NOTE: Every attempt has been made to make this review spoiler-free. References will be made to The Force Awakens and some general story elements of The Last Jedi. If you are at all uncertain – turn back now.
It seems like it was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away when The Force Awakens made its debut, breathing fresh life into the Star Wars franchise and setting a whole new generation on the path of the Force. Now, nearly 2 years after Rey and Kylo Ren were set on a collision course with one another, the story picks up once again as an uncertain young woman meets the fabled Jedi Master Luke Skywalker, and Kylo Ren, defeated and disgraced, struggles to fulfill his legacy as a descendant of Lord Vader. Along the way, the hamstrung Resistance forces are forced to retreat from one battle after another, clinging desperately to survival so that they can summon their distant allies and hopefully turn the tide against The First Order.
This is the backdrop against which The Last Jedi plays out, and while there are certainly some genuine surprises and epic adventure that makes up any good Star Wars film, I ultimately found myself facing the end credits with more questions than answers – and not in a good way.
First, I will say that all of the acting in The Last Jedi is fantastic. Mark Hamill’s interpretation of a reclusive hermit, as well as the torment he suffers for failing his former student, is a joy to behold. Daisy Ridley also does a masterful job of guiding Rey through some darker plot elements. She begins to show some cracks in her otherwise impenetrable moral armor, a point that was often brought up when The Force Awakens arrived two years ago.
Adam Driver, once again, creates a compelling character portrait of Kylo Ren. The emotionally tormented youth who continues to struggle with living up to the expectations of his bloodline, the viewer gets a few telling glances behind the iron curtain that guards his heart. Is there still a path of redemption? Or has Ben Solo gone too far down the path of the Dark Side?
Yet, despite the amazing performances, it’s the motivations and decisions of the characters themselves that will leave you with more questions than answers. None of the characters appear to be immune from this, though some are plagued with more conflict than others *coughKYLOcough*
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Star Wars movie without a good plot twist, and The Last Jedi is no exception. Yet it’s within this twist that the overarching series appears to take an unexpected and disappointing turn. One particular revelation in the latter half of the film seems to throw the entire premise of one character’s development out the window.
Overall, the choices that were made from a narrative perspective turned out to be disappointing to say the least. Part of me wonders if some of these twists were the result of director Rian Johnson wanting to appear unpredictable, only to have it seemingly backfire on the series as a whole. With an audience approval rating of 60% so far on Rotten Tomatoes, I think Luke said it best: “This is not going to go the way you think!”
One more thing – Star Wars fans continue to mourn the loss of the iconic Princess Leia, Carrie Fisher. The Last Jedi was the last film that she completed, and there remained a hope that the series would say goodbye to her in a tasteful and impactful way. While I’ll leave it up to you to judge, I think that The Last Jedi could have executed this tactfully in a number of ways, yet failed to do so.
Ultimately, while The Last Jedi features some astonishing visuals, a classic and masterful score and a handful of genuine narrative surprises, in the end it feels as though the trilogy has painted itself into a corner. With character arcs that appear to veer off-course for no apparent reason, and a couple critical plot-twists that serve to muddy the waters rather than elevate the narrative, The Last Jedi finds itself creating a scenario that no mid-trilogy film wants: a genuine question of where the story goes from here. Furthermore, most of the possible solutions or scenarios are either unsatisfying to imagine, or requires a suspension of disbelief that would fracture fans’ connection with the larger series.
Time will tell if Episode IX can somehow right the ship, and in the meantime I’m certainly interested to see how the Han Solo project turns out. Until then, May The Force Be With You.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
- The Last Jedi features some amazing visual effects, from new landscapes to epic space battles
- Luke's character arc is masterfully brought to life by Mark Hamill
- John Williams' score is fantastic, as usual
- Hard to see where the trilogy goes from here from a narrative standpoint.
- While Adam Driver's performance is stellar, Kylo Ren continues to be a less-than-imposing villain.
- You will leave with more questions than answers - and not in a good way.