[WARNING: This review contains spoilers. Turn back now if you haven’t seen the movie!]
So opinions on Star Wars: The Last Jedi have become incredibly mixed. And to be honest, it’s not hard to see why. I think the movie makes a lot of brave choices, some of which are bound to be controversial for years to come. I sincerely hope anyone reading this review loves the movie. But if you don’t, I definitely empathize with you and will explain why I think Last Jedi is a mediocre movie.
I’ll start by talking about one of the things I love about this movie: the musical score. It’s off-the-charts amazing. In my non-spoiler review, I mentioned that I really enjoyed it, but after listening to it for the last couple of days, I’ve grown to think that it’s the best soundtrack in a Star Wars movie since the original trilogy. The theme that really stood out to me is Rose’s theme (It’s called “Fun with Finn and Rose” if you wanna check it out on youtube). It’s just flat-out beautiful and a welcome addition to the many iconic Star Wars themes. I also love the Canto Bight theme, which is a ton of fun too and sets the mood well when Finn and Rose enter the casino. There’s no doubt that I’ll be listening to Last Jedi‘s soundtrack for a while to come.
Speaking of Canto Bight, the sequence there with Finn and Rose has become very controversial, with many people hating it. To be honest, I think the location is really cool. It feels like A New Hope‘s famous cantina scene on a much larger scale. I’d say the first half of the time spent there is done really well, with tons of excellent costumes and sets being shown off. But the space horse escape sequence that took up the second half was just awful. The CGI just does not look convincing enough, and it’s honestly a little too cheesy on the whole, even for Star Wars. I would have preferred a traditional speeder chase, or maybe just a chase by foot through Canto Bight’s streets. I also thought the humor was hit-or-miss during the entire Canto Bight sequence. I love how Finn and Rose were arrested for a parking violation; it’s hilarious and feels distinctly Star Wars to me. However, the slapstick humor involving the dumb little CGI creatures reminded me of the prequels, especially when one of them puts coins into BB-8 like a slot machine. That moment in particular felt too much like Earth-based humor, which is another problem that I had with the movie. There are quite a few moments that are funny, but feel like they belong on Earth, and not in the Star Wars universe. I really liked the introduction to DJ, though, which happens in Finn and Rose’s cell. But the Canto Bight stuff is part of a larger problem that the film has.
Rose and Finn’s objective is to find the “master codebreaker,” which is a fun idea. I love how they kinda just stumble upon DJ, and decide that he’ll have to do. But ultimately, even after DJ is brought onto Snoke’s star destroyer to disable its trackers, the entire mission does absolutely nothing for the story. DJ predictably betrays Finn and Rose and they fail to disable the tracker, which would have been fine if it was part of the story for them to tragically fail in their mission. But Laura Dern’s character, Holdo, destroys Snoke’s ship herself, which completely nullifies everything that Finn and Rose had done. This is the plotline that I referred to as “filler” in my spoiler-free review. I enjoyed watching everything that Finn and Rose did, but it was all pointless and should have been changed to fit the story. Although Finn and Phasma’s fight, shown above, was epic, and really well-choreographed. Phasma was definitely wasted in this movie, though. She died in an anticlimactic way and could have been saved for Episode IX. Also, the movie completely ignores the fact that Phasma literally betrayed the First Order in Force Awakens by disabling Starkiller Base’s shields. They could have created a really compelling arc for Phasma, in which the First Order has doubts about her allegiance and she is revealed to just be a coward hiding inside a chrome suit. Finn also doesn’t have enough character development. I loved the scene in which Rose found him trying to escape, but after that scene, he no longer had any desire to leave the Resistance. Why not have him consider ditching the Resistance when he gets to Canto Bight and realizes how nice it would be to live there in peace? How about have him consider leaving when DJ mentions that you should never pick a side? These were missed opportunites for Finn’s character that would have made him more compelling.
The attempted romance between Rose and Finn also falls completely flat and I didn’t buy it one bit. Rose saving Finn by smashing her speeder into his felt completely unnecessary and ridiculous. If Finn had sacrificed himself by crashing his ski speeder into the First Order’s battering ram, it would’ve been more emotional and just better overall, but nope, Rose saves Finn and screws over the Resistance. And yeah, that kiss was just cringeworthy and doesn’t fit.
My biggest problem with the movie, though, is the handling of both Rey and Luke. In my spoiler-free review, I mentioned that there was something that I expected to be in the movie that wasn’t, making the movie narratively unstable. I was referring to Luke training Rey, which basically never happens.
LUKE NEVER TRAINS REY. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!?!
Look, I went into this movie with an open mind, ready to be surprised by the plot. But Rey not being trained hurts the movie quite a bit. She’s, all of a sudden, a powerful Jedi by the second act of the movie without putting any work into getting to that point. She’s able to hold her own against Snoke and Kylo Ren, fight highly trained Praetorian Guards, and can force-lift a pile of rocks that weighs thousands of pounds. I’m sorry, but I just don’t buy it. All I needed was a few more scenes of training between Rey and Luke, but for whatever reason, that element of the film feels completely truncated. It’s probably due to time constrictions, but those scenes were necessary to the film and needed to be there, even if the movie ended up being ten or fifteen minutes longer. I don’t really care as much about Rey’s journey in the film as I should because it doesn’t feel earned. I understand that she’s powerful, but she shouldn’t be so powerful that she doesn’t need training. But let’s be honest, that Praetorian Guard scene was awesome regardless. I mentioned in my spoiler-free review that there was a sequence that would wow audiences because of its excellent choreography, and that was it.
Also, I love the idea of Luke rejecting the Jedi because, frankly, they were incompetent. But at the end of the movie he all of a sudden is totally okay with the Jedi continuing. I guess that Yoda scene (which, by the way, I loved) was supposed to be the moment where Luke accepted the Jedi again, since Yoda convinces him to save her. But why wouldn’t he talk him into being a hero earlier? Like, two years earlier? It just feels forced, and I feel that it would have been more convincing and more emotional if Luke’s return to glory was from Rey convincing him to be a Jedi again.
But I have to admit that I wasn’t a huge fan of how Luke was handled in the movie. I love the idea of being a broken man who is unwilling to train Rey at first, but the idea that he would consider killing Kylo goes against his character. In Return of the Jedi, he opted to redeem Vader rather than killing him. Also, I hate the fact that Luke never leaves Ach-To. It felt like Rian Johnson wanted to surprise us with that, since we all expected him to join the fight in other locations, but it was an unpleasant surprise that made me quite angry, frankly. Also, his death was so disappointing. It didn’t feel like he actually sacrificed himself. Having him die from exhaustion wouldn’t be as powerful as, say, having him die in the Battle of Crait. Why not have him just go to Crait? Seriously!! Why not?? What’s the point in having him be a projection on Crait other than to have a cheap, predictable surprise that makes audience members angry?