‘The Last Jedi’ Force Chokes Audience With Hype, Fails To Resonate

By | December 21, 2017

The Last Jedi Poster

‘The Last Jedi’ Official Movie Poster [Credit: LucasFilms/Disney]

A long time ago…I started writing this article. In fact, I started it immediately after seeing The Last Jedi on opening night. Since then, I’ve been wrestling with my initial feelings about the film. I’ve been listening to podcasts, watching YouTube videos, and reading articles that breakdown the film, and vary in opinion.

I did not hate the movie, but as much as it pains me to say this, I did not love it either. The Last Jedi is not a terrible movie, but it’s not great either. It falls somewhere between “that was ok” and “well, at least it didn’t suck.” Older fans that grew up watching 4-6, and subsequently 1-3, are going to have a tough time accepting this film. I don’t want to say much more, just in case you haven’t seen the film yet.

So far, The Last Jedi has managed to make millions and millions of dollars while dividing fandom like a lightsaber through butter, or Darth Maul. Interestingly, The Last Jedi has one of the lowest fan ratings (50%) of a Star Wars flick on Rotten Tomatoes. I think that’s way too low of a score. I’d score Last Jedi somewhere around 70% fresh for reasons that I’ll get into in a parsec.

In order to explain my viewpoint, I’m going to dive deep into SPOILERS.



Star Wars Fandom Has Been Divided Once Before

Jar Jar in Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’ [Credit: I have no idea but they deserve a medal]

There are two types of Star Wars fans in the galaxy: those that love everything about the Star Wars universe, including Jar Jar Binks and the midichlorian explanation of the Force, and those that expect each movie to be just as good as Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (minus the re-release additions).

After seeing The Last Jedi, I rank it closer to the prequels for reasons that I’ll explain later in this article. If you’re interested, here is my ranking of the Star Wars movies.

  • A New Hope
  • Empire Strikes Back
  • The Force Awakens
  • Return Of The Jedi
  • Rogue One
  • The Last Jedi
  • Revenge Of The Sith
  • Phantom Menace
  • Attack Of The Clones

My list might be too critical of The Last Jedi, but so many things happened in this movie that caused me to wonder if I was really watching a Star Wars movie. I swear to Snoke that Writer/Director Rian Johnson joined the Knights of Ren before creating this movie because he totally deconstructed everything about Star Wars. And before anyone tries to convince me that a deconstruction needed to happen, stop, just stop. The last movie was a huge success. Fans were super pumped for a Star Wars film that had the magic of episodes 4-6, and they got it. So don’t give me this bantha poodoo that the franchise was running out of fuel and needed to be jumped started with a retooling. Things were getting back on track just fine until Rian Johnson showed up.

The Force Isn’t Strong With Rian Johnson 

Rian Johnson [Credit: Not sure maybe Kylo Ren]

Walking into this movie, I failed to pay attention to who wrote it and/or directed it. I did my best to stay away from spoilers, trailers, Facebook, you name it. A mistake of an apprentice, I made, because it turns out the movie was written and directed by Rian Johnson. Name ring a bell? No, don’t worry, it didn’t for me either.

A quick Google search and a read through Rian’s bio on IMDB helped me to piece together why The Last Jedi failed to deliver. Turns out, Ria’s biggest accomplishment happened five years ago when he wrote and directed Looper. Looper was alright, I guess, but it wasn’t anything special. I’ve seen it once and have no desire to see it again. Unfortunately, I kind of feel the same about Last Jedi.

I have a feeling that J.J. Abrams coming back to write and direct Episode 9 (an announcement made before the release of Last Jedi) has something to do with Mickey Mouse not being totally pleased with Rian’s vision of a galaxy far, far away. I’m sure that the higher-ups at the Magic Kingdom gave Rian’s movie the thumbs up, but maybe they will have a change of heart because of all of the fan criticism of Last Jedi.

Yes, I know that Rian is slated to work on the trilogy to follow Episode 9, but directors change. Don’t forget, Disney axed Josh Trank from Rogue One, and Phil Lord and Chris Miller from the untitled Han Solo movie.

Light Speed In Slow-Mo

I really enjoyed The Force Awakens. It got the Star Wars franchise back on track and it paid homage to Episodes IV through VI while ignoring some of the oddities of the prequels. Even thought the runtime of Awakens was close to The Last JediAwakens was fast paced, full of energy, and full of purpose. After I walked out of The Last Jedi, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it ignored everything that happened in Awakens, and nothing really happened to make me want more from the next installment. Last Jedi should have been called Star Wars: A Run On A Hamster Wheel because of the lack of story progress. Shortly into the movie it became clear that something was amiss whenever the major plot point was about a really slow spaceship chase that – believe it or not – was pretty boring to watch, kind of like the cops giving chase to O.J. Simpson.

A Story Of Redemption That Rings Hollow

For the most part, Last Jedi is about Luke Skywalker finding redemption, which takes that character down a very uncharacteristic path. You would have thought that by the end of Return Of The Jedi, Luke was a Master Jedi because he overpowered the Dark Side, and restored balance to the Force. After Return Of The Jedi, I always viewed Luke as incorruptible like Yoda or Obi Wan. Turns out I was wrong.

At the end of The Force Awakens, we were left with that epic shot of Rey holding out Luke’s lightsaber to him, Luke looking in awe, and Rey holding out hope that Luke will save the Resistance from peril. In The Last Jedi, that scene is concluded by Luke tossing the lightsaber over his shoulder and totally dismissing Rey’s plea for help. It got a laugh from the audience, and from me, but it initiated a disappointing storyline about Luke.

It has been pointed out to me that Yoda and Obi Wan were Jedi Masters that failed and found solitude on a desolate planet, and that Luke did the same in Last Jedi. I’m fine with Luke finding solitude, but where he fold found it seemed like an odd choice. We are repeatedly told that Luke disconnected from the Force and wants the Jedis to end. Ok, but why live on an ancient Jedi island with the sacred texts? Wouldn’t you want to be as far away from the thing you want to distance yourself from? That’s like breaking up with your girlfriend but then choosing to live with her. It just didn’t make sense.

As Luke’s backstory with Ben Solo is explained, we come to find out that Luke isn’t the Master Jedi that we thought he was. In fact, in a moment of weakness, Luke almost killed a sleeping Ben Solo because Luke feared what Ben could/would become. Ben escapes leaving Luke angry and upset with himself. And instead of correcting his wrong, Luke decides to disconnect from the Force, become a hermit, and let the galaxy go to shit. I’m not sure, but I think all of those choices strip Luke of his Master Jedi status and turn Luke back to the Dark Side (which doesn’t exist, which I’ll get to in a minute).

Fear is the path to the dark sidefear leads to angeranger leads to hate…hate leads to suffering.” – Yoda

Here is the other thing that bothers me about Luke almost striking down Ben. It was that action that pushed Ben to run and turn into Kylo Ren. If Luke would have been chill about the situation, he wouldn’t have turned Ben into Kylo. So, basically, Luke is his worst enemy. I get it that giving Luke a weakness makes him more human and not some all powerful being. It’s a slice of life story because real life heroes disappoint us all the time, and now Luke is no different.

How Rian decided to write Luke in this movie is the most disappointing aspect of the film. Over a period of two films (Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi) we saw how Luke never gave up on the father he barely knew in hopes to turn him from the Dark Side. Even when things were at their gravest, Luke pushed forward because that’s what heroes do. Why Luke would turn his back on the people that he knows [nephew (Ben), friend (Han), and sister (Leia)] and in a moment of weakness resort to killing Ben, is a bit too unbelievable and destroys the hero aspect of Luke that was built up to this point. Yes, he finds redemption by the end of the movie, but for most of the film, he’s wallowing about and drinking milk.

I like that he came to his senses after seeing the message Leia programed into R2-D2 but…

Train, Or Train Not, There Is No Try

Luke reluctantly ends up “training” Rey, and while doing so, he explains that there is no Light or Dark Side of the Force, there is just the Force. Huh? What? Turns out the Force is just out there and that it can be manipulated for good or evil. Ok, I guess, but if there is no Dark Side and there is no Light Side, then why is the Resistance fighting the Empire? What is the Resistance…resisting? A universal takeover? Ok, but what if a universal takeover is a good thing for the galaxy – whose to say since there is not Light or Dark Side?

It always seemed like the Force was behind people’s motivations to walk down certain paths. If you weren’t connected to the Force, then you were just a cog in the wheel that really didn’t serve a purpose in helping to maintain balance within the universe. I’m ok with Rey allegedly not having a connection to the Skywalker bloodline which means that anyone has the potential to be strong in the Force, whether good or bad. However, so much of the Star Wars movies have been about the Light Side and the Dark Side of the Force. Or that the Force is reserved for only those of the Light Side and it helps battle the Dark Side (an entity separate from the Force). Whichever the case, a distinction has always existed.

Not any more (allegedly). We learn that Luke discovered that there is no Light Side and Dark Side, there is just the Force. Luke appears to believe that using the Force for good (such as the establishment of the Jedi Order) was a mistake because of everything that happened in the prequels. I’m not sure that I agree with this opinion. It always seemed to me that the Senate was to blame for everything which ultimately turned into the Galactic Empire.

By disregarding the mythos of the Light and Dark Side, Rian has removed the levity and peril that runs through the Star Wars mythos. Now, it seems like everything boils down to Ben Solo being evil because he is evil. Ok, I guess, but I can turn on the news and watch that same story play out. There is nothing special about evil people doing evil things. What was special about Star Wars villians was that they were being used by an unseen, evil force that empowered them to carry out the mission of disrupting the balance of the Force. But now that is all gone. In this movie, Kylo Ren and Snoke were stripped of everything that made them supernatural and a threat greater than just evil people.

A Rey Of Light That Is Missing

What’s odd is that Rey’s training is not about using the Force for good, or to become a Jedi. I’m really not sure how any of the limited “training” Luke gave Rey provided her with any guidance whatsoever. To me, it appeared as though the training lead Rey to use the force to selfishly find out who her parents are, and to turn Ben Solo from what I don’t know since there is no Dark Side.

Rey eventually leaves Luke since Luke is too stubborn to leave and help the residence (what a hero) which results in Yoda showing up to talk to Luke. I’ll admit that it was cool to see Yoda, but everything he says and does seems contradictory. Yoda, like Thor, sends down a lighting bolt to wipe out an old tree, an action that appears to support Luke’s ideology to remove the Jedi Order from existence. But then, Yoda talks to Luke about helping Rey. Again, if there is no light or dark side, then why help Rey? Because it’s the right thing to do? Sure, but wouldn’t that have been obvious to Luke from the beginning?

Up, Up, And Away

I’m not sure what to say here. I mean we get a scene where Leia comes back from the dead and “flies” through space. Leia was never portrayed as being strong with the Force. Sure, she and Luke had a mental connection and she slowly began to reach out and feel the Force, but she was never trained to be a Jedi (or was see according to the visual guide). To have her come back from the dead as she did is a total head scratcher because she doesn’t really serve a purpose in the movie thereafter.

You Must Unlearn What You Have Learned

Viewers that enjoyed the movie preference their opinion by saying Last Jedi is nothing like the prior films and that it is better than Force Awakens because it is not a rehashing of prior episodes. I totally disagree with this opinion. The Last Jedi tried too hard to outsmart the audience and ended up feeling like a mashup of Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. “But so much happened that you didn’t expect.” Really, like what?

Luke saved the day.

Rey didn’t turn to the Dark Side (if that exists anymore).

Kylo is still a bad guy.

It felt like there were a lot of twist and turns but they went nowhere and distracted you from the fact that nothing shocking happened.

The movie would have been way cooler if Rey ended up joining Kylo to create some kind of third, more powerful entity, something stronger than the Light and Dark Side. And because of the creation of this new power couple the Force went totally out of balance. It would have be cool to see Luke, Finn and the others fight to bring Rey and Kylo over to the Light Side in Episode 9.

The conclusion of The Last Jedi didn’t leave us with must mystery to chew on until the next installment. In fact, the ending felt pretty conclusive. I expect the Resistance to grow stronger and for Rey (with the Jedi books) to be leading an army of Jedis. Maybe Kylo will have an apprentice in the next movie to give us something new. Here’s hoping that J.J. Abrams steers the Star Wars franchise back on track.

What did you think of the movie? Did The Last Jedi live up to your expectations? Let me know in the comment section.


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