Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

There was a new STAR WARS movie. STAR WARS is this thing set in space and has these things called Jedi in it.

You probably saw this movie, and odds are you had any reaction under the sun. Its current audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes is 56%, lower than THE PHANTOM MENACE. Folks are arguing to be sure.

They needn’t. THE LAST JEDI is a blast with themes, plot, and pacing to overcome its messier elements. It can’t touch NEW HOPE or EMPIRE, but that was always going to be an uphill climb.

A complaint people have is with Canto Bight, the casino planet with the weapons merchants. I have seen THE LAST JEDI twice now and I like Canto Bight. I’m confused as to why it has gotten such a vicious response from so many, but an argument I can make is that its borrowing from the Prequel’s tendency to focus on world-building. This, coincidentally, was one thing I could cite out of all three installments of the Prequel trilogy, that I enjoyed unironically. I like it when Star Wars feels vast, it’s a story that should offer a big universe while still feeling contained within a great story. A lot is accomplished on Canto Bight, we meet DJ (Benicio Del Toro) and the major character arcs for Finn and Rose come into full focus.

People say the writers repeated Finn’s arc from THE FORCE AWAKENS, and I can understand why they think that, I just don’t agree. In THE FORCE AWAKENS, Finn is a man without a country, and at the end of the film seems to be finding it – but he is still just discovering the world. Rose and DJ provide counterbalances; Rose firmly believes her cause is the right one and would stick by it until death, while DJ is an anarchist, uncaring about any cause, seeing them all as scumbags. Finn is forced to look at a decision, as someone with naked eyes, and see what he truly wants.

There is a case to be made that this isn’t clearly explained by the script, but (most) anything you need to understand THE LAST JEDI is in THE LAST JEDI.

Which brings me to another point – stuff I can complain about. I don’t like Superleia. I get that director Rian Johnson wanted to show Leia using the force because of this being his last opportunity, but the effect is awkward and feels uncanny valley. Beyond that, it overcomplicates the script and invites the audience to ask questions that they don’t need to be asking.

The jokes are improper, too. Like Disney is trying to shoehorn the bathos that you would see in Marvel movies.

Joss Whedon is just going to ruin everything fun now, I guess.

I am confused with the backlash regarding Poe Dameron, there is one point I *will* concede, and that is after Poe and Finn’s plan to bring Snoke’s ship down fails, the consequences of that make them both seem like the worst humans and the film doesn’t really seem to understand that.

I digress –

The thing people are upset about is the relationship between Poe and Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern), people are upset that she doesn’t come clear about her plan. Poe wants to know what it is, but he just got demoted down to captain, and as such begins to grow suspicious.

I’m not going to presume to know anything about the military chain of command in a fictional universe, but here’s what the film gives us. At the start of the movie Poe is a commander, who is then demoted to Captain after his mission goes catastrophically wrong. Leia is a general and Holdo is an admiral. Now most of the strategy meetings would take place on the bridge or in a main room, and commanders must be allowed in because we see Poe there in THE FORCE AWAKENS. But after the bridge is destroyed, Poe is demoted and Leia is left unconscious, that just leaves Holdo as the only high ranking officer on the ship. As such, she isn’t required to explain herself to a captain. Poe’s desperation to know despite his lack of qualifications fits well into his character arc, where he is learning the merits of strategy and serious leadership.

You could argue this is a flaw with how the script communicates to the audience but I would counter by saying that anything you need to understand THE LAST JEDI is in THE LAST JEDI.

I could go on and on but the movie just works. I saw it once and knew I liked it, but I had to see it again to pick it apart and ended up liking it better the second time. I think it will survive with time, and I also think it is the better of the two good messy STAR WARS movies (the other being RETURN OF THE JEDI).

Written by Jeff Turner

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