This is not going to go the way you think!
Writer-director Rian Johnson grabs the STAR WARS universe by the midi-chlorians and shakes until you scream Uncle Owen!
If ROGUE ONE was a love letter to the Original Trilogy, then THE LAST JEDI is the Dear John letter to J.J. Abrams.
Johnson takes such liberties with the concepts and themes of the STAR WARS universe that it looks like he is actively tearing down everything that J.J. Abrams lovingly rebooted for ubergeeks to fap to in THE FORCE AWAKENS. And that’s why I love him so!
STAR WARS: EPISODE VIII – THE LAST JEDI is an epic space opera in every sense of the word, as two factions war amongst the stars for galactic supremacy; battle cruisers versus fighter craft; masters, mentors and pupils; planets of water and stone and ice, mercenaries and gamblers, traitors and infiltrators, lasers and lightsabers, and some horse-cow-camel things that stampede only to make Social Justice Warriors moist…
The First Order, rebuilt on the ashes of the evil Galactic Empire, pursue the last ships of the Resistance, to wipe out hope from the galaxy. Hmm, I thought there’d be a more cogent reason, like monies owed, or even a long-standing vendetta. Nope. Hope. Oookay… And the Resistance, reforged from the confused Rebel Alliance, strike back at the First Order. Presumably because they don’t like paying back taxes. Or something.
The Nazi redux First Order are led by easily-japed General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), and his muscle, Force dark-sider Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), while the Resistance fighters are led by General Leia (Carrie Fisher, who would sadly die before this movie’s release), Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern, champion clavicles), Admiral Ackbar [insert “trap” joke here], and their x-wing pilot, impetuous Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and stormtrooper-turned-go-fer, Finn (John Boyega). Rolling droid BB-8 takes the place of R2-D2 (Jimmy Vee, instead of Kenny Baker) for comic relief.
In another part of the starstream, Rey (square-jawed Daisy Ridley) faces Luke Skywalker (rheumy-eyed Mark Hamill) on a desolate clifftop on the planet Ahch-To [bless you!]. This movie’s precursor, THE FORCE AWAKENS, ended – as Mark Hamill likes to chortle – as a literal cliffhanger, as Rey expectantly held out Luke’s own lightsaber to him, that she had reverently transported across a galaxy to deliver unto his Jedi hands… THE LAST JEDI opens with this shot, and here is the first instance of Rian Johnson callously treating a sacred totem revered by fans as merely the tool that it is: Luke, the titular Last Jedi, lost and now found, slowly, wordlessly, receives the cherished lightsaber —
— then casually tosses it over his shoulder, off the cliff.
As ubergeeks dive off their theater seats in sympathetic frenzy to catch the falling weapon, I laffed so much my wraparound Wookiee headmask fell off!
Luke even sneers at Rey, “You think I’m gonna face down the whole First Order with a laser sword?” So much for all the speculation on how Luke would welcome the return of his nostalgic flashlight and join the Resistance as a general and– Enough, I say! As does Rian Johnson apparently. Enough of clinging to the Skywalkers as the only Force-sensitives in the universe that matter; enough of every Star Wars character interconnected by blood and politics; enough of the bandwidth-wasting speculation on the identity of a scarred hologram puppet…
I enjoyed THE LAST JEDI thoroughly – not because it cleaved to dusky legends, but because it burned down and built back up a whole new universe of possibilities.
The First Order badboys can now pursue the Resistance SJWs through hyperspace, so Finn and a totally bland character named Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) infiltrate a First Order base to disable the tracking device (hmm, for all its newness, this plot device smells a little Endor-y).
Meanwhile, we are re-introduced to Supreme Leader Snoke; whereas in FORCE AWAKENS, he was an ominous twenty-foot hologram, here he sits on this throne in real life wrinkles, in a gold lamé ballgown that just screams Winter Fashion, puppeting his duck-masked liege Kylo (ironic, considering Snoke is a CGI puppet, voiced by legendary mo-cap thespian Andy Serkis) into luring Rey to her destruction. I warn movie makers, on behalf of all movie fans: fully-CGI villains are just not compelling, eerie or ominous (JUSTICE LEAGUE’s Steppenwolf springs to mind). Stop doing that.
Snoke taunts the petulant Kylo so viciously (“You’re no Vader. You’re just a child in a mask!”) that Kylo destroys his mask! Again, Rian eliminates the iconic element connecting this new series with the old Vader, raising the salient point: “Why does Kylo wear a mask?” Vader wore one to breathe. If Kylo’s was not a practical part of his armor, then the guy is just a serious cos-player.
To prove he has a big dingus, Kylo – whom you will remember, killed his own father, Han Solo – now targets his mother, Leia. It’s a powerful, poignant moment as we see closeups of both these Force-sensitives as they realize the magnitude of what is about to happen, as Kylo fires his blasters and annihilates Leia’s ship! Since we know Carrie Fisher died, we wonder whether this is the fateful moment when her character is written out of the—no, wait! Leia, blown into space, uses the Force for the first time in her life and floats like Mary Poppins back into her ship – which drives the fanboys nutty for some reason. Hmm, that Mary Poppins gag worked so well in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2.
On Ahch-To [bless you!] while Luke is busy milking cliff-cows with excellent rounded natural titties, and while Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo, whose real name sounds like a Star Wars character) plays with the new STAR WARS merch line called Porgs, Rey keeps seeing visions of Kylo as if he’s in the same room with her. She wants to redeem Kylo (maiden name: Ben Solo), so tries to force herself on Luke (#MeToo!) to train her in the Way of the Jedi, while keeping herself busy twirling her lightsaber sensually for us boys in the darkness not wearing pants.
Luke eventually sits down to mentally prod Rey (#MeToo!), and Rian Johnson expands on our understanding of the Force (it doesn’t just belong to the Jedi, but is there for anyone Force-sensitive to grasp. Oh, and it’s not about lifting rocks). Luke soon realizes Rey’s extraordinary inborn powers might lead to the Dark Side, which sets off numerous flashbacks in Luke, to a time when Kylo was his padawan; Luke sneaking into sleeping Kylo’s room with his weapon erect (#MeToo!) considering killing the powerful Kylo before he succumbs to evil – which of course, prompted Kylo to turn to evil, because if you can’t trust your own Master not to kill you while you sleep, well…
Rey continues mind-skyping with Kylo, “You’re no monster.” Kylo: “Yes I am.” We wish these two would just fuck and get it over with. I guess Rey had the same idea, because she abandons Luke on Ahch-To [bless you!] and she and Chewbacca Millennium Falcon it to face Kylo in Snoke’s 50 SHADES OF RED sex palace.
More recanting of lore: Luke believes the Jedi should end. Seems if you get too much Force, you end up breaking bad. Luke even laments, “By the time I realized [Kylo had turned], I was no match for the darkness rising in him!” – all of which doesn’t say much for the power of the light side, does it? No wonder we always hear, “You underestimate the power of the dark side!” There’s really no such phrase as “the power of the light side” is there?… Luke – imbued with the light side, we presume – can’t even properly burn down the Jedi Tree containing the Jedi Texts, and the spirit of Yoda (voiced by Frank Oz) has to appear in a funny cameo to call down the lightning. Again, an action we could never see coming, and a metaphor for what Rian is doing to fanboy expectations. (Also, I can’t figure why it was such a massive fire, as the entire Jedi knowledge base consists of about 14 books.) And – it’s not CGI Yoda from Eps. II and III – it’s Puppet Yoda Classic from Ep. V! (Thank you, Rian!) Puppet Yoda Classic giggles as he treats the aged Luke like the kid he once knew, “Young Skywalker – missed you I have!” and actually educates Luke, the veteran Master, here in the autumn of life.
Back on Leia’s ship, Admiral Holdo is appointed Chief Jurassic Clavicle and leads the last Resistance ships fleeing to a nearby planet named Crait (otherwise known as Helm’s Deep), as they are running out of fuel. There is constant chatter in this SW Episode about fuel, whereas the only other times fuel is ever obliquely alluded to in the SW Universe is when Anakin is fueling his time-wasting pod-racer in Ep. 1, and when Obiwan remarks in Ep. IV, “a fighter that size couldn’t get this deep into space on its own.” Here, fuel is a major plot point, as ships gasp their last fumes and start drifting aimlessly.
Which once again illustrates the utter lack of spacefaring knowledge in STAR WARS filmmakers. So the same man I have been praising, now has to be educated: Rian, when a craft traveling in the vacuum of space runs out of fuel, it will continue on its trajectory unless some other force acts on it to change its course. Its motion will remain constant, even without propellant. The fighters are constantly changing course, so would always need fuel for course corrections, but the freighters! – ignorance careens off the screen every time one of them clanks to a halt and starts floating backwards! (And by the way, a fighter executing a hard turn in a vacuum does not make skidding noises in space!) I think it was this ignorance that led pilot Poe to mutiny…
Finn and Rose travel to a casino city called Canto Bight, where they pick up DJ (Benicio Del Toro), who claims he can disable the First Order’s hyperspace tracker. DJ is another new concept in the SW universe – a mercenary who sells weapons to both sides, i.e. morally bankrupt. He then does a Lando and sells out Finn to the First Order. (Unlike Lando – he is not redeemed!) This gives Finn the chance to battle the overrated Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie), who is defeated quickly, to the wails of fanboys. Apparently, they thought Phasma would be more badass, less Boba Fett. (Rian Johnson strikes again!) [Subplot: Finn and Rose in a total non-chemistry romance. Not buying that Finn and Rey, who struggled through life and death together, are not bonking like horse-cow-camels.]
Kylo brings Rey before Snoke, who reveals it has been his skype account all along connecting their minds. And after the internet’s year-long speculation on Snoke (from his ancestry to his scars to his dress designer), the wrinkled Bing Crosby lookalike ends up related to no one, with no backstory, and goes out – as Samuel L. Jackson might say – like a bitch. (Fanboys yell like Kirk: “Riaaaaaan!”) Thus follows one of the movie’s high points, as Rey and Kylo battle the Snoke Redguards back to back sensually. Now kiss her, you fool!
Turns out Kylo has not turned to the light side – he’s just a nihilist (I knew I liked this guy for a reason) who believes, “It’s time to let all things die – the Jedi, the Resistance, the First Order…” I agree. And Rian agrees. As he burns down another SW trope, when Kylo bluntly tells Rey of her parents: “They were nobodies.” (Explicitly telling us that the universe is not simply made up of Skywalkers and Obiwans, and everyone doesn’t have to be interconnected with a shocking revelation.) I think Kylo is the hero of this new Trilogy, but he is written like the fool. He reveals he wants to rule the galaxy with Rey at his side – man, that’s HOT! – but I doubt that his hippie nihilism would gel with any sort of bureaucratic desire to “rule” anything.
THE LAST JEDI is a dumb story told with great movie-making. But then, so was A NEW HOPE. And every STAR WARS story after it (Prequels excluded – they were bad stories and bad moviemaking). John Williams’ cosmo orchestration alone will prop up many deficient scenes (when that fanfare hits the opening titles, we are home…); the great performances and sincerity of the production will plaster over any dicey CGI, the excellent callbacks and foreshadowing will outlive the iffy plot points, and the breakneck pace will keep you sufficiently breathless not to question whether Rian Johnson has any love for the STAR WARS universe at all…
And when the sibling Skywalkers meet face-to-face – the legacy players, the OGs – thence will flow a river of tears, for all the memories of our youth slamming against our older shells. This is the moment when this installment cements itself into canon, when Luke meets Leia in a tender moment of confession and acceptance. Luke: “I came to fix him because I can’t save him.” (Whoa! That doesn’t sound good.) Leia: “I know my son’s gone.” Basically, giving Luke permission to kill Kylo. Heartfelt. Heavy. (Is it a coincidence that Williams’ score emulates Nino Rota’s GODFATHER THEME here, in this moment of imminent assassination?) This is it, we know, because Carrie Fisher is gone; this is all she can ever give us, because there can be no more shared moments between Luke and Leia. So we relish, we cherish; we curse the wretched arrow of time that moves ever forward, driving us away from innocence and wonder and immortality…
As Luke strides out to meet the First Order Gorilla-Horsey Walkers, the Resistance watch this legend in awe. C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) greets the grim Jedi warrior with a curt, “Master Luke,” as he passes. (Note the double meaning now, in the word “Master.”) Like a gunslinger of old, Luke ultimately faces down “the whole First Order with a laser sword”… These are the beautifully-written callbacks. Where once Luke told Rey, “Every word in that sentence was wrong,” he now tells Kylo, who boasts he is going to kill the Last Jedi, “Every word of what you just said is wrong.” Luke’s tactics also allow Rey to arc to the understanding, in an awe-inspiring scene, that sometimes the Force IS about simply… “sigh, lifting rocks…”
Every fan has imagined the final showdown of old Skywalker versus new Vader (and truly, there is room for some Luke badassery, as evidenced by all the alternative fan storylines of this scene), but as Luke tells Kylo, “This is not going to go the way you think!” Because Luke has not appeared here to grandstand, but to buy time, “The Rebellion is reborn today. The war is just beginning. And I will not be the last Jedi…” Luke is the hero we want, but not the hero we need, and Kylo is the hero we need, but not the hero we want.
The double sunset, the orchestral score; 40 years ago, a young boy on Tatooine saw those suns and yearned for adventure, much like our younger selves, having seen and done and earned nothing; now Luke, Master Jedi, casts his gaze on the same double sunset, as the savior of the galaxy. And if this shot does not burst your dam, then surely the last title card will:
“In Loving Memory of our Princess: Carrie Fisher.”