WARNING: This review will contain spoilers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a 2017 epic space opera film directed by Rian Johnson and the second installment in the follow-up to the original Star Wars trilogy. It continues the story of Rey, who undergoes training from the legendary and proficient Jedi, Luke Skywalker, to more effectively control her innate powers. Meanwhile, the Resistance, led by General Leia, faces heavy opposition from Kylo Ren and the First Order.
Curiously, the film opened up to positive reception from critics and negative reception from audiences, possibly due to perceived violations of established Star Wars canon, disappointing character deaths, innumerable plot holes that are left unaddressed, and generally defective, lazy writing.
Now although Episode III is one of my favorite movies of all time, I wouldn’t call myself a Star Wars fan by any stretch of the imagination. Moreover, I’ve grown increasingly cynical of Disney’s propensity to cash-in on multi-billion dollar franchises until the point of saturation, weary that Star Wars will devolve into another Marvel Cinematic Universe that lacks the substance and charm that made it a cultural phenomenon spanning multiple mediums. But in spite of all the complaints fans have of the latest installment in this new trilogy, like the writers “ruining Luke’s character” and them “killing off Supreme Leader Snoke too early,” I can say with confidence that as someone attuned to what constitutes good movies and bad movies, The Last Jedi is not the total train wreck that they purport it to be. In the style of a movie review, the remainder of this article will therefore debunk three of the main complaints that I’ve read from hardcore Star Wars fans, and list two complaints that I have of the movie but that people aren’t drawing enough attention to.
Fan Complaint #1: They ruined Luke’s character.
Fan Complaint #1 [Debunked]: One of the grievances I keep reading with respect to how they handled Luke’s character is that Luke is this broken-down old man who’s inconsistent with the younger version of himself we saw in the original trilogy. Over time, however, anyone can grow tiresome of their existence—once life has knocked us around enough times, we just stop caring. It therefore makes sense that even in the Star Wars universe, the legendary Luke Skywalker has reserved himself to die on a remote island. This is especially considering that Luke failed to pass the torch to Ben Solo, and was a prime catalyst in pushing him to join the First Order.
Another grievance with Luke’s character is that if he was virtuous enough to persuade the most genocidal man in the galaxy to switch sides, he would not have so much as contemplated the murder of his own nephew. I disagree with this argument—Luke saw the darkness festering inside Ben, and rationalized that he could perhaps save millions of lives if he killed him long before he could become the next Darth Vader. This established that he, too, is no knight in shining armor, and is just as capable of malicious intent as the Sith are.
Fan Complaint #2: Rey’s parentage wasn’t anything special.
Fan Complaint #2 [Debunked]: The revelation that Rey is a “nobody” with no real ties to any powerful Jedi families like the Kenobis or Skywalkers adds to her character, and doesn’t minimize it. I’ve always criticized The Force Awakens for copying-and-pasting the plot of A New Hope, and I think that if it were revealed that Rey is a daughter of Obi Wan Kenobi like Luke was the son of Anakin Skywalker, this film would have similarly fallen victim to excessive predictability. At least making Rey some no-name who happens to be proficient at manipulating the force goes against the lineage trope and opens up the opportunity for her to embark on a journey of self-discovery.
Unfortunately, Rey remains one of the least developed characters in the Star Wars universe—she’s way too powerful and lacks any flaws, deficiencies, or weaknesses that set her apart from other characters and encourage viewers to empathize with her. This is something that can easily be addressed with a better written script.
Fan Complaint #3: Snoke died too soon and too anticlimactically.
Fan Complaint #3 [Debunked]: While I agree that Snoke’s death came rather prematurely and wasn’t very gratifying, I take it as part of a shift to Kylo Ren as the main antagonist of the follow-up trilogy. In The Force Awakens, we suspected that Ren struggled with some inner conflict—perhaps, unlike Anakin, he was never seduced by the Dark Side, but rather felt resentful of his parents for discarding and rejecting him, and furious with Luke for nearly murdering him in his sleep. Therefore, he joined the First Order as a form of revenge against a family that from his perspective, neither loved nor cared about him. We now understand that by virtue Ren slaughtered Snoke, he is not a slave to his fate, but a creator of a new fate that is unbound by prescriptions of who others want or expect him to be.
And now, two of my complaints.
Complaint #1: General Leia is useless in this movie.
No disrespect to Carrie Fischer, who passed away in December of last year, but General Leia does absolutely nothing in this movie other than “be there” for the sake of checking off a nostalgia box. Poe, Finn, and Rose do most of the work in defending the Resistance, while Leia herself is in a coma for up to fifty minutes of the movie. After she awakens, she sits around and watches her lieutenants do most of the heavy lifting, and has little, if any, meaningful dialogue.
Complaint #2: Finn’s defining character moment was ruined by Rose.
How shocking would it have been if Finn had actually sacrificed himself in a blaze of glory to prevent the main enemy cannon from destroying the Resistance’s stronghold? Instead, Rose comes out of nowhere to intercept Finn’s speeder in a manner resembling Season 7, Episode 4 of Game of Thrones, when Bronn throws himself at Jaime a split second before getting vaporized by Drogon. This trope—in which a high-value character is about to die but is saved in the last second—is annoying and ruined what could have otherwise been a genre-defying moment.
And that’s all I have to say on Star Wars: The Last Jedi. If I had to rate the film, I would give it a solid 7/10. Not the best Star Wars film in the series, as it has its fair share of issues, but it’s a well-directed film nevertheless.