Last night I went to the opening of Star Wars Episode 8: The Last Jedi.
Star Wars is such an ingrained part of my childhood and life that these movies are just a flood of nostalgia. I love the experience.
We’ve certainly been disappointed with the prequels, but it’s so amazing to see Star Wars back in the theaters and to be so excited about it again. I love it.
Just as I did with The Force Awakens, I want to share my post-movie thoughts.
I often expect these in-the-moment reactions to temper a bit with time. I always admit that I came out of The Phantom Menace loving it. Even the second time. But then reality caught up with nostalgia.
I still love The Force Awakens. I do think the re-hash of A New Hope, primarily Star Killer Base, was a bit much, but I don’t really care.
So we’ll see where I go with my Last Jedi reactions.
All right Star Wars fans, let’s talk spoilers.
What a great movie.
I think it was truly surprising. Where Force Awakens was often predictable, Last Jedi kept surprising you. I didn’t even know when it was going to end—I kept preparing myself for an Empire-like cliffhanger.
When it finally ended I just smiled. What a thrill ride. I posted to Twitter that I wanted to buckle up and do it again. I walked out of the theater just grinning like a fool.
- Chewbacca roasting a porg. Oh my. He doesn’t get many moments in this movie, but that scene made up for it.
- Luke tossing the lightsaber over his shoulder. What!? Of all the things we imagined would happen after the end of The Force Awakens, not in a million years would anyone have guessed that. Maybe as a joke, but it fit with where Luke’s character was at. (Luke did seem to have more of a sense of humor in this one than the originals. I always thought of him as the straight man to Han’s grizzled sarcasm. Maybe he spent a lot of time with Yoda.)
- Yoda! Oh, I did not see that coming. What a wonderful surprise. I love the way he beats Luke to the punch and strikes the tree with lightning.
- Kylo Ren zooming in on Princess Leia, ready to prove himself, and he holds off. But it doesn’t matter. That was a moment. I like that Kylo is so unpredictable.
- Admiral Holdo making that sacrificial jump to light speed and obliterating the First Order fleet (or part of it—they always seem to have more). That was epic.
- Finn sacrificing himself into the laser cannon to stop the First Order and save the Resistance. I thought they were going to kill him! They had me convinced, and I was not happy about it, but then Rose at the last second! Wow. (See? Surprise!) Her line a few beats later is classic: “We’re going to win not by fighting what we hate, but saving what we love.”
- Snoke’s death. Oh wow! Did not see that coming either. I just assumed we were set up for Snoke as the Emperor villain, working his puppet strings through this entire trilogy. Even as Kylo Ren set that move up, I assumed Snoke would stop him. And then—I mean—sliced in half (and there’s your hand-chopping moment you uber nerds)! Crazy. I’m curious if that’s it for Snoke or if we’ll get any more answers about him. Who the heck was he? Sometimes it just works to not answers these questions, but we’ll see.
- Speaking of answers, do we trust what Kylo Ren said about Rey’s parents? I hope so. I like the idea that our newest hero doesn’t have some perfect lineage, that you don’t have to be a Skywalker to be a hero. It also fits with her character that she knows the truth all along. I really liked the back and forth set up between Kylo Ren and Rey. It kept you guessing about what would happen, kept surprising you.
- Princess Leia stunning Poe. That was great. Poe’s character takes an interesting arc in this movie (in some ways a bit heavy handed, but oh well), but that was the best moment of it. Carrie Fisher, right?
- Finn’s fight with Captain Phasma. It sure seemed like they killed off Phasma there. Phasma: “You scum!” Finn: “Rebel scum.” Yes!
- Maz Kanata! OK, I loved Maz’s character in Force Awakens. But this feels a little bit like Yoda in Attack of the Clones (15 years later and that is still the stupidest title I’ve ever seen). How is she suddenly so spry?! The one redeeming moment of this scene—somebody please do a Maz spinoff.
- Rose and her sister and Leia and Holdo. This movie did a masterful job of showing the price of all this war. Force Awakens kind of skipped over the idea that entire systems were destroyed, but Last Jedi seems to feel that weight more realistically. I think the stable kids and the creatures on Canto Bight were a bit heavy handed, but I can deal with that.
- Creatures! The creatures seemed right in this one. Crystal dogs and porgs and those racing things on Canto Bight. It felt like the right touch of creatures.
- There are so many moments with Luke. So many glimpses of what happened to him since Jedi. So many things in the background (the X-Wing underwater?! I kept wondering if he’d get a second chance at the Empire scene). I’m not even sure I can pinpoint anything. This will require multiple viewings to really take in the depth of what happened to his character.
- The Millennium Falcon continues to be a character and have moments in these films! Finn: “Oh, they hate that ship!” Rey in the gunner seat is pretty great too.
What I Didn’t Like:
- Princess Leia floating in space and flying like a witch?! I think that scene is going to go down as the most prequel-like moment in this entire sequel trilogy (and if you’re not paying attention, that’s a slam). Ug. Sure, Star Wars has never adhered to the science of science fiction, but that was just unnecessary. She survives in space? Uses a never-seen-before Force power to save herself? So unnecessary. The plot and emotional resonance would have worked just as well if she were injured in the attack and trapped on the ship.
- The Dreadnaught Star Destroyer and then Snoke’s even bigger ship. I get that Star Wars has to keep upping the anty (Vader’s Super Star Destroyer in Empire), but it gets a little ridiculous that there’s always another ship that’s way bigger.
- BB8 had some comic moments in this one that seemed to go a little too far. Fixing Poe’s X-wing and wielding the walker at the end come to mind. The walker moment was fun and surprising—BB8!—but I don’t know.
- Yoda’s CGI (or was that a puppet?) seemed pretty off. The voice too (though I guess it was Frank Oz). I didn’t care much in the moment (though I had a hard time understanding him… maybe I’m just getting old), but I’m curious how that will hold up in repeat viewings.
- The Finn/Rose/DJ (Benicio Del Toro’s character) adventure plot. Rose felt a bit heavy-handed at times, and this whole sub-plot seemed a little questionable (ultimately it dooms the Resistance—damnit Poe, can’t you just follow orders?!—thinning their numbers from at least a dozen transport ships to whoever can fit on the Millennium Falcon). It feels like a wild goose chase and is kind of pointless in the end. I think it needed more time—we definitely need more time with Rose—and the movie just had too much going on to give us that time.
- Luke’s deceptive face-off with Kylo Ren. Now I’m not saying I didn’t like this. I was on the edge of my seat. I kept thinking, finally! But I don’t know how I feel about the switcheroo. It feels like the kind of twist that modern movies rely on to excess. But I don’t know. It had some incredible moments—Kylo getting angry, Luke’s “I failed you” line, the twin suns, the reveal that the title was, what, misdirection? I wondered how Luke was such a powerful Jedi that he could withstand all those laser blasts. I guess I’m glad he didn’t actually do it (that would have been a prequel move). There were hints along the way that it was fake (Luke looked awfully cleaned up and his beard had lost the grey), but the surprise was incredible. I’m just wondering how that move is going to age. They certainly could have done that cheaply like a trick and didn’t. So I’m unsure about it. I like parts of it, but I’m also uneasy about it. We’ll see how it ages.
- The final scene. Any time Star Wars brings in children, I get worried. I think Jyn Erso is the only time it worked. Earlier in the movie the stable kids felt heavy handed, and it landed with a thud at the end. I guess bringing it back to those kids is better than scenes from random planets (Re-release Return of the Jedi, I’m looking at you!), but this felt over the top.
That feels like a long list of things I didn’t like. In some I’m nitpicking. Others are questionable moments in the plot that may not age well.
I feel like I’ve used the phrase “heavy handed” a lot. In some ways, that’s Star Wars. It’s not exactly subtle. I think this movie had so much going on, they crammed so much in, that some things didn’t get the time and space they needed to feel less heavy handed.
I think that’s what made The Force Awakens so good. We had moments to really soak things in. This movie seemed to move a lot faster. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen Force Awakens like a dozen times, but it felt like every frame was intentional and packed, each moment had been thought out. Every laser blast, every extra, every explosion felt meticulously planned out. Maybe it’s just from a first viewing, but Last Jedi felt like it moved too fast for that kind of detail. I’m sure that will change with multiple viewings and I’ll see that kind of detail, but it feels like a shift of sorts.
I’ve said before that sometimes good storytelling is about the stories you don’t tell. Force Awakens left a lot of questions unanswered, and I think that’s fine. We don’t need to know how C-3PO got his red arm or how Maz got Luke’s lightsaber.
But we still ask those questions anyway, don’t we?
- Who was Snoke? If that’s just the end of Snoke and we never hear about him again, I think that will be a mistake. We don’t need a detailed backstory, but I think we need to know how such a powerful creature came to be.
- With Yoda we got to see Force ghosts again. I’m glad they brought that plot device back, and actually used it for more than exposition. Will we get to see Mark Hamill again as a Force ghost? I hope so. I want to see him side by side with Obi Wan Kenobi.
- Early reports after the release of The Force Awakens said the entire cast would return, including Harrison Ford. Was that just more misdirection to avoid spoilers? Or was there ever a flashback that included Han Solo? Seems like this movie would have been the opportunity to do that, so I’m guessing it won’t happen.
- After Carrie Fisher’s death, there was much speculation that Leia would be killed off in this one. In fact, that was Lexi’s first question (which I refused to answer). I’m guessing they had the movie in the can by the time she died, and there was no way to redo it. So they’ll have to kill her off in Episode 9, right? I kind of hope so. Giving Han, Luke and Leia their own death in each of these movies would be pretty fitting. Unfortunately, without Carrie Fisher they won’t be able to give Leia the same kind of emotionally fitting demise. Or they’ll have to get very creative.
- What will happen to Kylo Ren? Will Rey be able to bring him back from the Dark Side? Even Leia seemed resigned that he was gone, which was quite a shift from Force Awakens. I envision Kylo venturing to the island and wandering around with Luke’s ghost (not the actual Force ghost, but the haunting reminder of his old master and uncle).
- How old is Chewbacca? After the credits finished, a woman in my theater asked how long wookies can live, and the true nerds discussed it for a few minutes (the answer? Around 400 years, but that was old canon that Disney discarded).
- The original trilogy toyed with the love triangle between Han, Leia and Luke, ultimately resolving it with the sibling thing, but they didn’t shy away from it. The beginning of Empire really confronted it head on. It feels like this sequel trilogy shies away from any hint of a love story. Rey and Finn seemed to be tightly bound and she kisses him on the forehead at the end of Force Awakens, but they feel more like siblings. Poe seems to light up every time he sees Finn, and there’s lots of speculation of a gay Star Wars character—but you really have to interpret things, there’s no direct clues. Finally, there seems to be a spark between Finn and Rose, at least on Rose’s end. She kisses Finn before passing out, but he doesn’t seem to have the same feelings for her. In some ways, it’s a relief that Star Wars is steering clear of the romance that tanked in the prequels. But it feels like an over-correction. Romance—or the hint of romance—worked in the original trilogy. Will any of that be resolved in Episode 9? Or will it continue to be something to steer clear of?
- Can we get more Rose?
- Who says, “I have a bad feeling about this?” I don’t remember hearing it, though I easily could have missed it. The director insists it’s in there, and fan speculation suggests it’s not in English. Perhaps BB8 or one of the Resistance aliens? That would be kind of sneaky, though a good way to start moving Star Wars away from the many tropes and expectations that can become a burden.
- So at the very end, when the stable boy grabs the broom—he used the Force, didn’t he? Is this teasing the spark of the Resistance and more Jedi that we’ll see in Episode 9? As long as we don’t have another boy Jedi, I’m OK with that.
Overall? What an adventure. Let’s do it again.