I like how this has been a bit of a “coming out” season: Serious, educated, professional people suddenly post Star Wars reviews, sometime very critical, and I realise they really care, and are crazy life long fans just as I am.
Here is my contribution. I watched The Last Jedi (TLJ) twice. Discussed it with the family, then read other reviews. I did enjoyed quite a lot of it and may watch it again but my overall opinion is, sadly, negative. Spoilers are coming.
The biggest, greatest mistake is the lack of good strong relationships. Space is cold, but ALL previous Star Wars movies always had plenty of warmth from the the various forms of love and affection: between children and parents (Luke’s towards his father, Anakin and his mum, Jyn Erso and her dad), best friends (Han, Luke, Chewie, Lando), siblings (Luke and Leia), teachers and students (Obi-Van and Qui-Gon, Obi-Van and Anakin, Luke and Obi-Van, Luke and Yoda), lovers (Leia and Han, Padme and Anakin). Where are any of these in the new movie?
Whatever was developing between Rey and Finn, Finn and Poe in The Force Awakens (TFA) is mostly forgotten. Rey and Luke are not getting along, which is particularly disappointing. Finding a lost close relative (father, sister) always was a Star Wars shortcut to developing a relationship and strong feelings. Alternatively, people spend years “in the same boat” and have got to the same point, when they knew and cared for each other. Rian Johnson did none of those. It seemed for a while that there was a spark between Rey and Ben Solo but it went nowhere when they parted. A glimpse of something between Finn and Rose was at the very end. A very short heart warming scene with Luke and Leia and that’s it. I really liked the moment when Yoda said he missed Luke in his nicely mocking way. But all was just some rare raindrops in a wast emotional desert. Even through Luke had known Obi-Van for a day or so, he was so upset when the old man died. Yet Rey and his own sister didn’t spared a tear for him. Like saying “this was for the best”.
I really liked TFA and “Rogue One”. I was looking forward to seeing TLJ a great deal. Now I like TFA less as its promises went unfulfilled.
Plot holes and apparent disregard for the laws of nature was another blow. Did rebels abolished autopilots? Why did they need to sacrifice pilots with their ships? How they better than the First Order then? Why can’t the admiral trust her soldiers and explain the situation avoiding a mutiny?
Creating a consistent fantasy reality or suspension of disbelief is essential to fictional stories. Only once before this was broken for me in Star Wars: in the Revenge of the Sith when Anakin turns to the dark side. His downward ark was badly written which was a pity because the first half of that movie was really good and strong. In TLJ this was happening several times! Leia floating in space didn’t work. Lots of aliens were badly made (including Yoda himself). I thought we are past this with the modern technology! The “Luke milking an alien” scene was disturbing because in Star Wars it is often difficult to distinguish between intelligent and non-intelligent species. One of the phrases Rey said to Luke sounded definitely awful. Why wasn’t it retaken? The Luke’s face when he was thinking of slaying teenage Ben in his sleep was so wrong, probably because Mark just couldn’t believe his character, who saved Darth Vader despite all odds, would do that.
I think, the Luke’s last stand and dying scenes were good. Well made, dramatic and original. I think, him projecting through the space rather than being here in person was necessary because he was already too weak to face Kylo Ren. That’s the reason he never got back. He appeared to his former student and Leia younger, as he would look like before his exile, because he wanted to be remembered strong, proper Jedi, not a broken old man already dying far away, alone.
I wish it all happened in the next movie because I just have nothing to look forward any more. Unless JJ will have a lot of Luke’s ghost appearances – which would be something new for the series. Luke was the most unique and alive character in TLJ. Grumpy, weird, but thinking and feeling. None of the young characters are good enough for me to care. Especially when Rey is now really nobody from nowhere, which is boring (unless Ben lies about her parents). And she is a “Mary Sue”, which is boring again. Pity, because she had a good potential to be a great character after TFA. Ben has tantrums, which is funny but I can’t take him seriously. Finn, Rose and Poe are just you average token generic good rebels, nothing much to say. They are nice and are played by good actors, but it’s not enough. We need true heroes for these movies to work. Luke was a simple rebel character in the New Hope which never was my favorite Star Wars movie. But he grew steeply into a proper wise knight, which was the main point of the original series to me. Rian Johnson made him broken by guilt and fear, destroying everything he had achieved. That I could potentially forgive because he finally redeems Luke and brings my favorite ever fictional character back, when he returns to Leia and confronts Ben Solo. I wanted more so much – but instead he dies.
I really hoped Luke will leave his exile and go on a quest (several quests – even better) together with Rey, his new apprentice for years to come, building a strong relationship, whether they related by blood or not. When I’ve seen the casino pictures I thought by some reason that this will be one of their destinations, like great scenes with Obi-Van and Anakin, Obi-Van, Han and Luke, Rey and Finn in alien bars. Nope.
As Han dies quite suddenly and frankly pointlessly in TFA, a connection between the generations seems to be unfortunately lost. I think Han should have been very seriously injured but survived his meeting with his son for a better plot.
Lots of plot lines in TLJ lead nowhere. One can say this is what real life is but if the movies will be “nothing in particular happened on that day” what would be the point of watching them? Art is in selecting and prioritizing what’s matters, in making good stories, not simply copying the mundane.
There was so much of an introduction from Maz for the master code breaker – and then another one chosen. And then it all was unnecessary after all. A silly Rose monologue about evils of arms dealing and revenge on the rich, just to erase all that by showing that the rebels shop for their x-wing fighters at the same casino planet… Incidentally, were rebel generals so overdressed because they were planning to go arms shopping here after the battle? I loved the costumes and the jewellery (even hope to buy some replicas) but it was too much for the rebel situation. The casino planet, as Finn noticed, was beautiful – apart from some badly made aliens. And captive animals suddenly released in the wild are not likely to survive, Rose and Finn! Whole “rebels loose all the time” situation reminded me of Blake’s Seven, which I find very depressing.
Were Knights of Ren got to? Phasma was easily killed without any chance to do or to say anything important. Characters which don’t enrich the story are not necessary. It’s not a tv series, time on the screen is precious.
The sword battle in the Red room was very good and the way Ben killed overconfident Snoke was, I thought, excellent. Although unfortunately we didn’t learn a thing about Snoke.
Unlike many critics I liked the humour in TLJ. Luke winking to C3PO, brushing dust of his cloak and saying to Ben something like “see you around” just before he died was good. The red sand planet was hauntingly beautiful. Riding the huge alien beasts was fun to watch although that whole part of the story was pointless. I liked Rey in the “dark side” cave but the scene didn’t gave as anything apart from feeling weird. What is the dark side about? What is the attraction?
The movie is criticized for paving the way for merchandise to be sold. Rubbish. I wish me and my friends, teenagers in the Soviet Union, had any merchandise to cherish when we watched the Original Trilogy. Instead we had to stop the videotape and take black and white photos to have at least something.
The music score in TLJ was the worst of Star Wars. Especially painful because TFA and Rogue One scores were so good. Almost no unique tracks to listen, just a mishmash of old tunes plus something reminding totally childish Harry Potter music.
Another big problem is the meaning of good and evil. How Snoke got to Ben? Why did Ben chose the dark side? Why Rey didn’t? It is good that Luke admits the Jedi Order’s flaws to Rey but why didn’t he went to the dark side knowing all that? This is a big problem for the whole Star Wars saga. In real life people do horrible things thinking they are doing good. Nobody “chooses evil side”. So Snoke, a vilian for the sake of being a vilian, already was a mistake in TFA. I think it was Aristotle who said that confrontation in a story should be between relatives or former friends to keep us engaged. This is why Luke, Leia or Han are needed to oppose Ben. Unless Rey is Ben’s cousin after all. An opportunity for a romance (which would bring some necessary viewer engagement) for those two young people, I think, is already lost as nothing even started so far, after two movies.
TLJ is very entertaining to watch but that’s not good enough for Star Wars. For Jurassic Park or James Bond, yes. A Star Wars story needs a strong emotional connection with the viewer and the latest doing lots of thinking about “What is Good?” because of what he sees.
All the flaws were very surprising considering that movies are done by groups of people. Could somebody brave point the mistakes and the weak moments to the director? How so many “professional” reviews ignored them and why?
I hope JJ will rescue the ending of this three parter but not in a way in which the ending of Lost was done, ruining the series! And maybe in a few years time somebody will make good quality CGI movies or an Dragon Age Inquisition/Witcher-like choice game, either set in alternative reality or in between The Return of Jedi and TFA. To give Luke, Han and Leia a bit more screen time they deserve and to reestablish the good proper heroes they originally were.
Saying that, I think all movies, games and books should come with a warning “To avoid disappointment, write your own stories” 😉
So here’s the list of Star Wars movies in the order I rate them, from the favorite and much loved ones to the less loved.
The Return of Jedi
Empire Strikes Back
Attack of the Clones
The Force Awakens
A New Hope
Revenge of the Sith
The Phantom Menace
The Last Jedi
Still, I think it’s the best film series made so far on this planet and any one is far ahead (in my rating) of other sci-fi, adventure and fantasy movies I ever enjoyed watching. Honestly I tried to find other good stories and other good heroes many times since I was 15. Maybe I will one day.