When the first trailers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi debuted, they warned us; “This isn’t going to go the way you think.” Well, that was more than just a clever marketing ploy, it was a warning that whatever your expectations for The Last Jedi may be, it’s likely it really will not go quite the way you think it will. The Last Jedi was the first time I found a Star Wars movie to be truly unpredictable in parts and actually very surprising. Even the big twist in The Force Awakens was foreshadowed somewhat, but here, events take place that I just genuinely didn’t see coming. That alone makes The Last Jedi stand out from the other Star Wars for me, but unfortunately, while the film has some truly great highs, it also has some equally abysmal lows.
The biggest problem here is this story is dragged out just a bit too long. There’s a lot of excess, and frankly pointless, material that could have easily been cut without losing any story coherence. It just takes too long to get to some of the really good stuff. However, as I said, once you get to the good stuff, it’s really good. There’s also some truly cringe-worthy dialogue here, on the order of one character saying something and then another repeating that same statement in a different way, just in case the audience didn’t understand what was being said, I guess. So, there’s some pretty bad dialogue, too much excess, too many characters, and a few too many pointless scenes; all of which keeps this movie from being truly great, but doesn’t keep it from being really good.
When the movie focuses on the core story and characters, for the most part this is a really good Star Wars flick. It fills in some answers to questions raised in The Force Awakens in surprising ways, and some characters develop along paths that I genuinely didn’t see coming. There’s a lot of heart here, especially as Luke struggles to come to terms with both his past and his future as its thrust upon him by Rey. This is a really different Luke Skywalker than we’re used to, more unpredictable, more cynical, more wounded and uncertain; all of which makes him one of the fascinating characters in the film, and had me wishing we spent more time with him rather than some of the new additions who didn’t really add anything.
Of course, character isn’t the only reason people go to a Star Wars movie; we want space battles and lightsaber duels. The Last Jedi has those, but again, they may not go the way you think they will go. Still, there are some truly awesome moments in this film that had fans cheering because of their sheer Star Wars-ness. Like The Force Awakens, this movie definitely follows along similar lines as moments from Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi; so there’s some familiarity in certain parts here that can almost feel like another retread, but then things go in a direction you didn’t think they would go, and that sense of familiarity vanishes. Never thought I’d say a Star Wars film could be unpredictable, but that’s exactly what The Last Jedi is.
It’s can also be movingly profound at points. One of my favorite moments is a discussion about how failure is one of the greatest teachers anyone can ever have. It’s not the failure itself, but what we learn and how we move forward from that failure that determines whether or not we will truly become wise masters. We live in such a failure adverse society that such advice really feels almost counter-culture and subversive. Yet I can’t help but think about how it was one of the greatest “failures” of all time that produced the greatest victory. For all intents and purposes, Jesus dying on a cross seemed like a monumental failure. This savior, this teacher, this rebel who was going to over throw a (Roman) empire hung on a cross; beaten, broken, bloody, and utterly defeated. His movement a catastrophic failure, his followers scattered, his message silenced. And yet, in the greatest reversal in all of history, that failure was anything but failure; in fact it was the greatest victory in history. That death on the cross was not the end, but the beginning. That death paved the way for freedom, paid the price that couldn’t be paid, and sent shock waves through the darkest empire the world has ever known; one of a spiritual nature and not a physical one. Then, that death turned into the greatest victory in history as three days later, Jesus Christ rose from the dead. What once was seen as failure was now profound, eternal victory, a victory offered through grace to everyone who had ever tasted failure and now wanted to enjoy victory as well. Yes, sometimes even failure won’t go quite the way you think it will, and we are always better off for that.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a really good Star Wars movie, but it’s also a rather flawed one. It has some really great and truly special moments, ones that will linger in you mind and have you thinking about them long after the film is over. Unfortunately, it also has some groan-inducing and “why did they even bother to include that” moments that makes the film feel longer than necessary. For fans there are so many great moments that they’ll embrace this film despite its flaws. For others, the will still find plenty to enjoy, but they may also wonder why it had to be so long and why some of the stuff in here even had to be shown. For me, it’s too early to rank this one amongst the other Star Wars film, so let’s just say I thought it was a really good Star Wars movie, but I was frustrated because I could see how it could have been a truly great Star Wars movie, and one unlike any of the others before it.
Score: 5 of 7 – Star Wars is still Star Wars; a great, soaring adventure for the whole family. There are lots of explosions and fights. There are a few darker moments that might be just slightly intense for younger kids, but on the whole, it’s exactly what one would expect from a Star Wars film content wise. Story wise, not so much.