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"This is not going to go the way you think!"
Luke Skywalker pretty much summed up what the movie said to fans of Star Wars right there, and I, like majority of the people in the theatre, sat in shock and confusion as the credits of The Last Jedi rolled across the screen. It took me a couple of hours to process the events of the movie, weigh out the pros and the cons, before sitting in front of my laptop and writing a spoiler free review that I posted on futurism.media that same night. I knew that I needed to see the film one more time in order to get my thoughts sorted in a coherent and proper way. And so, having seen the film today, here I am.
NOTE: If you want a review of the movie as a whole, go check out my spoiler free review on the same site (link is in my profile that you'll find at the bottom of the page), as this particular post will contain SPOILERS for the movie because I'm going to talk about things that I liked and disliked, as well as minor, tiny things that I feel affected how I felt about the movie. If you have seen the movie, stick around, but if not, I highly recommend you go do so before coming back to this article.
All right—now on with the discussion.
Upon my second viewing, there was something I noticed in the very first act of the movie that was kept consistent throughout the entire film. The subtleties in the movie are, without a shadow of a doubt, the best part of the film—and that goes for humour and plot. For example, I cringed when Poe and Hux had that whole "phone joke" kind of exchange, but I laughed when Leia told C-3PO to wipe his "nervous" expression off his face. It made the scene feel lighthearted, but at the same time, didn't detract from the seriousness of the situation that the Rebels were in. It added a sense of humour without making the scene feel silly on purpose. Similarly, on Ahch-To, I found the joke about Rey "reaching" out similar to a sequence from Kung Fu Panda, but when Chewie was being silently berated for eating a Porg in front of its brethren, I found it humorous. In addition, every single joke about Rey irritating the Jedi temple caretakers was funny—not because they tried to force a joke in the scene, because it naturally seemed to fit, a detail that I thought was important. Yoda's witty and insightful jokes also worked because they fit with both his character and the tone of the situation. The conversation he had with Luke was about teaching him that even though he can pass on his strengths, passing on his failures was equally, if not more important.
I also noticed that the opening scene of Luke and Rey was literally a continuation of the closing shot from The Force Awakens. This decision was so effective because it created a sense of real continuity between the two movies—almost like they flowed into one another. There's a reason these moments stand out and people remember them more—its because they added a sense of humour without making the scene feel silly on purpose.
Another excellent (and I cannot stress on how much I loved this) use of subtleties in the movie is just before Rey and Kylo have their second Force conversation. Rey, with a gleeful smile on her face, touches the water dripping down from the Falcon and takes delight in it. This immediately caught my attention, even though the entire thing flashed by in a second. Where did Rey spend her entire life? The desert—a place where water is scarce. Of course it makes sense that she reacts that way to touching it. It's little things like this that make the movie as a whole memorable and compelling.
However, what left me slightly miffed was the story as a whole and the way that the movie handled its characters. I was not a huge fan of the whole Canto Bight sequence—much like most other people. I found it too long and unnecessary—it just wasn't as entertaining as the other parts of the movie. They could have reduced the length of that sequence and had Finn, Rose and DJ spend more time on the actual ship, perhaps sneaking around and destroying some First Order stuff along the way. Finn's character was under-utilised; so much so that I felt kind of disappointed with the way he and Phasma fought. Sure, his character arc that started back in TFA is complete, but it just felt so quick and...well, meaningless. Finn's character is one of the more interesting in the history of the franchise, and while its cool to see him kick Phasma's butt and send her into a giant fireball of death, I couldn't help but feel that there's so much more Rian Johnson could have explored with his character in this movie. And while I'm on that, I just want to say that Rose saving Finn at the end of the movie and the cheesy line she says right after it was not needed. Finn's death would have set a tone for the series, but instead we got something that felt a little too much like Disney, and it made the movie as a whole less enjoyable for me.
In addition to Finn and Rose's story, the sub plot with Holdo and Poe was stretched out for one solitary reason; why didn't Holdo tell Poe about the plan in the first place? Poe would have thought it was a good plan, as shown by his reaction when Leia told him the plan later in the transport pod. I found that kind of lazy from a writing standpoint.
Another decision that was weird was the call to kill Snoke. Sure, it presents us with a fresh concept for a villian in Kylo Ren wanting to "let the past die," but I can't help but wonder whether it will be as fulfilling as Snoke pulling the strings. Besides this, there's still so much we don't know about him. Its obvious he was insanely powerful and connected with the Force, but he didn't really do much in the trilogy before dying. I hope that Episode IX gives us an insight into who he was and how he came to be involved in the struggle against the Rebellion.
One of the more interesting parts of the movie is how it really drives home the message of letting go of the past and letting the new settle in. Several things that do this (besides Kylo Ren saying it outright) is Yoda burning the Jedi texts, Snoke being killed by Kylo, and even things like Anakin's first lightsaber breaking in half and Luke dying—it shows that the new generation will not be bound by the decisions of the old. Such a change is even reflected in how Rey battles the guards in Snoke's throne room (which, by the way, is one of the grittiest and impactful fights in the entire series). If you recall the prequels (apologies!), Anakin tells Palpatine that killing was not the Jedi way moments before he convinces him to slaughter Count Dooku. He hesitates greatly before beheading him, but here? Rey straight up slaughters the guards she fights, even emitting a guttural roar as she charges towards one of them. It shows a shift in thinking and tone—something that speaks for this movie as a whole in relation to how it fits in the rest of the series. Like I said in my spoiler free review, the movie takes risks and is not afraid to step outside of the conformity zone.
Aside from all this, there are a couple of minor gripes that I have that didn't detract or add to my enjoyment of the movie, but still deserve to be mentioned. Leia doing her best John William's Superman impression in space looked a little goofy, but it established that she can use the Force actively and I can't complain too much about it, because having her go out that way wouldn't have done justice to the character of Leia and to Carrie Fisher. Also, to my knowledge, we never got to know how Poe of all people knew Maz Kanata. Luke's character had moments of confusion but by and large his writing was par, at the very least (helped a bunch by Mark Hamill's brilliant performance, I might add) and the set up for Episode IX has caught my interest—maybe not as strongly as the previous episode, but strong enough that I can see myself getting excited for it.
All in all, this is still a great movie. Sure, it has some inconveniences and some minor forgettable moments, but they're not deal breaking in any way. It's a worthy edition to the Star Wars franchise—one that's different, but in time, will learn to be accepted and even loved by fans, new and old alike. I stand firm that this movie deserves an 8/10.