Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last Jedi ★★★★½

Some thoughts on Rian Johnson's Star Wars: The Last Jedi, with spoilers.

— Still trying to get my head around this thematically and narratively dense repatterning of Empire. I'll probably see it again, but not before Call Me By Your Name, which I hope removes the sting of how extremely gay The Last Jedi could have been but was not.

— Rose Tico is my MVP here; "not by fighting what we hate, but by saving what we love" is a tough line to sell, but her earnest performance and the film's openly emotional lunge towards hope in a time of darkness turned it into hot iron. I cried when I heard it. I still cry at remembering it.

The Last Jedi's ultimate success is that it has a point of view, it is about something, namely that people, and their radical faith in one another, their hopes and loves and best-laid plans, are the true rebellion against fascism and orthodoxy. We can debate how broadly this point was made, and it does get very broad sometimes — Rogue One's ensemble of questionable characters stands as a nice contrast to all these sweet faces with pure intentions — but it does make this point, over and over and over.

— The flipside to this point is the argument presented by Benicio del Toro's character, whose speech impediment is one of the film's falser notes — it felt manipulative, a trait for trait's sake, and it left an unpleasant aftertaste. Otherwise, his character explicitly invokes a point made somewhat subtly in Attack of the Clones: that these galactic wars will continue in cycles, and on the sidelines will be the weapons manufacturers, growing richer and richer. Is it too much to hope that Episode IX pivots to the Rebellion destroying not just the tools of war, but the systems that consume life for economic gain? Might be outside the scope of a Star Wars shepherded by Disney's increasingly swollen and ubiquitous cultural apparatus, but a girl can dream.

— As much as I'm glad for Rian Johnson's hand on the wheel, I found myself weirdly missing Abrams' way of making every character interaction pop off like a tiny firework.

— Additionally, this thing is bulky. At 2.5 hours, it's still somehow splitting the difference between compact and sprawling. I think it could have been a tight 2 or a spacious 3.

— I really loved all the Kylo & Rey stuff, exactly up until the point where Kylo tells Rey to watch her friends die. Rey has no tangible motivation for wanting that, even with her origins revealed to her; Kylo clearly hasn't understood her in the way that she's tried to understand him. Which is Extremely Kylo Ren, sure, but it's also a huge anticlimax, and I think the film could have done more to make it about the fact that they don't really see eye to eye, even when they think they do. As it stands, it feels like a particularly deflating pivot; Kylo goes back to Evil Red Kylo-ing and Rey goes back to Good Blue Rey-ing...

— ...while Luke's cynicism about Jedi dogmatism, another incredible callback to the prequel trilogy — thank you Rian Johnson for not keelhauling these great films — ends up feeling a little pat? Again, I do need to watch this again and feel out how all these threads interweave and hang together. It's a dense movie and I was really trying to take it all in. But yeah, I'd hoped that Luke was going to posit some kind of middle way between the dark and the light, a path of balance. But by the end, balance isn't a stance that anyone can really take — it's too wobbly, as Rey and Kylo prove — and Luke must return from his years of brooding over his failures (and, critically, his own heartbreaking moment of Anakin-like monstrousness) in order to support that balance.

— But isn't that balance what all the weapons manufacturers are getting rich on? Again, if Star Wars wants to really impress me, it'll go after them.

— A list of things I loved: porgs, lizard nuns, Laura Dern, Laura Dern's hair, Super Leia, Evil BB-8, Finn beating up Phasma with the Traitor Stick, Gwendoline Christie's eye, bisected Snoke, the fight in Snoke's chamber, Luke's big surprise (I just realized that the dice fade in Kylo's hand because Luke was astrally projecting that, too), Oscar Isaac having something to do, crystal foxes, that this film's Mos Eisley is just rich people, Luke's incredibly impractical fishing methods, Kylo/Rey sexual tension, Paige Tico, modified B-Wing bombers, the fact that this universe still has fairly primitive communication tech despite having ridiculously advanced weapons and engines, that one Rebel lady who looks like Rebecca Solnit, and Luke facing down a ton of walkers like Raiden staring down Metal Gears in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, in which Raiden is definitely the whiny Luke-analogue to Solid Snake's Han Solo.

— A personal note: I saw this in a city I'd never been to before, with a person I really treasure, who also happens to be a lifelong Star Wars fan and fellow Rian Johnson apologist. A++ would recommend.

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