If THE FORCE AWAKENS is a Tribute, THE LAST JEDI is a Farewell | THE LAST JEDI, Film Thoughts

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Full disclosure, this is in no way a comprehensive review or anything, like all my posts it’s just what I want to talk about the way I want to talk about it. You can check out my other STAR WARS post, “Thoughts on ROGUE ONE” here.

STAR WARS THE LAST JEDI came out the other night and as with most STAR WARS movies I headed on over to the midnight screening, having binged the entire series in preparation, armed with some merch (except PHANTOM MENANCE) ready to feel the feels and definitely knowing I was going to cry.

Some context: I’m what can be considered a long-life STAR WARS fan, my mother has it, my brother has it, even my sister… no seriously though, STAR WARS nursed me as a child, brought me up into the world and filled the majority of the childhood playtime (that, rollerblading and Pokémon) with hours and hours of pretend and juvenile choreography (think original NEW HOPE Darth Vader vs Obi Won).

So understandably, I’m biased when it comes to try to think of any Star Wars property objectively, but even than it’s hard to know where to start in talking about THE LAST JEDI. I’m still compromised with emotion, and will need some time and a couple more swings at the film (certainly no chore) in order to consolidate some kind of final opinion, but I can say a few days after (still infected with hype, let’s be real) this is closing quickly on being my second favourite STAR WARS film, based on pure physical enjoyment in watching it alone.

I’ll start by saying that in its two and a half hour run time (the longest STAR WARS film yet) a lot happens in THE LAST JEDI, enough that I get some incredible emotional whiplash, but, not in a negative sense.

THE LAST JEDI is an emotion film, in all hues that that encompasses, laughter, sadness, blue, white, grey. Blood red.

Unlike with some portions of ROUGE ONE, I was never taken out of THE LAST JEDI due to its runtime or a perceived slowness, though it could have easily been two movies, several moments feeling very climatic and final, only then for the swipe to happen and the perspective to change. Like RETURN OF THE KING (LORD OF THE RINGS) there’s a handful of endings, and by the end of the endings you feel entirely drained (albeit a satisfied feeling) and exhilarated; having been through so much.

Needless to say; I cried, and laughed (we’ll get onto this later) a lot throughout the film.

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Story wise, THE LAST JEDI picks up a little after THE FORCE AWAKENS, the Resistance is dwindling, General Leia and her rebellion desperately struggling to stay out of the FIRST ORDER’s way in a Bug Bunny-esque chase. The Starkiller base has been destroyed, Finn is recovering from his injuries, Leia is coping with the loss of Han (as is Chewy) with Poe fighting by her side, Rey is confronting Luke halfway across the galaxy and is caught unawares when it is revealed Luke doesn’t want to return to fight with the Resistance. Luke Skywalker has officially run out of shits to give. It’s great.

I do want to take a moment before I go on, to talk about Leia and specifically Carrie Fisher. Carrie’s death (strangled by her own bra, bathed in moonlight) permeated the experience and the lead up to THE LAST JEDI for many the STAR WARS fan, and enthused the film overall. In her role as Leia, always but especially now, Carrie is freakin’ luminous, she is our Princess, our General, loving and strong, making tough choices and smart decisions. For, at one time, being the only freakin’ woman in the galaxy (almost, hey Slave girls and Mon Mothma) she is one hell of a freakin’ woman to have.

It’s impossible to imagine the STAR WARS universe about her, and within this film Leia plays a central part, and receives a character pay off many fans have been waiting decades for. She was responsible for almost every tear running down my face, both within her loss IRL and within her performance and work as Leia in this film. She is the shining light of rebellion in this film, and still uniquely Carrie, Leia feeling more human and whole the more she and Carrie comingle and combine.

Leia has been the one consistent STAR WARS character fighting from the beginning and never giving up and that legacy is honoured in this film with Leia’s nurturing her strength her fearlessness and her humour.

The visceral and physical reaction I had to one (most, but one specific in particular, you’ll know when you see it) of Leia’s scenes, is the most reactive I’ve ever been to any film in a cinema. Ever. I was overcome, and was indeed, after, crying for the next twenty minutes, it’s an experience that’s gonna stick with me. As a writer, I want to make my readers feel like that (I’m sadistic).

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To my very pleasant surprise, women are in fact the leader, heart and driving force of the Resistance and in fact the film as a whole. I’ve never seen more women occupying such important roles within a sci-fi film, in a franchise as massive as STAR WARS before (TV is the exception). Both sides of the Force are filled with more than just the white man faces one still does expect to see in these things. One woman character I was pretty disappointed in however, the Boba Fett of the new trilogy, is Captain Phasma, entirely underused, cooler than the actions she takes. There was a nice scene with her and Finn battling it out, but it could have been, and with an outfit like that deserved to be so much more.

Again, the Boba Fett, maybe the two should have a spinoff.

THE LAST JEDI is a tour de Force (lol) of ladies, Rey, Admiral Holdo, and newcomer maintenance worker Rose who I have accepted as my daughter now. All of these women shone, gave momentum, purpose and push to the narrative. Rose in particular, Rose especially.

We are undeserving of Rose.

That means something to a lot of fans, who spent a lot of year having to choose between a Slave outfit, another slave outfit, and white robes with spiraled hair buns.

With Rey in particular, the absolute stand out as far as acting and realization of character goes in the film (Kylo coming a close second) I really loved learning of Rey’s parentage, of her being related to absolutely no one of import, a verifiable nobody in terms of STAR WARS lore, who’s nobody parents ran off and left her behind, I loved that it felt right. And not just because it was my, confirmed, theory.

Having Kylo commenting upon this was a really powerful moment, essentially telling Rey that she absolutely has no part in the Skywalker-esque melodrama we’ve seen unfolding since STAR WARS very conception, and yet again this speaks to the underling truth of the film that anyone can be a Jedi, feel a connection to the Force, even maybe especially nobodies have the potential to be heroes, with the spark of Resistance in their hearts.

A message that’s sorely needed this day and age. One many of us younger fans may need now more so than ever.

As for the men in the film, Poe finally earns the title her got in THE FORCE AWAKENS opening crawl as General Leia’s most fearless pilot.  He doesn’t disappear halfway through the film as he did before and his character and the story is all the better for it, revealing the negatives to a Han-Solo like bravado and desire for glory. It’s a more mature take on the Solo archetype, handled appropriately though perhaps a little heavy handedly throughout the film.

The chemistry between Poe and Finn was definitely there but man Rose stole my heart and if she likes Finn I want her to have everything in the world including her man just damn. Is polyamory off the table for these kids? Probably not, I’ll find someone who’s written that later, anyways, Rose Tico and Finn bounce really well off each other, Finn seems to bounce well off of everyone, Rey, Poe, Harrison Ford, really, a testament to just how much of a great guy John Boyega is. Actor too but, he also seems like a great guy to have a beer with.

I was so utterly delighted with the Finn/Rose team up, part prison break, part OOCEAN’S ELEVEN, you go into these movies expecting the black, Asian American and other marginalised characters to get sidelined but Finn and Rose had their own story, arcs, scenes and spotlight. There were at time scenes between them that contained entirely no white people, do you know how big that is for a block buster film, a STAR WARS film?

Finn feeding back, has some really great moments of personal growth and confrontation, he’s probably (out of Rey and Poe) the character that has undergone and shown the most development. He is also the funniest, though out of the film as a whole Luke does ten to give him a run for his money.

What I really loved with Luke’s return was that, we have seen him at his best, but now we get to see him at his worst. And it’s important for us fans to see Luke this way, defeated, reluctant, he was probably my favourite part of the film (along with Carrie and Rose) the poetry to Luke’s story in this film, with the weight of the previous films behind it is breath taking, scenes echo scenes, shot deliberately rhyme.

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The callbacks and pulls from canon (some pretty obscure) heightened the movie for me in a way I can’t confidently say isn’t laced with nostalgia. STAR WARS has sunk into my bones.

Two scenes really got me, as I suspect they got every STAR WARS fan, and really without spoilers it can be summed up as the old cast interacting with one another. Luke with Chewy, Leia, Artoo, even Yoda which was a spoiler I blissfully stayed away from and man, did that reveal pay off. It killed me.

THE LAST JEDI is visually stunning, practical lovingly blended with visual effects, I’m really pleased LucasFilm and Disney have trusted the next trilogy with Rian Johnson going forward. The sets consume and tell their own story, the costuming is operatic and spacey in all the best ways, and the swell of John Williams iconic score is woven throughout in all the right ways.

Up front right now, I loved the porgs, those fuckers were cute as flip and it was awesome to see not only them but actually a lot of creatures within the film, and again, the difference of majority practical effects really stands out.

The problems with THE LAST JEDI as far as I can account for at this stage of my viewing recovery (I did take a day after watching to start writing this, I’m still in the throes) stem for a too busy plot for some of the subplots to carry as much weight and importance and focus as they probably should have, a lack of importance or relevance to some seemingly crucial moments only really visible in the aftermath, and a little disjointedness with some of the humor, some ill times jokes and missed beats. Especially with the every growing body count.

There’s a line and at times the film steps over it. It still is ridiculously funny, just sometimes the humor could have been held off or altered, allowing us to sit in the moment and the gravitas of what was/is happening.

But the film sets out what it needed to do; craft an emotional space opera, a spectacle of huge battle, one-on-one duels, epic lightsaber fights and touching character moments.

Walking out of the cinema, as a STAR WARS fan I felt my expectations were exceeded and fulfilled, yet, I could not escape the feeling of finality, of an ending, which it was, in a way; a sentiment echoed throughout the film.

Kylo Ren says repeatedly throughout the film that the past has to die, believing the only way her can make a path for himself going into the future is to leave everything her ever knew behind, and that is exactly the purpose of THE LAST JEDI. THE FORCE AWAKENS (for many) was a rehashing of the old STAR WARS, it was JJ proving to fans that, yes he could pull off a STAR WARS story by drawing us back into and celebrating the original trilogy, yet it is with this same purposefulness that THE LAST JEDI bids farewell to the old, to the heroes we’ve grown up loving, leaving room for the younguns to take their place.

You can’t please everyone but as someone who used to wear a motorbike helmet pretending I was a storm trooper and who would throw chopped logs and sticks on film then play them back backwards to pretend I was one with the Force, I friggen loved THE LAST JEDI.

It felt like a good ending.

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