Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi Review

Growing up, Star Wars was a huge part of my life. I remember watching Episodes I, II, and III on long car rides, glued to the small tv screen in our well-loved Honda; the fantastical adventures of Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi kept my siblings and me quiet in the backseat as my parents navigated up front. The Original Trilogy was a fixture of Sunday movie night in my house, with the whole family piling on to our old sofa, popcorn in hand, to watch Luke Skywalker blow up the Death Star. I had seen these movies millions of times and knew exactly what would happen, but I was still captivated by the explosion without fail every time.

That’s why I was so excited when The Force Awakens came out in 2015. I had forgotten how much I loved the action, fun characters, and mind-blowing special effects of these movies. Since the release of The Force Awakens, my excitement for Episode VIII has been slowly building. So how did The Last Jedi live up to the hype?

My favorite part of the movie, first and foremost, was the amazing attention to detail. Each character design and each setting had so much packed into it, making Earth in 2018 disappear and allowing me to really feel like I was in a galaxy far, far away. For example, the details of Leia’s outfit and hairstyle gave away a lot about her character. We see General Organa in a state of mourning for her late husband, Han: her hair is in Alderaanian mourning braids, and she is dressed in muted, somber colors. Hardcore fans can understand the mourning braids reference as a nod to her home planet of Alderaan, but any fan, no matter how new, can understand that wearing darker colors represents grief.

Furthermore, the attention to detail on Canto Bight was simply breathtaking. World building and set design have always played an integral role in the Star Wars films, and the creation of Canto Bight did not disappoint. Canto Bight is the coastal playground of the rich and famous in the Star Wars universe, a place of excess and debauchery. Our heroes Finn and Rose venture to this planet in order to find a code breaker, one who will be able to infiltrate the First Order’s ship and disable hyperspace tracking, so that the Resistance can escape and hide in some far corner of the galaxy in order to regroup. Obviously, the action, adventure, and humor in this sequence on Canto Bight is great, but what really drew me in was all the stuff going on in the background; there are so many fun characters and set design elements to pay attention to! Scenes like this remind me of how expansive this universe is, and how much thought and effort went into making this movie!

Another great thing about this movie was the action. The lightsaber choreography and massive space battles have just gotten better and better as these movies go on. The opening space battle, with the Resistance giving it all they’ve got to stave off the First Order absolutely gripping, ultimately ending with a bittersweet victory.

The scene where Rey and Kylo Ren team up to take on Snoke’s crimson-clad Praetorian Guard is also incredible. These heavily armed warriors reminded me of The Emperor's Royal Guards from the original trilogy. We never really got to see the old Red Guard in action, but The Last Jedi definitely doesn’t shy away from showing off these bad guys. This elite death-squad put up a good fight against Rey and Kylo Ren, with their awesome armor and crazy hand-to-hand combat skills really giving them a hard fight. Definitely a scene to watch over and over again!

Although there were obviously a lot of high points in this movie, no movie is without flaw. The first issue I had with The Last Jedi was that I felt it was about 20 minutes too long: there was simply too much packed in, and by the end, it started to drag on a little bit. Although I enjoyed most of the side adventures and new characters that were introduced, the movie felt a bit crowded. I obviously loved the scene in Snoke’s throne room and the battle of Crait, but having both of those intense, action-packed scenes practically back to back at the end felt a little bit like overkill; there was no time for the audience to catch their breath. I think the movie would have been stronger if they had streamlined the plot and made the movie a bit simpler.

My other issue was that to me, some of the character arcs just didn’t make sense. I loved Poe in the first movie, but in this movie, he’s a bit unlikable. I understood his devotion to the cause and his philosophy that the ends justify the means, but the scene where he incites a mutiny on the ship and tries to take over command from Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo made him seem narrow-sighted and a bit obtuse, to be honest.

Furthermore, I didn’t quite understand Kylo-Ren’s arc. At the end, after he assassinated Snoke and saved Rey, I expected him to return to the Light. Instead, he transformed into this power-hungry supervillain who wanted total power over the galaxy. I never thought Ben’s turn to the dark side was ever about obtaining tyrannical reign over the galaxy; to me, it was more about finding and understanding himself, and turning away from the Jedi, a way of life that had let him down. I always just felt he was searching for something more abstract than absolute rule over the galaxy, so that moment was disappointing for me.

I think Rian Johnson was faced with a nearly impossible task: he had to create a solid follow up to the success of The Force Awakens, satisfy old fans and engage new ones, have fun with the characters but not forget the seriousness of the struggles, honor the old movies but still push forward and create something new and unique. While I obviously had some issues with this film, seeing it in theaters was overall an amazing experience. 

With Episode VII and Episode VIII out, and with Episode IX on the horizon, I’m glad I get to see a new generation of fans be excited about Star Wars. It’s magical to still hear kids talking about the Sith, and the Jedi, and Darth Vader. For me, the Jedi will never end; they will always have a part of me.

 

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