Star Wars. It threw rocks into water. It chipped the mirror into which we were all staring — introducing just a few small cracks in the reflective glass. When Kylo Ren faces down Finn and Rey at the end of that film, he tells them, “It’s just us, now.” He’s telling us that the baton has been passed. “It’s not their story anymore. It’s our story.”
And then, The Last Jedi continues that.
The mutations are passed down, and the monster evolves.
The rocks in water created ripples, and now we’re seeing those ripples move toward the shoreline, some of them becoming waves.
The cracks in the mirror are growing bigger, distorting the image we expect to see reflected back at us, ruining the comfort of a mirrored image and breaking our assumptions into shards and islands of glass.
Every time we, as viewers, reach out to touch the mirror — as Rey does, in the cave — we only make more cracks. We don’t resolve the image. We don’t save the mirror. We further the breaking of the glass through our clumsy, monkey-handed expectations.
The comfort food of the Episode VII has become the molecular gastronomy of Episode VIII — ingredients we thought we knew, resolved into new forms: foams and suspensions, gelees and pancakes and cocktails, a thing we expect to be sweet is suddenly sour and salty, another thing is disassembled and deconstructed, a third thing isn’t supposed to be edible but somehow, it is.
The Last Jedi is not our comfort food.
It is not going to let your nostalgia be enough.
It’s A Fucking Mess, This Movie
The movie’s a mess.
And it needs to be.
I love that it’s a mess.
It’s not a formless mess. It’s not without purpose or shape.
But it’s a mess.
Let’s switch gears for a second.
Go to this link and watch the video — no, it’s not porn, it’s a brief clip from A Chef’s Table, featuring chef Grant Achatz talking about — well, you’ll see.
I, as a writer, take a lot of inspiration from this show, A Chef’s Table, not just because I like to watch pretentious chefs plate pretentious food pretentiously (though my word, I do love it!), but rather because I really appreciate seeing how each chef comes to the kitchen and to the plate and to the very idea of food differently. They are each singularly obsessed with their craft, but each in a wildly different direction — how they do it, why they do it, their ethos behind doing it, how they treat their staff, how they frame a plate, how they invent and reinvent themselves and their work? It fascinates me. And it inspires me.
Achatz in that clip says, to paraphrase, that he doesn’t want to be defined by the traditional margins of… well, preparing and serving food. He takes inspiration from modern art and for a dessert, removes the plate from the equation and lets the tablecloth serve as canvas:
That, an image of said dessert at Alinea, his restaurant.
That dish is a mess, in the literal sense of the word.
A wonderful mess. An elegant, articulate mess.
But a mess, just the same.
Now, I don’t want to give the wrong impression that The Last Jedi is quite so avant-garde — it’s not a shattering of the mold, it’s not giving us some David Lynchian view of the Star Wars franchise, but it is giving us a Rian Johnson view. And I’d argue, without knowing Rian Johnson’s precious and weird and wonderful heart, that he — like Achatz — did not want to be bound by the rigors of the plate. Because he did not make a film that followed the bouncing ball. It does not follow the classic narrative Hollywood blockbuster beats. (Nor, for the record, does Empire Strikes Back, by the way. I talk about how that film subverts the pattern in my book — plug alert — Damn Fine Story.) Johnson does not make a film pinned to the corkboard by the tropes of the Star Wars universe. It sees them. It uses them. And then it willfully discards them, locking eyes with you so you see that it’s doing it. And it results in a messy, bumpy, strange film.
One that needs to be messy, bumpy, and strange.
Because then, only then, are we truly free from the pattern.
I explained to my wife that The Last Jedi is like The Matrix Reloaded, if The Matrix Reloaded was actually good. That second film of the Matrix trilogy is a fucking mess, and it tries very hard to look into its own heart and challenge the assumptions you have about it — but it was too soon, and it too easily betrayed what the first film was without understanding why it was doing it. And it did it all in a haughty, nose-in-the-air, intellectually-elite way. (As with all things here and everywhere, YMMV.)
This film tries and messily succeeds.
And the resultant mess — the splatters, the ripples, the broken glass, the unfolding mutations — changes our understanding. It frees Episode IX from fitting a known pattern. It frees us from knowing what’s to come — we are gloriously, wonderfully lost. Just as the characters are themselves lost. I pondered that this film could’ve just as easily been called The Lost Jedi, because that’s how it feels. Luke is wayward. Rey is lost to her own powers and place in the world. Kylo is lost in his rage, fallen into the chasm of his heart and spirit. Poe is unmoored from his heroism. Finn is pinballing between his cowardice and his own heroism. Rose is lost without her sister. Leia is lost without Han and the Republic. The Resistance is lost under the might of the First Order. Everyone is lost. Everyone is failing. The entire movie presents us with failure after failure: characters trying to do the right thing and missing a step, every damn time.
But it presents failure in the way that the dessert table of Grant Achatz is a failure: it’s broken, yes, but into new shapes, new tastes. It’s failure in the way a mirror is broken: one image becomes many, distorted and new and beautiful in its way. It’s failure as the butterfly effect. It’s failure as Yoda tells it: the greatest teacher, failure is.
This failure of Luke, of Rey, of the Resistance, of all the characters, leads to a resurrection — the Phoenix Firebird of the Rebellion — rising anew.
This failure of these characters is a success for the film.
It’s a mess in the best way. Because in that mess, the patterns are lost, the expectations are destroyed, the tropes are broken and bent. For the first time in a long time, I had literally no idea what was going to happen, and that felt like madness in the best way.
This is a mythic remix. A resetting of the game board.
In being lost, we have become found.
That Coda, At The Ending
At the end of the film, we see the fathier stable-boy gently summon a broom to his hand and look to the night sky, a Resistance ring on his finger, the music of Luke Skywalker rising. It’s an odd coda in that none of the Star Wars films give us anything like that — but it’s beautiful to me in several ways. It’s beautiful because:
a) It continues the theme of Rey, Finn, Rose, where power and rebellion and heroism needn’t come from special bloodlines — it’s in all of us, all the way down to this one stable-boy.
b) It serves as a refutation, in fact, of the wealth and spectacle of Canto Bight, full of people who think they’re special but who are decidedly not.
c) It continues what for me is one of the chief themes of Star Wars, in that the actions of a small group can change the galaxy — Rose and Finn meet a boy who one day may become the face of the new Resistance; they have inspired him, they were the spark.
d) It makes me think of our own time, and the need for resistance against a rising autocratic regime, and it tells me that there’s a whole other take waiting on The Last Jedi, showing how it (and Episode VII) are telling us a lot more about our current political climate than we’d like. The film flirts for a while with an angle of Whataboutism, with Bothsidesism, where Kylo tells us that he wants to kill the past, where DJ the slicer tells us that all sides are bad, Luke hates the Jedi — but the movie concertedly, decidedly tells us that’s not true by the end. Rey picks her side, as does Kylo. Finn refutes DJ’s assertion. No Grey Jedi exist. Evil is evil, oppression is oppression, and the light will rise to meet it — here, now, with this young boy and his FORCE-BROOM.
e) Because my son loved that part. My son is six years old and responded to that kid by wanting to be that kid. HE HAS THE FORCE, my son said immediately after leaving the theater, DID YOU SEE THE BROOM OMG THE BROOM. This storyworld has long been generational: each generation now getting a trilogy for them, unique to them, and this is that, here. I love that. I love that this trilogy is more for him than it is for me. It doesn’t kill all the old stuff, it doesn’t shutter the past entirely, but it does break it apart, and remake it for kids my son’s age — and kids who aren’t just my son, either, kids who don’t look like him, kids who don’t have to look like Luke Skywalker but can instead look like Rose or Finn or Poe or Rey.
The challenge comes for the viewer is this:
Do you need need your Star Wars to be comfort food? No harm, no foul if you do. Some look to Star Wars and need it to be the perfect mirror it has been — they don’t want that mirror broken so that other stories can be told, so that other people can see themselves in the shared shards. Some want the tropes. They want the familiarity. They need nostalgia.
And this movie burns it all down.
A lightning strike setting fire to a sacred tree.
It’s okay if you didn’t like it.
But it’s worth appreciating what it did, and why, even if you don’t.
Me, I loved it.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to return to my wild gesticulations of joy.
See you around, kid.
(A few complaints and concerns about the film will be in the comments.)
167 responses to “The Last Jedi: A Mirror, Slowly Cracking”
I’ve been trying to articulate what bothered me about the movie and I think after reading this article I think the problem is that the movie doesn’t just subvert SOME expectations, it subverts ALL of them.
A surprise now and then is awesome. A surprise every 30 seconds just feels like they are overdoing it.
The movie starts with Poe talking to Hux. We think he’s there to have a serious conversation. The movie gives us silliness instead.
It then shows that he was using it as a brilliant plan to catch the enemy unaware so he could disable their guns which turns into a heroic attack against the Dreadnought, destroying it. We think he’s going to be praised for defeating a much more powerful enemy with limited resources and allowing the ships to escape. He gets yelled at and demoted instead.
They all escape and we think they are going to find a place to regroup and counter attack. But they don’t escape because of hyperspace tracking.
So then we go to Rey and Luke. We expect him to welcome Rey and train her to become a Jedi so she can defeat The First Order. He throws the lightsaber over his shoulder.
We expect that Luke will be a wise and good mentor, instead he is a suicidal broken man who hates life.
The movie pretty much continually goes like that. A moment happens that has either been led up to by all 7 of the previous movies to be one thing and it gives us something else, or events in this movie introduce a plan and then have it fall apart.
As other people have said, one of the themes of the movie appears to be that learning from your mistakes is good. But the problem is that movie shows everyone constantly NOT learning from their mistakes.
Luke went through a journey in the last 3 movies where Yoda tried to teach him that he needed to act intelligently, wait for the right time to act, not to go in impulsively. He needed to use knowledge, not aggression. He fails to learn that lesson by bringing his lightsaber into the cave and attacking, by rushing off to save his friends instead of completing his training, and lastly by attacking the Emperor when he told him to. But, in the end, when the Emperor thinks he has won, Luke shuts off his lightsaber, finally having learned his lesson that he won’t win by attacking. That action saves the day.
But then we pick up in this movie and the entire Jedi Temple was destroyed because Luke seems to have forgotten his own lesson. He attacked when he should have waited instead. But why? His entire journey was that it took a long time for him to learn that lesson but once he learned it, that was the trigger for him becoming a true Jedi. He had faced the darkness inside of him and won. Where there was conflict, there was now purpose and understanding. He even says “You have failed. I am a Jedi like my father before me.” right after the action, signifying that he’s made a breakthrough.
So, the one lesson that made him into a Jedi was undone just to subvert expectations in this movie. To me, Luke was a hero, someone to look up to because he faced darkness inside of him and said “No, I won’t go there”. That, more than anything was why I looked up to him…and for him to turn his back on that…I felt betrayed. I felt angry. But since he is a fictional character, I was angry at the people who wrote him to do that.
I rarely get that attached to a fictional character, but Luke has always held a special attachment for me. That moment of triumph where he chooses compassion, knowing that he’s pretty much going to sacrifice himself in exchange for saving his father’s soul is the number one moment in all the movies for me…and I feel like it was made completely irrelevant when the Republic was destroyed in one line during TFA and when TLJ revealed that he had forgotten all of the lessons he learned that brought him to that moment of triumph in RotJ.
To me, more than anything, that is why the movie lost me entirely. It was saying that Luke’s achievements, in fact, ALL of the achievements that were accomplished in the original trilogy weren’t important. They were all undone and they weren’t heroes any longer.
Along with the movies theme on rebirth and destroying the past, I felt like the movie was lecturing me on the fact that the things I like are gone, that they deserved to be gone because they weren’t as good as I remember them and they aren’t as important as what happens in the future. I felt like the movie was telling me that it didn’t want people like me to stick around. It wanted new fans, not the old ones. They were the past and they need to be killed.
Wow this is a good explanation, thank you.
I liked TLJ, but I didn’t remember Luke’s personal victory in ROTJ. In my memory it was all about defeating the Empire.
That said, I don’t think real people can’t make mistakes after they were enlightened. John Cleese wrote two great books with his psychotherapist, he looked as he knew everything, and then he married Alyce Faye Eichelberger. But also zen masters made mistakes.
It’s all real. Luke can make mistakes and people can die. But it’s not a reason to stop learning.
People in real life can make mistakes after they were enlightened, sure. But part of storytelling is that not everything that happens in real life happens on the screen. Characters in movies tend to be bigger than that. Especially Fantasy stories, which Star Wars essentially is. People are more black and white. More good and evil than they would be in real life.
We believe that King Arthur is the bastion of hope who will bring in a new age of peace and prosperity because he is the prophesied King. The chosen one. Destiny had chosen him and although in real life, he’s just as likely to fall to the dark as anyone else, we know he won’t because that’s the way Fantasy stories work.
The Force is a lot like Destiny. It chooses people and it manipulates luck so that extremely unlikely things happen. That’s why people in Star Wars movies HAPPEN to run into each other and happen to be the exact right people required to solve a problem. The Force Awakens uses that trope a lot.
I don’t want a realistic story told from the point of view of realistic people. I want the story to be a fantasy story filled with larger than life people who are above the common problems people have.
I don’t want Superman to be a normal person, I want him to be SUPERMAN! That’s what makes him interesting.
Oh wow. It looks like we are here at DC versus Marvel (super heroes with super problems(TM)).
Superman is boring if he’s just Superman, what are you talking about? What makes him interesting is being this alien, with such a vastly different view of the world based just in all his incredible powers, and he still identifies so strongly with humans, feels so achingly like one of them. Superman is what the world expects of him. Kal-El, his destiny’s expectation.
Clark Kent? He built Clark Kent, through the love of his adoptive parents, and that’s who he ultimately is at his core. A farm boy with a talent for words that just wants to make the world a better place, one way or another.
Fuck Superman being the focus. Clark is what’s important.
Well put. I felt something similar but parsed it differently… “I felt like the movie was lecturing me on the fact that the things I like are gone, that they deserved to be gone because they weren’t as good as I remember them and they aren’t as important as what happens in the future. I felt like the movie was telling me that it didn’t want people like me to stick around. It wanted new fans, not the old ones. They were the past and they need to be killed.”
I felt that first part as well, the movie was telling me that the past is gone and should be gone… and that they aren’t as important as what happens in the future… because that’s true. What I didn’t get is the feeling that this message meant they didn’t want me around.
It’s the other way around – if you don’t agree with the idea that the past is dead and the future is now, you don’t want the movie. You wanted the old movies. But you can’t just have the same thing over and over, life doesn’t work like that.
I think you can have new movies that are still in the vein of the past. Once that recognize and respect them. I felt the movies saying that things were going to change and if you don’t like that, we don’t want you around. Even Luke downplayed his own heroism. He said “Yeah, I did some stuff, but it wasn’t that important. Everyone else THINKS it was important, but it wasn’t.”
This kind of thing seems aimed at me. It says “Hey, you! You think Luke is important. You think the old movies were important. They weren’t. They mean so little that we will have your hero become very unheroic.
Their goal with the new movies was clearly to transition to their new heroes. To me, nothing seems to happen at all. This entire trilogy of movies seems set up for another trilogy of movies.
All that’s happened in two movies really is that The Republic was blown up, Han died, Luke died, Admiral Akbar died, all of the Jedi Luke trained died, the Rebels died and were replaced with a new Resistance. The Empire died and was replaced by the First Order.
The movies don’t seem to be about creating anything new, they are entirely about killing the old so that possibly another trilogy of movies (10-12 maybe) can be made without no connections at all to any of movies 1-6.
Yes I think this movie does some real
damage to the originals while relying on the nostalgia of them for emotional investment and that makes people angry.
>>My son is six years old and responded to that kid by wanting to be that kid. HE HAS THE FORCE, my son said immediately after leaving the theater, DID YOU SEE THE BROOM OMG THE BROOM. This storyworld has long been generational: each generation now getting a trilogy for them, unique to them, and this is that, here. I love that. I love that this trilogy is more for him than it is for me. It doesn’t kill all the old stuff, it doesn’t shutter the past entirely, but it does break it apart, and remake it for kids my son’s age — and kids who aren’t just my son, either, kids who don’t look like him, kids who don’t have to look like Luke Skywalker but can instead look like Rose or Finn or Poe or Rey.<<
THIS. More than anything – and this is a GREAT analysis, I've shared it on Facebook, love every word of it, but above all, THIS is why The Last Jedi is a great movie. OMG THE BROOM!!!
I completely agree with the original post. Let the past die. I also think Kylo Ren does not realize that includes him and his bloodline.
Also, Yoda discussing failure as a teaching moment. That our students surpass us. This will not turn out the way you want or hope. Hope is a plea for forgiveness or grace or success. It is not a guarantee of the outcome.
None of these diehard fans seem to remember we had no fucking clue what was going to happen after the first movie. No one guessed what Empire would bring, or Return of the Jedi. They look back with certainty only gained through hindsight and a lack of introspection. They want their heroes to continue to be their heroes. They don’t want to be sad. Sad makes them angry. Anger leads to hate. They want to Make Star Wars Great Again! Drain Degobah! That sort of garbage.
People whined that The Force Awakens was just the first trilogy smashed into one film. Now they whine that someone took their toys and broke them. I’m not 12 and these aren’t my toys. They are stories about loss, hope, and persistence in the face of utter defeat. Victories both Pyrrhic and triumphant. Love and hate and survival.
The story is that you must go on. You need to trust and take chances.
The fanboys can keep their toys. I want stories. I want to cry and cheer at what has passed. I want to hope and fear and wish for the best.
I am literally holding back tears because of the movie and because of the actual losses around it. Also, for the men that can’t see the need to learn from what has come in order to make things better. But, there are others that will seize that spark, whether the old guard sees it or not.
And, sometimes you just need to shut up and do what the women tell you what to do. Especially when they have General and Admiral as their titles.
I also left the theater not even remembering “DJ’s” name.
Diversity is a good thing. Good to see it whenever possible. No problem with green, blue, etc aliens, but hold up… Asian women or black men with agency? As far as LGBT presence goes, other than all of us knowing that Poe totally wants to make it happen with Finn (loved him in that jacket), nothing there.
In the first trilogy, I did not connect with the “adults” in the story. I didn’t connect with anyone in the prequels. In this series, I see the other side of youth. I can see how Han ran off to be the smuggler of his youth, Leah throwing herself into the Resistance, and Luke closing himself off, because the dream was not the reality. It is painful, but I can see it. And I want to feel young again, seeing Poe, Rey, Finn, and Rose fighting for what they love against the odds.
Maybe if Episode XII would have been called “I’ve Got a Bad Feeling About This”, then the naysayers would have tracked with it better.
I must confess, I didn’t think too deeply about the movie, until I read this post, and most of the comments—which is more interesting than the reality shows about mechanics that my husband is watching, or rather, napping through. Now I kind of want to watch it again, for the things I missed. I loved it when Luke threw the lightsaber over his shoulder like socks on Christmas morning, because it let us know right from the start that this Star Wars, wouldn’t follow the rules, but I did find the old and broken Luke rather depressing. I love Rey, and I didn’t mind her trying to turn Kylo Ren, as it did mirror Luke and Darth Vader, and it showed her strength, not weakness. I like Finn, but I don’t think he and Rey have good chemistry. They’re no, Han and Leia. Maybe Poe…
Loved the movie and this review.
Only have one comment. Anybody expecting a Finn/Poe bromance/romance? I think they shattered that one, too. Poe was happy to see Finn, but he didn’t get REALLY excited until he saw BB-8. I think that little robot has attachments we haven’t seen.
I was expecting that romance too.
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I’m still trying to decide if I like TLJ. I need to watch it again. I do agree with one review that said it’s a good 104 minute film stretched to two and a half hours. Say what you will about inverting expectations, it’s still (supposed to be) Star Wars. And, yes, there were some great set pieces and arguably the best light saber fight in all the movies. But there were also a couple of long stretches of get-on-with-it.
So based on one viewing (so maybe some of this was answered in the movie and I missed it), these were some of my problems. Of course, every single movie ever made and certainly every Star Wars movie, has plot problems. Anywho:
Like I said, some long sections where nothing seemed to be going on.
So if Admiral Laura Dern had to stay behind to pilot the ship (really, no auto-pilot on these things?) … why didn’t she? She just stood on the bridge doing nothing until she came up with her (yes, way cool) idea. And maybe I can buy her needing to pilot her ship, but why did the other two captains have to die on their ships–obviously the ships would be lost so they certainly didn’t need to keep piloting them after getting everyone off.
Why NOT tell Dameron of their plans? Hell, why not tell the entire crew? There was zero reason not to tell them and it would have SAVED EVERYONE. Then Finn and Rose wouldn’t have run off EXPOSING the escaping rebels, getting a lot of them killed because of the sitcom trope of not taking two seconds to explain yourself. Sure, Admiral Dern probably didn’t expect mutiny (shouldn’t Poe have been summarily executed for his actions?). Jack Tripper would have been proud.
Dameron Poe DOES save the day by destroying the Dreadnought. Sure, he didn’t know they could be tracked through hyperspace, so his act was reckless, but if he hadn’t done that, the fleet would have been toast on the other side of the jump. Crispy, crispy toast.
Likewise, I don’t agree with saving Finn near the end. Rebellions are about sacrifice (see Poe and the bombing run on the Dreadnought). Because the enemy is so large, you have to do some seriously crazy stuff to try to counter them. You need people like Poe who know it’s a suicide mission and do it anyway. It was a bad decision to break off the attack on the canon. With the canon working, the Rebellion was dead. You don’t break off those kinds of attacks.
Rose’s reckless saving of Finn should have destroyed the Rebellion right there. She didn’t know Luke was going to save the day. Her selfish saving-of-Finn should have killed them all.
Why didn’t the Falcon return to fight the walkers … and maybe destroy the canon?
Please note, none of my problems with the plot concern Rey and Kylo. I’m sure there were plot holes there, as well, but because it was so cool, it didn’t matter–I even forgive the weird Kylo shirtless scene that reminded me so much of a Robert Mitchum riff from The Simpsons.
But even with all of the above, I need to watch it again and see if it bugs me on second viewing.
And, of course, I missed seeing the first page of comments so probably everything I’ve talked about here has already been addressed 😛
“… is thwarted by Rose, who kisses him. (We expected that to be Rey, didn’t we?)” No. I was expecting someone else. Poe, for example.
This will really would challenge the traditional margins of the SW saga.
Honestly, the way Rose was weeping when Finn found her I wasn’t thinking she’d lost a sister. Had that been true, and had she then turned her affections on Finn…that would have not just challenged but exploded the traditional margins of the saga.
I must say I was glad it was “only” her sister, as that would have been classic “Bury your gays” territory. Mention they’re gay, but get out of showing anything actually gay.
So… the scene is still set for the first gay romance being our beloved Storm/Pilot! And no one gets to tell me otherwise!
Your thoughts have given me a lot to consider. I saw the film last night and I have been in a state of turmoil ever since. There were things about it I loved and things about it I hated. I admit, I love Star Wars for the nostalgia. I love getting to return to the joy and awe I felt as a child when I first saw the original films. I absolutely loved reading “From a Certain Point of View” for that very reason.
I’m not opposed to shaking things up. I bid farewell to Han in TFA, understanding and accepting why it had to happen. But I guess I don’t understand the need to burn absolutely everything down, to the point that it doesn’t quite feel like Star Wars anymore. Or to be more precise, to me TLJ didn’t feel consistent with TFA, and I think that’s what bothered me most.
Snoke and Phasma were established in TFA as potentially very interesting characters. If they were underused in TFA, there was still the possibility that their roles and backstories could be expanded throughout the remainder of the trilogy. I wasn’t deeply attached to either of them, but I appreciated that Snoke’s importance came from what he had done to Ben Solo, and possibly his role in strengthening the First Order (what happened to Grand Admiral Sloane? Did Snoke usurp her position within the leadership? I want to know!). Phasma was given a remarkable backstory in the recent novel. So for TLJ to dispatch them both – without any outstanding questions answered in Snoke’s case – felt more sloppy than shocking.
I have really enjoyed the tie-in novels and other content, especially your Aftermath trilogy, and I have been excited to see the ways in which the films and additional content intertwine. So it feels like a bit of a trick to have certain characters built up in the first film of the trilogy and in the tie-in material, only to be dispatched unceremoniously in the second film because a different writer-director wished to focus on other things. The rest of the film I can accept and, in many cases, enjoy. It’s the instances of discontinuity between TFA and TLJ that have left me feeling a bit frustrated.
This is one of the most insightful, lucid and spot-on reviews of the Last Jedi that I have read. And I’ve read A LOT. Or it may be that much of this was swirling in my own mind and you brought it it into firm order for me. Thank you, Chuck. And really; well done.
I can’t understand the praise for this film by professional writers. Setting up interesting and significant plot points and making audiences wait for two years for a payoff only to flush them all down the toilet is just bad writing, not an interesting and fresh surprise. You can change direction, but without an explanation it is just bad writing. I don’t have a problem with change, but I do think it’s shitty to negate everything that Star Wars is and make major characters behave in completely implausible ways. I mean if you want a completely new thing that doesn’t fit in the established world, then have the nuts to put your own name on that thing and don’t hang on to Star Wars coat tails. And I don’t care about any of these new characters, they haven’t given us a reason to. There is nothing about this that I would want to revisit next week let alone introduce to a new generation. There’s no magic, no story, nothing to root for. It’s a giant disrespectful cop out. Roz Weston on Canadian ET provides a more eloquent take on this. “It’s like the hero’s journey only we cut out all the middle stuff,” said another reviewer. ( What went wrong at the Last Jedi Pitch Meeting ) The original three films have endured despite their flaws because of their moving themes and great characters. The new films have neither. ( Although Rogue One was awesome and TFA raised a lot of interesting points -if only one of them had been followed up on. ) This isn’t evolution, this is butchery.
I disagree with your review but I really enjoyed reading it. It’s interesting to hear others takes, it extends the magic beyond the movie running time. I thought TLJ was watchable but it dampened my enthusiasm going forward. When TFA came out I thought, wow these are great new characters. The blowing up of starkiller base wasn’t all that exciting the third time around but I was optimistic that Disney was going to do this right and the best Star Wars movies might be ahead. I left the theater with questions and rewatched it several times looking for more clues about those questions.
Who were Rey’s parents / where did she come from?
Who was Lor San Tekka
Who made the map to Luke Skywalker?
What secrets would he reveal when they found him?
What’s the 1st Jedi temple going to be like?
Who were the Knights of Ren?
Who was Snoke?
What’s Phasma’s background?
What’s the state for the galaxy beyond what we’ve seen?
Where did the First Order come from?
I list these out to contrast my thoughts after seeing TLJ.
Hmmm, I hope they can write an interesting departure for Carrie Fisher in IX.
That’s literally it.
After TFA, I looked for more information on fan theories. I read the Aftermath trilogy, Ahsoka, Phasma, and Thrawn hoping to spend more time in the universe. I play SW app games and Battlefront. Overall just very excited to hear more. Now, I think TLJ answered some of my questions in the least interesting ways and left very little of interest to move forward with.
I actually found your review while trying to see what you’re up to. I was hoping you may be available for a Snoke background story. Moving forward I’m looking forward to a SW Rebels follow-up show, a Snoke background book, and the Solo movie. Not really looking forward to the conclusion of this trilogy or that Rian Johnson is involved in th next. That makes me sad but perhaps it means I’ll be more open to new non Star Wars stories.
So, I’m an old girl, almost seventy, watched this movie on Imax and had fun like a little kid. It was big and messy with people feeling lost and confused, and I loved every minute of it. It didn’t go as I expected, so I changed my expectations on the fly. I realized that in many ways it reminded me of the kind of fiction I have been reading lately that set me back on my heels, challenged my brain, and totally energized me. Again, I loved this movie, I’m with Chuck on this!
This is the best pro-last Jedi review I’ve seen. Thank you for giving me so much writerly food for thought.
The problem for me is all of this cool stuff about the movie can be true and laudable yet the movie can still fail for the simple reason that it didn’t give me enough character development to care. Finn is delightful but spends little screen time with our other protags. Ray is a cipher. And Poe is actually a toxic force. So after several decades of wanting to know what happens, I don’t anymore. I assume Leia will die disappointed and uselessly and that Kylo Ren will win and be tweeting about crowd sizes at his imperial marches.
[…] But this post isn’t about Star Wars or the cinematic qualities (or lack thereof) of the flick. In a frenzy to find well written reviews about TLJ to fill my own quivers as way to defend the movie whenever asked, I stumbled upon a powerfully written analysis of the movie. It can be read here. […]
I scrolled back “fucking loved it” due to spoiler fear, but I learned what I needed. I’m gonna watch it. But before I do, here’s this:
Rey: “It’s not too late Kylo, come with me.”
Kylo: “Sorry Rey, but I’ve always Ben Solo.”
PAST. I scrolled PAST. Jeez. I need an editor.
I LOVED TLJ and your bit about failure is exactly why I loved it. I have struggled with perfectionism and fear of failure my whole life, and the failures of the characters became very meaningful for me. I also really think everyone in the movie is struggling with trauma and it feels like I saw their actions as different from other viewers that don’t have their own trauma experiences. When Poe goes hard for the destroyer, to me it isn’t because he’s a hot head. It is because he has PTSD and is experiencing a fight reaction. The popular image of PTSD is of flight, but people react differently. He is essentially raped by Kylo Ren and it is heavily implied he’s tortured before that. Then he crash lands in the desert and has to survive somehow etc etc. So when Amilyn is all blah blah dumb flyboy, I don’t think we are supposed to agree with HER. The point of the story is that SHE is the one that is wrong, that Poe isn’t doing it for the glory but because he truly believes his actions are correct.
[…] IT’S NOT WHAT YOU WERE EXPECTING. Star Wars: Aftermath author Chuck Wendig has some thoughts about fan expectations in relation to The Last Jedi. (The below excerpt is non-spoilery, but there are SPOILERS at the […]
[…] Holahan Peters recently immersed herself in Chuck Wendig’s Terribleminds blog post, “The Last Jedi: A Mirror, Slowly Cracking.” This “incredibly detailed look” at the most recent, delightfully divisive entry […]
I don’t mind of things go to pot in a Star Wars movie. I didn’t mind it in “The Empire Strikes Back” or “Revenge of the Sith”. I do mind when things go to pot WITH BAD WRITING, which is what I believe happened in “The Last Jedi”.
Chuck, I appreciate your take on the film more than words can express because, like you and so many others, the same ol’ proven tropes grow stale after a while. Who honestly wants to see/read the same basic story, recycled and reused until the end of time? I have a huge respect and appreciation for all things original and creative; for those constantly challenging the status quo, and from the sounds of it, that’s exactly what Rian Johnson tried to do here.
[…] a la hora de enfrentarme a la crítica, no tenía ni idea de cómo enfocarla. Me pasaron entonces un artículo que me aportó muchísimo y con el cual estoy completamente de acuerdo y me orientó más o menos, sabiendo ya en qué […]
To finish on my rambling over 9000 rant I feel if they went with the EU just after ROTJ things would not be much better, you’d still have wonky direction but at least the story would be more interesting and not feel like over produced fan fiction. Tho if they make Unleashed and Jedi Knight cannon or brought in somehow I may forgive the new canon…maybe… splitting things like they did…is just silly…. a golden opportunity to rework the continuity from the old republic forward polishing and refining it as they go… no need to throw anythign away just the more silly stuff you give it a passing mention.
I’ve linked this review in the resources section of my The Last Jedi article: https://alkony.enerla.net/english/the-nexus/sf-f-nexus/star-wars-episode-viii-the-last-jedi-2017-film-review-by-kadmon