I generally liked Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the film prior to this one in the more modern take on the classic Star Wars franchise. My main gripe with The Force Awakens was that it was in many was a rehash of the very first Star Wars movie. It was a very well done “rehash,” but it was basically the same thing with prettier effects and better acting.
The hope was that the next movie, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, would build upon that foundation without becoming a rehash of The Empire Strikes Back and, for the most part, it isn’t that. Instead, it mixes and matches elements of Empire with Return of the Jedi, while also trying to drive the franchise in a somewhat different direction.
Regarding the plot, we pick up just about where we left off after Force Awakens: the First Order is chasing the Resistance, trying to stamp them out after they successfully destroyed the Starkiller Base in the previous movie; and Rey is trying to get Luke Skywalker to return to the fold and take on Kylo Ren. Again, in many ways, this is how Empire Strikes Back took shape, as Luke was seeking Yoda’s help in exile. This movie doesn’t involve taking refuge in Cloud City, but instead involves a race against the clock where the First Order capital ships are slowly picking away at Resistance ships as they run out of fuel. Various characters try to get help in order to ensure that our heroes make it safely to an old Rebel base where they hope to wait out the First Order and survive to fight another day.
Ultimately, this part of the story wasn’t all that impressive to me. It seemed “small” to me. Not really “galactic destiny hanging in the balance”-type stuff. I suppose Empire Strikes Back wasn’t really about that either, but oh well.
The real story in this movie centers on Rey and Luke, and then Rey and Kylo Ren. Luke Skywalker is resistant to returning because he feels responsible for what happened to Kylo. At the same time, he recognizes the same power in Rey that Kylo had, so he doesn’t want to screw up with her like he did with him.
There are quite a few spoilery elements that could be avoided, but I’m going to mention one here because it’s been making the rounds among the internet illiterati since the movie came out. The Force Awakens takes great pains to not tell the viewers who Rey’s parents are, even though she’s trying to find out, herself. Everyone speculated that she’s somehow related to the Skywalker line just like Kylo Ren is (whose parents are Leia and Han Solo). In The Last Jedi, we found out that her parents are…nobody! Just random traders who gave her up for cash, effectively.
Personally, I’m fine with this. However, it opens up a “can of worms,” so to speak, where just about anyone is now capable of using “force powers” (this is alluded to in a few other scenes near the end of the movie). Some feel that “the force” is cheapened, where you don’t have to be “special” anymore to wield a lightsaber or control minds. If Rey is, in fact, a “nobody,” then anyone can do this if they train for it. It also calls into question why, exactly, the Jedi died out in the first place, if they could have just made more Jedi.
So yeah, again, I’m fine with this revelation about her heritage. But this seemingly significant change to Star Wars canon (among many others that show up in this movie) make me question where they’re going for Episode IX. The Last Jedi contains elements of Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, so it kinda wraps things up and doesn’t leave much else aside from a final confrontation between Rey and Kylo Ren. While I’m sure that could be interesting, I’m a bit afraid they’re going to keep milking this for longer than they should. They need to be done with this leg of the franchise after Episode IX and should start an entirely new trilogy in a decade or more with Episode X.
The Last Jedi sets it up for “The Next Generation” to take over better than The Force Awakens did, but I’m afraid they’re only really leaving one movie for that to happen. Which means Episode IX has a lot to do in order to bring this trilogy to a close effectively.
I hope they can do it. This movie was solid and entertaining. It was well made, well acted, and though long at 2.5 hours, it didn’t feel too long. There were too many CGI characters, but most of them were focused in a few scenes that I forgot about it after awhile.
Ultimately, much like The Force Awakens, it’s tough to fully judge The Last Jedi until we’ve got Episode IX available to watch.