By Troi Watts
The highly anticipated eighth installment of the Star Wars franchise opened just before Christmas. Hundreds excitedly flocked to theaters, but not all of them left with that same enthusiasm. Fans had mixed feelings on the latest installment; some saw it as amazing and worthy of being included in the franchise, some saw it as a major letdown and betrayal. As a Star Wars fan and a movie critic, I am of the latter opinion. While Star Wars The Last Jedi is an entertaining film, it lacks cohesion with the original trilogy and is not a fundamentally successful film.
Warning: Spoilers ahead!
Star Wars: The Last Jedi picks up right where The Force Awakens left audiences, with Rey finally meeting Luke and attempting to get his help the fight against the First Order. However, despite the seemingly victorious ending of The Force Awakens—with the destruction of Starkiller base—the Resistance is on the run and facing extinction. While Rey tries to learn from a Luke Skywalker who has turned away from the Force, the Resistance literally runs for its life in an epic space chase with the First Order. In order to save the Resistance, the recovered Finn and newcomer Rose must find a way to sneak onto a First Order cruiser and disable it, all the while hoping that Rey can convince Luke to help in the cause.
Did that summary feel like a lot to process? The full film version definitely is. One of the main problems in this film is the fact that there is just too much going on. Audiences must basically try to follow three plotlines during the two and a half hour long film: Rey with Luke, Finn and Rose trying to sneak onto the cruiser, and Poe trying to keep the Resistance alive long enough for Finn and Rose to return. That’s leaving out all of the drama occurring between Rey and Kylo Ren (a.k.a. Ben Solo). Trying to remember important plot elements along with significant hints at future movies is seemingly impossible. I personally left the theater with a headache and absolutely no idea how I was going to process everything I had just seen.
Much of what has hurt the film’s general approval rating is the series of anticlimactic reveals and realizations throughout the film. Audiences have been chomping at the bit to discover who Rey is and who her parents are/were, with many theorizing that she may have been be a Skywalker. However, Kylo Ren drops the bomb that Rey’s parents were (past tense because apparently they’re also dead…) nobodies, just two alcoholics who sold Rey for drinking money. While many fans are debating whether or not Kylo Ren is telling the truth here, this reveal is painful. After all of this wondering, all of this anticipation, here it is, plain and simple. That this is only revealed with dialogue—Kylo Ren straight up tells Rey, “Hey you’re nobody who came from nothing”—helps make the moment seem insignificant.
There is also the matter of General Snoke, the Supreme Leader of the First Order and the equivalent of a Sith lord, who has been a mysterious character from the start. Fans were wondering who he was, how he came to power, and what possible connection he could have to the original trilogy. Unfortunately, it looks like Snoke was another nobody, at least no one of importance… (which makes no sense seeing as he was made out to be an important player in Kylo Ren’s turn to the Dark Side). How do I know that Snoke was a nobody? Because Kylo Ren killed him, quick and simple. And he is absolutely dead. There’s no way anyone could survive being sliced in half.
But the film isn’t a complete disappointment. The visual effects and epic space settings absolutely live up to and possibly surpass the standard set by the original trilogy. It is definitely worth it to see on the big screen, but will still hold its awesome effects when viewed at home. Also, the acting is a real saving grace of this film. Rey, portrayed by Daisy Ridley (Murder on the Orient Express, Scrawl), maintains a consistent personality during the time between the films, and Ridley is funny, enthusiastic, and strong throughout. Poe, played by Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina, X-Men: Apocalypse), is brought to the forefront of the film, instead of being a sort of side character, as he was in The Force Awakens. Isaac gives Poe depth and personality that will help the character hold a place of significance in the next installment.
As for the returning original actors, Carrie Fisher (When Harry Met Sally, Family Guy) and Mark Hamill (Regular Show, various animated Batman properties) have to explore different sides of their characters. Hamill does a fantastic job of playing a Luke Skywalker who had lost all hope and is full of regret. Fisher brings more of the spark and spunk that Leia Organa has gained since transitioning from Princess to General. Overall, these actors are successful in living up to the high standards that fans expect from them at this point.
In addition, the film is incredibly entertaining. Between the action scenes, the much-anticipated return of the Luke Skywalker character, and the suspense of whether or not the Resistance would survive, any viewer, fan or not, is sure to be on the edge of their seat. With so many good elements, it’s hard to say that this film doesn’t come together successfully, but the disappointing end result shows the importance of a solid, coherent plot.
There is a possible explanation as to why plot elements haven’t clicked with fans the way director Rian Johnson intended. Instead of being cut and dry, Dark side versus the Light side, the film focuses on a balance between the two. This concept is hard to pull off. Fans don’t know who to root for or what to expect. This is uncharted territory in the Star Wars trilogies. As this concept grows and gains some more screen-time, however, it may prove to be the fresh start this generation of Star Wars trilogies needed.
Despite the less than stellar plot line and a few letdowns, Star Wars: the Last Jedi is an entertaining addition to the Star Wars universe. If you want to stay in the loop for future developments, definitely check it out. Just prepare yourself for a long two-and-a-half hours.