Full spoilers for Star Wars – Episode VIII: The Last Jedi below.
There is a certain aura around any film. I can’t explain what it really is. But every film has one. It leaves a mark on you. It can be minuscule and almost non-existent, something to which anyone can relate. Think of an Adam Sandler film. That was probably the first time you’ve thought of an Adam Sandler film in a very long time. That’s simply because his films lack a great aura. Nobody really remembers them. They don’t leave an impact on anyone.
This isn’t to say a film’s aura comes from how much you like it. It’s simply how long it stays with you, and how much it effects you. You can hate a movie so passionately that it will not leave your thoughts for a while. The point is that it left you thinking about it.
No film I’ve ever watched has had this effect on me as much as Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I went to watch it the day it released with my friend – and you can watch our review here – and then took to the internet to see what everyone else thought of the film. That’s when the chaos arrived.
Before I get to that, however, it’s worth noting that I could not translate my thoughts for The Last Jedi into comprehensible language for quite a while after watching the film for the first time. So, really, reading what the world thought only added fuel to the fire.
Little did I expect that fire to live this long, however. Upon my second viewing, I’m writing this, as a way to let anyone who reads this (thank you) try and understand my predicament, and also to try and bury the hatchet on something that has been haunting me for far too long.
Now, the thing is, I probably wouldn’t be this caught up with myself if I didn’t care about Star Wars so much. I love Star Wars. Not so much Episodes I and II (do not kill me), but the rest, quite a lot.
I was particularly excited for The Last Jedi because Rian Johnson was at the helm, and his talent is undeniable. We’d been promised different, especially after everyone took it personally that The Force Awakens was too much like the original, and so I was excited to see what was going to be different.
The Last Jedi is tremendously bold and has balls. Rian Johnson took risks with this film and, well, they paid off. Or so thought my friend and I when we walked out of the theatre.
I stumbled onto reactions on the internet, from YouTube reviewers, and then from comment sections and other public forums.
What I found was a Batman v Superman level of divide between those that hate the film and those that love it. This being the internet, of course, one isn’t allowed to just like a film while acknowledging its flaws. That is forbidden.
And so began weeks of me questioning myself every now and again about my own abilities as someone who tries to look at films critically. I did actually understand a few of the arguments against the film (others are laughably atrocious), and The Last Jedi started to gradually slip off the pedestal I had placed it on.
Ultimately, I decided there was no point to thinking about the film endlessly, and so I watched it again. I had intended to take notes, as I do occasionally, but decided against it because I wanted to experience the film without any distractions.
One thing that is strikingly apparent that I didn’t catch the first time was that The Last Jedi is, indeed, too long. I’ll get to that later. I actually never find a film too long when I’m watching it in theatres, at least the first time, because when I’m in a theatre, I honestly don’t want the film I’m watching to end. The only time I’ve been tortured by time is when I watched Transformers: The Last Knight, and anyone with a brain can understand why.
The Last Jedi doesn’t feel too long in the sense that its run time is bloated. It’s just that there are so many stories happening side-by-side, that every time it cuts to one in particular, you want it to cut back to any of the others.
I am referring, of course, to the Finn and Rose plot. The first time I watched the film, these scenes didn’t drag because I expected a pay-off. Knowing there really isn’t one truly changes things the second time. The Finn and Rose story is jarring because it could have been done very differently. The search for the ‘only hacker who can get them into Snoke’s ship’ is sidetracked for someone completely different who can also get the job done for them. Benicio Del Toro’s character comes out of nowhere, and while I actually like him for what he represents, it’s a bit of a mess considering how he’s introduced and used. Also, Del Toro appears to have been inspired by Cosmo Kramer for his performance. Once you notice that, you can’t un-notice that.
A lot of it really feels unnecessary. There is a lot of time spent on the Casino planet (I can’t remember names. I’m sorry), and the jail time and animal chases really stray away from the focus of the film.
Rose could have just been the hacker, and the Finn and Rose story could have been about them trying to infiltrate The First Order. That would have been far more compelling, and it wouldn’t have drawn attention away so much from Rey and Luke and the rest. It also wouldn’t have been so disappointing when, ultimately, they fail.
I did not think of that. Jeremy Jahns did. Do not give me credit.
Now here’s where my understanding of a lot of complaints about the film really ends. The Last Jedi has been criticised for ‘failing its characters’ and doing things with the Force that we haven’t seen before.
First the stupid Force argument. Come on. You didn’t design the rules of the Force. It’s literally a mystical thing. That’s just a stubbornly ridiculous critique.
Moving on. Easily the most divisive aspect of The Last Jedi is its characters. Specifically, Rey, Snoke and, surprisingly, Luke Skywalker.
The one I understand most is Snoke, because he is a red herring. While I do think the completely unexpected twist of Kylo Ren killing him is great, I do feel like we could have used more information about Snoke before he died. While I am certain we will learn more about him, we could have gotten it earlier is all I’m saying.
Now here is the thing. Snoke being the big bad of Episode IX is a little similar to the Emperor being the big bag of Return of the Jedi. Kylo Ren being the centre of attention, however, is gold. It just is. Kylo Ren is a beautiful character, and he has earned everything his character has received. It’s simply more compelling than Snoke being the Supreme Leader. Supreme Leader Ren is so much better.
Rey’s parents are revealed to be irrelevant junkies who sold her. This also upset people.
Now I know this has been said before, but I will say it again. The film does not let people down when it comes to both Snoke and Rey’s parents. Everyone let themselves down. The two years between The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi were overflowing with so many fan theories, that eventually it felt like all of them were redundant, which they were.
Imagine this. After the original Star Wars, everyone in the whole world convinced themselves that Luke Skywalker’s father is Obi Wan Kenobi, and they decided that is the only reveal that would make them happy. I guarantee if that happened, even after witnessing the greatest reveal in cinematic history, people would have been upset that it didn’t go their way.
The point I’m trying to make is that it’s unfair to a film to criticise it for not going how you wanted it to go. It’s similar to how people were upset at how little screen time Luke Skywalker received in The Force Awakens. Disney, JJ Abrams and Mark Hamill never said Luke Skywalker would have a prominent role in the film. Barring one vague shot, he was entirely absent from all trailers and promotional material, and even the poster for the film. Fans let themselves down. It’s the same problem here.
Speaking of Luke Skywalker, apparently The Last Jedi ruined the character. Anyone who says this is specifically referring to one scene, and it’s the flashback to the creation of Kylo Ren.
Yes, Luke does make an impulse decision to kill Ben Solo when he sees the darkness in him, but he immediately regrets it, even before he does anything. Just because he is a Jedi master does not mean he doesn’t have fears and he doesn’t have impulses. Luke Skywalker has always been a character to act on impulse, and the fact that he instantaneously retracts is growth in itself. And imagine this. You have saved the entire galaxy from unstoppable darkness, and right in front of you is the possible rebirth of all that darkness all over again. Would you just let it happen?
Luke is a tremendous character in The Last Jedi because his imperfections are highlighted. That’s what has always made Luke Skywalker a great character, even in the original trilogy. He can’t be all squeaky clean because he is older now. He is still Luke and he is still flawed.
The Last Jedi, also, is flawed, and I’ve mentioned why.
But ultimately, here is what makes me love this film, even with what I’ve said. The Last Jedi is bold and it is so rich in satisfaction. Everything regarding Rey and Kylo Ren is excellent, and the final scene with Kylo and Luke is unbelievable. The last act of this film is so beautiful that if I watched this film every day for the rest of my life, I will always have goosebumps and a tear will always form in the corner of my eye. Rey realising that she must carry the Jedi legacy on, Kylo Ren taking full control of the First Order and Luke Skywalker’s final moments are such gems that you really do forget the problems with the film. The breathtaking visuals, the epic score and pretty much everything else come together to make The Last Jedi stick to you.
That’s what makes The Last Jedi so special. It is not perfect, but what it does right, it does so, so right. I cannot think of this film without feeling something, and while this may ultimately stem from loving Star Wars, it’s what puts The Last Jedi up there as a wonderful film. Flaws and all.
I have no doubt that Episode IX will not be perfect, because no film really is (except perhaps The Empire Strikes Back), but when it comes to Star Wars, perfection no longer matters to me. It’s what the film makes me feel, and how it leaves an impact. The Last Jedi has stuck to me like a magnet for almost two months now, and it is not perfect. It doesn’t have to be.
We should stop striving for perfection and instead search for satisfaction. We should stop placing expectations on a film when it promises nothing at all. The Last Jedi suffered because of both those things. Remove them, and there lies a film that is, simply put, beautiful.