Like most people, I have a lot of problems with Star Wars: The Last Jedi. There’s plenty of gripes to be shared about how the movie treats the Star Wars mythology, but my biggest issue with the film is the story’s structure. The plot took us on several wildly different story lines that made the pacing drag, and packed the narrative with unnecessary and often illogical decisions. However, I feel the movie has merits interspersed through fragments of the story, and as we lead up to The Rise of Skywalker with a barrage of rekindled negativity, I felt that now was the appropriate time to share some of what I enjoyed about Rian Johnson’s vision for Star Wars, before I see the conclusion to this trilogy.
1. The Force Bond
One of The Last Jedi’s successes was developing a complex relationship between Kylo Ren and Rey (that is, before extinguishing it). Given that they each ended up on opposite ends of the galaxy at the end of The Force Awakens, I thought it was pretty clever to allow Snoke to provide that mental-force bridge for the two to connect. Besides playing into the plot well, conceptually its a cool idea that I hope to see more of.
The Yoda sequence was probably my favorite moment in the movie. Not only was it a fun surprise, but it provided some new context for the spiritual realm of The Force. Yoda was not only able to summon lightning, but physically interacted with Luke by bopping him on the head, which was completely new for Force Ghosts. Most importantly, his purpose for teaching Luke a lesson on learning from past failures was a meaningful contribution. The line “We are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters.” is one of my favorite quotes in the entire franchise.
3. The Throne Room
Almost the entirety of the Snoke throne room sequence falls in my favorite Star Wars moments. From start to finish, it is extremely well shot and boasts beautiful set and production design. The Snoke sequence starts out as all too familiar, but quickly becomes shocking and intriguing when Kylo Ren kills his master. I was really hoping the film would build on this character choice: Vader’s greatest limitation was his adherence to The Emperor’s bidding. The Last Jedi finally opened the door to answer the question of what would happen when a Dark Side apprentice finally becomes the master. The fight between the guards, Kylo, and Rey was one of the best lightsaber battles in the franchise. The last plot beat to keep me interested in this sequence was Rey’s near-inclination to join Kylo. I would’ve loved to see that fulfilled, it would’ve diverted the Star Wars saga into new, uncharted territory. Although Rey chose the standard hero route, at least the sequence ended with that badass tug-of-war for Luke’s lightsaber, another testament to Rian Johnson’s visual tastes.
4. Salty Luke
Luke Skywalker’s portrayal in this movie was one of it’s most complained about attributes. To me, this was one of the film’s strengths. To me, Luke’s inclination to second-guess the killing of Ben, followed by his resignation to depressed solitude, is not outside the bounds of his character. Luke was incredibly inconsistent in the original trilogy. In A New Hope, he was a whiny kid who unquestionably stumbled into every bizarre situation he was throne in. In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke is at his most interesting, full of self doubt and resentment towards Yoda, but with a more firm grasp on how high the stakes are. Return of the Jedi is arguable the most divergent Luke we’ve seen, where he’s portrayed as 100% ‘stay-positive’ Joe who has faith in everyone and everything. Given that Luke made one small but fatal error in nearly killing his Dark-Side-tainted nephew, it seems very reasonable for him to end up as a hermit on Ach To, questioning the acts of the Jedi and the role of The Force. While I really liked his Force projection to save the Resistance in the finale, the greatest problems with Luke’s portrayal fell in the realm of silliness (such as green sea cow titty milk) and a lack of a pronounced redemption. Still, his role went against the grain in a good way.
I don’t need to explain this one in detail, this is the one thing we all agree was awesome in The Last Jedi. Sure, how the movie got to this point was a bit ridiculous, and having pink-haired Tumblr Lady be the one to sacrifice herself was a bit unfulfilling. Honestly though, who cares, this is one of those concepts that you joked about with fellow Star Wars nerds that finally made it to the screen, and man was it beautiful. Having all plot lines converge at this moment added a nice artistic touche, amidst an otherwise disjointed narrative.