Anthony's Film Review
Star Wars - Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2017)
This Star Wars movie is fun, but only if your expectations are not high...
In my review of Star Wars - Episode VII: The Force Awakens, I commented that the movie comprises a mixture of content that is new to the saga and content that is similar to what we've already seen with the original Star Wars trilogy from 1977 to 1983. This is something I cannot help but bring up again, because Star Wars - Episode VIII: The Last Jedi is doing it, too. I didn't mind it too much the first time with Episode VII, but with Episode VIII, I'm starting to wonder if this is the approach to the new series of Star Wars movies. That's not to say I dislike Episode VIII because of it. The movie still has some entertainment value. However, the continued tendency to reference past Star Wars movies does, for me, put this movie a step down from the previous movie. Will Episode IX go even further in that direction? It's hard to say, but the possibility is hard to ignore.
With that, let's compare Episode VIII: The Last Jedi with Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. Both films involve two parallel plotlines: one related to a good army evading a bad army, and one related to a Jedi apprentice being trained by a master. In The Empire Strikes Back, the Galactic Empire is in pursuit of Han Solo, Princess Leia, and company across space, such that it looks as if the Rebel Alliance is losing, while Luke Skywalker undergoes training with Jedi Master Yoda. In The Last Jedi, the First Order seems to have the Resistance cornered, while Rey (Daisy Ridley) meets Luke Skywalker and receives some Jedi training. There are two noticeable differences, though. First, the conflict between the First Order and the Resistance is not really a pursuit, but rather more of a stalemate, because the First Order has one technical capability that gives it great advantage over the Resistance, who cannot evade the First Order and only risk running out of starship fuel. Second, there is much less on-screen time for Jedi training of Rey by Luke than of Luke by Yoda decades earlier.
Obviously, this is the perfect time for me to talk about Mark Hamill reprising his role as Luke Skywalker. We can all agree that the character has dramatically changed. Master Skywalker is now a bitter old man who is haunted by a certain past traumatic event, a far cry from the idealistic hero we've come to love in the original trilogy. It's understandable that some fans will not be happy with this. In fact, even Hamill himself expressed the same opinion. But does this mean the character of Luke Skywalker is totally ruined? Depends on what your expectations are. For me, I look at it with a sort-of realistic perspective. I tend to be aware that anyone can change for better or worse at any point in life, and Luke Skywalker is really no exception. I was immersed in scenes featuring Skywalker because I liked seeing a newer and different side of him. Still, if you want one positive thing about the character to really appreciate, wait for the scene late in the movie when he uses an astonishingly cool Jedi ability that we have never seen before in any of the live-action Star Wars movies.
I will also add that the Jedi apprentice plot has some interesting moments. There is one cool scene where Rey sees her reflection, which leads to a sequence where we see multiple reflections of her lined up and mimicking her actions one by one. It's not powerful like Luke's ominous vision of Darth Vader in a cave in The Empire Strikes Back, but it's visually creative. Also, you know how the Jedi can sense each other's presence from a distance? Well, this movie goes further by having two Jedi converse from a distance. We get to see Rey have conversations with the villainous Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Even when they are not physically in the same room, they are speaking as if they are in the same room, and both are taking the opportunity to try influencing the other or at least try to find out more about the other. This leads to a scene that is essentially a rehash of a plot sequence in Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. Speaking of which, the character of Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) in this movie is cool to watch, even if he is not as memorable as Ian McDiarmid's Emperor Palpatine.
Let's go back to the other plotline, where the Resistance cannot escape the First Order. There actually is a potential solution, but not one conceived by the upper ranks of Resistance leadership, like General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) or Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern). Hotshot pilot Po Dameron (Oscar Isaac) figures out a way to sneak a codebreaker onto a First Order ship in order to hack its system, in a way that will give the Resistance a chance to escape unnoticed. To do this, though, a codebreaker familiar with First Order computer systems must be enlisted. Finn (John Boyega), the droid BB-8, and a maintenance engineer named Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) sneak off to a planet with a luxurious casino, a setting that I sort-of think of as a glamorous version of the Mos Eisley cantina in the original Star Wars movie. After a couple of mishaps, they manage to leave with a codebreaker named DJ (Benicio del Toro). Yeah, there's not really much to say there.
You can pretty much tell from my descriptions above that the plot in Star Wars: The Last Jedi is rather basic and far from stellar. This is amplified by the fact that the movie is two-and-a-half hours long, which forces a two-hour plot to be stretched and drawn out without adding anything on top. It's one thing to watch a movie this long while following an incredibly awesome plot and cast of characters, but it's another to have a more standard plot and characters over that same running time. When you noticeably rehash previous movies, there's no reason to have the movie this long. Speaking of which, there are two other things in this movie that go along with the plotline rehashing. One is a brief snippet of a scene in the original Star Wars trilogy that is replayed here mainly for sentimental value. The other is a quick cameo by another character from the original trilogy whom we haven't seen yet in this new trilogy. They are interesting but ultimately not essential.
Because I'm sounding negative again, allow me to add one more positive note. As you know, this is Carrie Fisher's final film. Although she had passed away suddenly in late December 2016, she managed to film all of her scenes for this movie before then. Her role as General Leia Organa is, as expected, a supporting role, but it's still heartwarming to see her one last time. I especially thought of this during the scene where she uses the Force to save herself from the brink of death. The last heartwarming moment with the actress no doubt comes from the dedication to her in the film's closing credits: "In Loving Memory of our Princess CARRIE FISHER." Many fans, I am sure, are saying goodbye to the beloved actress one last time in response to those words.
So how do I rate this movie? Well, it's not like Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back that is arguably even better than the awesome Episode IV: A New Hope. The trend this movie takes is like Episode II: Attack of the Clones being a step down from Episode I: The Phantom Menace. What we have is another middle entry of a trilogy being not as good as what came right before it. So it's not an 8 out of 10 like Episode VII: The Force Awakens, but it's still fun and better than The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, which I rated 6/10 and 5/10, respectively. Therefore, Star Wars - Episode VIII: The Last Jedi is a 7 out of 10. The Force is not very strong with this one, nor is it weak. The Force is just simply there, on a basic level.
For more information about Star Wars - Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, visit the Internet Movie Database.
In addition, check out my reviews of the following:
Main Star Wars Films
Other Star Wars Films