So, I’m one of those people that gave a hearty shrug to The Last Jedi. I absolutely understood the movie. I got what Rian Johnson was going for, and applaud him for the attempt. Deconstruction of something as woven into the culture as Star Wars is a bold thing to swing for.
And here’s the thing with The Last Jedi, I don’t think he quite pulled it off. Which isn’t to say I don’t admire the attempt, I do. Some of the stuff, well, some of it I absolutely adore, I think it’s wonderful. I really enjoy Vice Admiral Holdo, and the way the movie plays with Luke and Leia’s connection. (Mirroring it in Kylo and Rey.) I think it’s visually stunning. I think Luke’s ultimate fate was brilliant and lovely and deeply in line with what we know of him as a man and his Jedi training.
I do think the movie tries to do too much. Insisting that we have to move forward but doing so at the expense of stories that had been built up in it’s predecessor feels arrogant. It’s also hypocritcal to say “we’re burning down the past” while transforming the more underground Resistance into the outright Rebellion of the original trilogy. (You can’t have both, Johnson!)
Some things that I didn’t like initially have grown on me. I initially didn’t love Benecio Del Toro’s DJ, who I now think is kind of delightful. (Still think he should have been Lando…but ya know…beggars and choosers.) My anger at how Poe became a more cliched “I know better” hothead this time around has cooled so I was able to see what Johnson and Isaac were actually going for with this performance. Poe’s given it all to the Resistance, he’s exhausted and frustrated. His mentor may be dying. His boyfriend (STORMPILOT LIVES!) is off on a dangerous spy mission. He has no information about how this is going to end. He snaps.
One thing that’s held up every time I’ve watched the movie is John Boyega’s performance. It’s mind blowingly charismatic and fun. Finn’s transformation from selfish survivor to team player/leader is beautiful executed. It’s the part of the movie I always liked best.
Which brings us to Kylo and Rey. I think Kylo Ren is a brilliantly rendered villain, and Adam Driver plays him well. He’s all raw emotion and easily triggered anger, with the power to back that up. It’s so different for this series. Rey is desperate here, she just wants answers. And while I’ve had so much fun in the past six years playing with “who is Rey?” theories. While I’ve always been fond of “Kenobi” as a theory, watching The Last Jedi this time, brought me around a bit to “clone.” (I don’t think she’s a gender swapped clone of Anakin of Palpatine, but I think she might be a clone.) Her lack of answers about her past, her overall competence (almost as if she’d been programmed, like a Kamino Clone), and that scene where she sees herself reflected over and over again in a line while communing in the cave.
Not to mention the “Dark Rey” images from the Rise of Skywalker trailer.
There’s a lot going on in this movie, which is part of why I think it doesn’t work quite as well as it could. Rian Johnson is trying to do a lot here and some of it therefore comes out a little bit half baked. I’m also immensely gratified that J.J. Abrams has insisted he’s not going to walk back Johnson’s decision in The Last Jedi. He could have, but he’s happy with the status quo he’s got to work with.
We shall see in a few months how this all shakes out.
We’re still a few weeks from The Mandolorian so I’m not sure what will go in this spot quite yet. Taking suggestions!