Frayed: a Quick Review of Star Wars Episode 8: The Last Jedi

I’m sitting in front of my computer at 3:30 AM, fresh out of the theaters after watching the latest film of the franchise that had me captured since I was a young boy.

But I can’t tell you the reason for why I decided to share my thoughts before warning you, and I feel the need to warn you as a fan, in big bold caps-locked letters:


DO NOT READ THIS ANY FURTHER IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE FILM YET


 

This isn’t simply because of SPOILERS… though there will be a plenty of that I imagine. I’m just writing this as I go.

This is because regardless of my review being positive or negative if you’re a Star Wars fan, you have to see this film without being tainted in any way. Otherwise, it’d be doing injustice to everything this film is trying to accomplish.

Despite its flaws and regardless of fan’s approval, this is a revolutionary film for the Star Wars franchise.

The Last Jedi, not only introduces profound lore elements to Star Wars universe, but also as a film it introduces a new style, tone, mechanics, writing, humor, and even further modernization to the franchise than they did with Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens.

However, as revolutionary as this film is, I couldn’t help but get up from my seat  at end wondering how much of the film I actually enjoyed and how much of it… annoyed me. Some reasons I knew why right away but some other I had the chew over on my drive home through the empty freeway in the wee hours of cold December morning.

Anyways. This is a quickie so it’s just me vomiting my thoughts right after the movie. So I ask for your generous understanding for any errors ahead.

The Quick and Dirty

While The Last Jedi may be revolutionary to the franchise in more ways than one, it tries to do too much for a single film and struggles to find a satisfying and perfect execution for most of its endeavors.

It doesn’t leave you with a feeling of witnessing a triumphant victor, but rather, the  feeling of awkward silence of witnessing someone try too hard for too long on stage… and you don’t know when to clap or what to clap for exactly even though you’re pretty sure you’ve enjoyed the overall experience.

CONS

As mentioned, execution of certain elements of the film feels a bit dissatisfying or unfinished.

One that really comes to mind is Kylo’s development as a character. The film does such a wonderful job giving depth to the character for the first two acts, that it’s incredibly disappointing and frustrating for him to become basically an unreasonable villain suddenly in the third act. It felt cheap.

The pacing felt off and because of so many branching sub-plots, the film felt like watching a miniseries rather than a film.

One of the biggest culprit to the pacing is the unnecessary insertions of comedic scenes and kind of “post-Marvel” vibe the film has. Y’know? Like how most Marvel seems can’t take itself seriously so sometimes it’s hard to feel what’s at stake? But it feels more annoying with this film because the tension and magnitude of the greater plot moments are so high that when certain lighter moments, or lesser interesting subplot moments, intrude… it feels like a sudden car crash.

That’s not to say that those scenes are not funny nor that they were always out of place. But many times they felt frustrating and made the film unnecessarily longer than it needed to be.

The very kid friendly comedic relief scenes are a bit odd because it’s unnecessarily treats the entire audience as if they can’t handle any reasonable duration of drama and tension (and yes I understand the target audience is ultimately kids but…)… while some of its plot conveniences are bandaged by insisting to treat the audience with such amount of respect that it expects them to fill in all the holes.

Mentioning plot conveniences…

MIXED BAGS

There’s a recurrence in modern writing of asserting ‘you don’t have to give the audience what they want, you don’t have to tell them everything.’

Which is fine. I think stories can be incredibly enhanced that way.

The Last Jedi did this wonderfully in some regards.

Many audience members may have wanted Rey to have an epic moment regarding her parents and have her parents be some grand part of the Star Wars lore.

She got none of that and it was fantastic. She’s a better child of prophecy type than Anakin ever was.

Better insight into Snoke?

Nope. And that’s awesome.

But there were plot conveniences where it felt like the film was trying to treat it the same way and just comes off as lazy writing. Here’s the top 3 I can recall at the moment:

  1. After developing Snoke as this incredibly powerful being–whose powers include apparently being able to read into Kylo’s deepest thoughts and feelings and even reach out to Rey in similar ways–and just after him even proclaiming that he can see into Kylo’s thoughts and intentions… Kylo can just kill him by surprise like that? He couldn’t sense the lightsabre moving by the force? This is a moment where the audience is supposed to fill in the blanks by, “ahh, it’s because Snoke’s too arrogant” …but instead it just ends up feeling a bit silly and anticlimactic.
  2. Why didn’t the Resistance do the whole cruiser lightspeed kamikaze attack sooner? Or even bring that up for discussion? It seemed incredibly powerful attack. In fact, almost every ship that’s about to be blown up should just do this if they can. I guess this is the part where the audience is supposed to go, “ahh, it’s because had they attempted that sooner the First Order would have suspected something was up…?” But, why wasn’t the actual plan just explained to everyone in the first place? Even Poe would have been fine since he seems to know if there’s cloaking device the First Order wouldn’t know that they’ve escaped. Other than to teach Poe a lesson in being a leader rather than a hero later? Also, how did the girl on the bridge that helped Poe’s mutiny not know about the plan? And was the First Order really out of all TIE fighters or something to chase down the Resistance?
  3. While Luke’s final moments were epic, the execution of it left a bit of sour taste. His death was beautiful, respectful, and an incredible moment in the film. Possibly, one of the most beautiful moments in Star Wars history. But… it also feels like his death was only done because living-Luke had no place anymore in the plot and to keep up with the film’s theme of, “in with the new, gone with the old”.

For formatting reasons (to save your eyes), I’m going to continue my thoughts on Luke here.

Another problem with Luke’s death involves his epic showdown against the First Order.

It was awesome that Luke wasn’t actually there and it was sort of a Force clone of himself instead. It goes to show how incredible Luke became with his force powers and explains how Luke even got to that planet in the first place.

But his death takes away from the grandiosity of his powers because while Luke seemed like he took care of First Order with such ease and demonstrated to Kylo that the master still had his place… in reality the act killed him.

Fine. Maybe that’s just my personal bitterness towards making such a grand act gently a farce.

But the part that I think is a little hilarious is that Poe assumed there had to be an escape route because Luke got into the supposed enclosed building. Poe didn’t know that Luke was an illusion of sort.

I understand the idea is that Luke served his purpose of being “hope” that the Resistance needed.

But given that he was an illusion that appeared out of nowhere, Poe was incredibly lucky not to find those mineral foxes just holed up somewhere deeper in the chasms of the cavern after deciding that following one of those things must lead to how Luke got in.

And what was Luke’s plan exactly? He’ll bide time as the Resistance figure some way to escape? Did Luke know there was even a way to escape?

I guess this is another moment where we’re supposed to fill in the blanks as the audience that ‘Luke knew there was a way through the Force.”

Fine.

Another mixed-bag I had with the film is the further introduction of moral grays in the world Star Wars as we were introduced to in Rogue One.

We find out that vilified weapons dealers who’ve sold weapons to First Order are also the ones selling weapons to the Resistance.

The point of which loses a lot of his sharpness because not only did we just see Finn and Rose probably maim a few of those people and destroy their city (their whole mission feels like a joke at the end) but also because Star Wars makes you feel like the galaxy is a large place and yet not at the same time…

Basically, these weapons dealers are just business people who don’t want to get involved in these political feuds and just continuing on with their business.

Some sort of moral point feels a bit muddied up because it just seems like a statement of fact of sort that business people will do business and we don’t know if they have any reason to be involved in these political feuds other than the fact the film told us that they should care… even though with the introduction of these groups of people and planet… it doesn’t seem like they have to?

Because it sort of could imply that even Snoke had to rub shoulders with the rich and the business folks to get supplies for the First Order?

And it doesn’t help that the film establishes with such ferocity that Resistance is the good guys that it further muddies up what the moral point exactly is supposed to be.

Yes, I get that it supposed to introduce that the world is gray… but unlike Rogue One, it doesn’t even go anywhere with that in this film. The film continues from that little moral statement to demonstrating that First Order is bad, the guy who introduced the moral gray is a dick, and Resistance is struggling and must survive and is supported by all the protagonists.

PROS

I’ve alluded some pros above and I’ll leave those at that.

The action scenes are probably the best it’s ever been in a Star Wars film.

While I didn’t think the whole “arms trade” moral conundrum was done very well, it was still a nice development of Star Wars universe’s morality.

For the first time in Star Wars, the relationships that developed between characters felt complex and organic.

It felt human.

The relationship between Kylo, Rey, Finn, and Rose became surprisingly convoluted, intimate, and mature.

That little look Rey gives to Rose near the end of the film is so hauntingly teasing for what Rey’s feelings must be.

Oh, and the little boy watching the stars at the end, while felt a bit forced of why he’s even in the film in the first place, was a great touch. Not only for demonstrating the theme of the film, but also making the audience feel that Rey and Kylo are also just part of this cycle as Luke and Snoke was.

Anyways. My thought puke seems to be running dry and my eyelids are getting heavier and heavier. I think it’s time for me to take a nap before starting my day.

Oh, and the broken lightsaber was a nice touch as well.

Good night all.

Final Score: 7/10

 

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