Rey is my favorite thing about The Last Jedi (Luke is my second favorite). She is not only the last Jedi, but also the most compelling Jedi we have ever seen. I know I usually write about books and stuff and this is a movie review, but I can’t help it. And although I feel like a bit of a sellout, I really like Star Wars and I want to talk about Episode 8.
The rest of this is going to have a bunch of spoilers (fyi), so if you haven’t seen the movie and you care about spoilers, come back later and let me know what you think. Please comment below and share your thoughts.
Star Wars is never going to change. The entire saga is an above-average (not amazing) story, magnified by incredible special effects, and loved because of compelling characters. Unfortunately, all of these are glued together with relatively predictable execution and (quite honestly) some fairly poor writing. I think I will always enjoy watching Star Wars, but in the back of my mind, there will always be this little question of “what if it were actually written well”?
We’ll probably never know the answer to that, which is usually the case in life. Fortunately, what we do have is still fun.
What I liked
I liked Episode 8 more than I didn’t like it. Considering how I felt about Episode 7 (which was that I hated it), I think this is a relatively glowing recommendation for me. The best part was that Episode 8 was an original story and not a copy of Episode 5 (unlike Episode 7…which was a copy of Episode 4).
Rey is the Best
The very best of Episode 8 was everything with Rey…and also Luke by association. Rey is really the greatest stand-alone character in the new trilogy, and in my opinion in all of Star Wars. I think the cast of Rogue One is better than any other Star Wars cast as a group, and Rogue One is by far the best Star Wars movie of them all. But taken alone, Rey wins hands down. Rey is courageous, wise, and hopeful.
She is not a fake girl-power figurehead thrown in to prove that Star Wars is modern and now respects women after decades of not doing that. Obviously, Episodes 4 to 6 only had Princess Leia as a legitimate female character, and she was reduced to the slave costume in Return of the Jedi. I’m glad we’re past that. Episodes 1 to 3 had Padme, but few others and although she had potential, the writers still couldn’t let her do anything on her own without the Jedi around. And then there was the prisoner scene in Episode 2 where they rip her shirt off to expose her midriff while she’s chained to a post and we’re back to the slave costume problem again.
Rey on the other hand is independent, has survived on her own for her entire life, and makes her own decisions. She has a strong will and she is tough. She doesn’t need anyone to rescue her. Above all, she feels real to me. Her identity is legitimate, believable, and admirable. The only other character that could have been like her, but was wasted by the terrible decisions of past movies, is Princess Leia. That is an entirely different discussion though.
Rey is the best character we have ever met in Star Wars.
Other good stuff
There are a bunch of things I liked about this movie, but I can’t write about all of them in-depth because of space. But I’ll run through my top five here:
- Luke fighting Kylo on the salt planet tied with the walkers blasting at Luke to no avail. Seeing the true Jedi master at work including the heart-breaking and simultaneously satisfying conclusion was simply amazing. Luke could not have gone out in a better way. Five stars for that.
- Kylo force-stabbing Snokes: Finally someone uses the force in smart ways rather than just as plot devices (Episodes 1 through 7, I’m looking at you). Four stars for this.
- Kylo stabbing the ninja guard through the visor when Rey dishes him the light saber. Awesome. Five stars for that one.
- Rey facing her inner doubt and insecurities with the underground icy force mirror…thing. Whatever that was, I liked it. It didn’t make a lot of sense, but I don’t care. It was cool. Four stars.
- The part where Poe totally trolls Admiral Hux on the bridge of his star destroyer. I laughed out loud at that part. Three stars.
My award of stars for random moments is very inconsistent. Don’t read much into it.
Most surprisingly cool moment
Vice Admiral Holdo was the coolest surprise of the movie. And that includes every scene with her up until and including the light-speed collision with the ridiculous star destroyer that Snoke parades himself around in. I knew nothing about Holdo before the movie, and I actually didn’t really know her name until I looked it up just now on Google.
But she stole the show in a big way.
First, hats off to the writers that made everyone really dislike her up until her big moment. Her apparent bureaucratic space battle strategy was so frustrating, especially her closed-mouth approach to communication (see what I did there?). Through most of it, I felt like she was just a trumped up side character designed to give Poe the justification to disobey orders and blow stuff up on his own.
But instead, she lit up the screen with her self-sacrificing plan to give the rebels enough time to reach the tiny little salt planet (I’ll look up the name later…I promise) and escape the clutches of the First Order.
More than anything, I loved that she did not expect or demand a big fanfare. She just went about her business and did her thing. Plus, she has the single greatest explosion scene in any Star Wars movie ever. Her character was complex, totally sucked me in and duped me, and I loved it.
What I didn’t like
Consider yourself lucky; I really pared this section down for you. It could have been so much longer.
Star Wars has never been huge into physics. I know this story is usually considered science fiction, but it really isn’t. It is fantasy (space cowboy fantasy). Really, though, even in fantasy, gravity should still count.
I could almost (maybe) believe that the Death Star had enough gravitational pull to suck in the star destroyers at the end of Return of the Jedi…almost. But, space bombers dropping traditional WWII-style bombs from “above” was just terrible and unnecessarily stupid. This is also true for the arcing “artillery” during the incredibly long chase scene. Things don’t fall or arc in space without some relevant gravitational fields. Objects in motion maintain their direction and velocity until another force acts on them. It’s Newton’s first law.
Star Wars writers need to learn it.
Princess Leia…In Spaaaaace!
I believe Princess Leia in Episode 8 is the first of any Star Wars character to actually enter a vacuum on screen. When the bridge of her ship gets hit and she is floating amid the debris in space, I was legitimately sad. I wasn’t ready for her to die, but I could see it coming. If she had died right there, I think it would have set the perfect tone for the rest of the movie.
And then: the eye blink…the fateful movie trope of regaining consciousness in the face of insurmountable odds. Contrary to all medical realities. Of course, in this instance she was in space, so she was still going to die. Except that all of a sudden she could use the force. And she was super girl or something. So she flew back to safety.
That was terrible. Rey is the greatest character ever in Star Wars, but Leia is a close seccond. She had to surmount some incredible odds, and she is still pretty darn cool.
But Leia was strong not because she had the force, but because she suffered and endured the tyranny of the Empire first-hand. She saved the Rebellion from the jaws of defeat multiple times and grew up fighting the Imperial domination so perfectly shown in Rogue One. The princess was so powerful she could control her own emotions to continue leading a failing rebellion even after her son killed her husband in cold blood. And she was strong enough to continue to love Kylo in spite of his terrible choices.
Leia was strong for so many reasons that she didn’t need a cheap theatrical movie-trick and suddenly the force to be amazing. She already was.
I didn’t like any of this because I felt like they copped out on Leia’s strengths for lame movie drama playing on the emotions of viewers who miss Carrie Fisher. Zero stars for this from me.
Snoke was dumb. I know there are Star Wars geeks who have spent the past two years talking about him and his origins and on and on. But from a story perspective, he was deus ex machina more than anything.
He was an incredibly powerful force user, stronger than what we saw from Vader most of the time, and definitely more than Emperor Palpatine. And yet, how did he become so? Where would he have come from? How did Vader and Palpatine not know about him? Yoda didn’t know him. Obi Wan didn’t know him. No one knew him. He didn’t try to dominate the Empire, but he must have been completely aware of them and their Sith connections. None of this makes sense.
He had no legitimate reason to exist, but because it’s a Star Wars movie and they are somehow duty-bound to make movies that are essentially repeats of each other, they made him exist. If you’re wondering, he is just Emperor Palpatine all over again even down to the ugly face.
To be honest, I’m glad he’s dead, but I would prefer that he had never been made up to begin with. I’m super glad that Kylo killed him in an awesome way, though. More than just being glad he’s dead, I hope he stays that way.
I won’t spend a ton of time on t his, but the ninja guards that Snoke had around him were dumb. The concept of martial arts in Star Wars has never been common other than Darth Maul (who would have been a much better Sith lord than Palpatine, by the way). Secondly, the ninja guards had weapons completely foreign to the Star Wars universe (electric nun chucks or whatever).
Although the fight sequence was pretty cool from a cinematic standpoint, it seemed out of place with the style of Star Wars.
Anything with Finn (and also Rose)
Finn had a cool backstory, and brings out a little more of the human side of the Empire. He represents the common, innocent life caught up in the Empire’s machine of war and domination. I didn’t really like his character that much in Episode 7, but I thought Episode 8 would resolve that by developing him more.
That didn’t happen. He was still a somewhat bumbling side character who occasionally knows everything about the layout of the enemy base…because he swept the floors. We get it, but that joke’s not funny anymore.
I felt there was a huge missed opportunity near the end of the movie. Finn had a moment where he decided to sacrifice himself to preserve the rebellion. He matured right before our eyes as he sped over the field of salt towards the insanely huge door buster cannon thing. It was intense and, just like the Leia in space moment, I was seriously sad. Someone was about to become a legend right before our eyes.
And then Rose ruined it. She stole Finn’s moment of real contribution for her own selfish reasons. I didn’t feel any connection to Rose throughout the movie. The entire side story of Finn and Rose felt forced and boring to me. I just didn’t care. It was too much slapstick in contrast to the rest of the movie’s tone.
And then the one almost meaningful moment turns into a non-starter as Finn and Rose both get back to base alive having done absolutely nothing for the entire movie. Both characters’ treatment throughout the movie was disappointing. Zero stars for that.
Boba Fett…oops…I mean Phasma
I never had any interest in Phasma. Her armor was shiny, but I never cared about her as a character, and I’m glad (hope) she’s permanently dead. She feels to me like she’s the Boba Fett of this part of the story. Boba Fett was loved by fans, but had very little purpose or impact on the actual plot. He could easily have been edited out.
Episodes 1 through 3 tried to make him relevant, but they honestly tried a lot of stuff in those movies and failed at almost all of it. Either way, Phasma is just too much fluff and hype in a story where we really only care about the people that are connected to the Skywalker family.
Can I give negative stars?
What is the future for Star Wars?
I don’t really know the future, but I’m confident in this:
The future of Star Wars is that the franchise will make literally billions of dollars, people will watch any movie they make (good or bad) and love it, and super fans will go crazy over every little detail of clothing or alien species or whatever. I will contribute to that in my own small way by watching all the movies they make too. I won’t regret it.
Star Wars will not change. This potentially incredible story will remain average, but beloved. The movies will be visually stunning, the characters will be lovable, and I think Rey will be unstoppable and awesome. Hopefully she is the pathfinder to more characters like her. But there will always be a nagging “what if?” What if Star Wars was written not as a juvenile fantasy but as an epic fictional piece of literature? It already means so much and has so much to offer. But it could be so much more. I might never know that answer. But I do know we will always be entertained.
(fyi The salt planet is called Crait)