Warning: Spoilers below!
Much Ado About Nothing
I had already given Disney my money to see The Last Jedi months before it opened in theaters nationwide last night to a 94% critic review score on Rotten Tomatoes. I’m a product of the early ’80s, and Star Wars movies are my birthright by law. Yeah, that’s right. I need Star Wars movies the way Cersei Lanniester needs the Iron Throne.
After months of trailers, TV spots, and cryptic cast interviews we would seemingly get some actual lines of dialogue from Jedi Master Luke Skywalker, clarification on who Rey’s parents are, and finally learn more about the Palpatine of this new trilogy, Supreme Leader Snoke. Skeptics believed that we were in for a rehash of The Empire Strikes Back after The Force Awakens closely mirrored the story beats of Star Wars: A New Hope. The marketing team for The Last Jedi worked to quell these concerns repeatedly using the tag line, “This is not going to go the way that you think” in ads to speak to those who felt like we were not going to get a new and original experience. And while Rian Johnson should certainly be credited for crafting an original tale, The Last Jedi is also different from Empire Strikes Back in another way. The Last Jedi isn’t really a particularly good movie, especially when assessed in terms of its placement as the middle piece of a three-film trilogy.
The problem is that where The Empire Strikes Back built upon what we learned in A New Hope and expounded upon it, The Last Jedi throws the questions created in The Force Awakens out of the window entirely as if they were stupid to begin with. The objective of the Empire Strikes Back was simple: it answered some of the major questions created by A New Hope (i.e., “Why did Vader kill Luke’s father?”) and then created new major questions that could be explored in the culminating chapter Return Of The Jedi (i.e., “Damn, Vader is Luke’s padre. How’s that going to play out?”).
The Last Jedi does none of that. Rian Johnson gives absolutely zero fucks about any one of the various unresolved plot points of The Force Awakens and the result is a movie that is entertaining to watch but provides a story that is ultimately unfulfilling. Sadly, behold the eight reasons that I think The Last Jedi is kind of an over-hyped mess for fans of the franchise who care about plot.
1. So….Rey’s parentage meant…..nothing
“Who’s the girl?” Maz Kanata asked. “What girl?” Kylo Ren asked.
The mystery of Rey’s parentage has been the single biggest mystery of this new Star Wars trilogy, and The Last Jedi finally answers the mystery of who Rey’s parents are. The answer is nobody special, apparently. Just two drunkards who left their daughter in a life of servitude.
She’s not a Solo. She’s not a Skywalker. She’s not a Kenobi. She’s not a Palpatine. She’s not a Luke clone. She’s just a regular person with Force abilities.
Hmmm. Alright, I’d buy that, I suppose — but in The Force Awakens, Rey is so incredibly powerful that she is actually able to defeat a Luke Skywalker-trained Kylo Ren in a light saber battle fairly easily. She was also trotting around Jedi mind-tricking Storm Troopers into doing whatever she wanted without any formal training in the ways of the Force.
The question is, why even create a mystery surrounding Rey’s parentage if the answer is super-inconsequential to the overall narrative? JJ Abrams created this entire mystery around Rey’s background that has a very unsatisfying resolution. It’s almost as if he is the same guy who created Lost or something…wait a second…
2. So Supreme Leader Snoke meant….nothing.
So Supreme Leader Snoke — the big bad super-villain portrayed by motion capture legend Andy Serkis (for seemingly no reason because he just sits in a chair the entire movie) — gets cut in half by Kylo Ren as he gives Rey the typical “this is my evil plan” speech. We don’t know who Snoke was, why he was so obsessed with Luke Skywalker, why he was so disfigured, why he was so powerful, where he came from, how he became supreme leader of The First Order, how he actually lured Kylo to the dark side, how old he was, why he likes gold bath robes,….. You get the point.
Snoke was powerful enough to do a lot of things. Unfortunately, he was not powerful enough to sense the light saber Kylo Ren was Force-aiming towards him that was mere inches away. Hmm…alrighty then. Considering that he is only chunks of bantha fodder now, Snoke seemingly had no real purpose for anything.
Another JJ Abrams care package of unresolved nothingness. Rian Johnson takes a fair share of the blame for this train wreck as well.
3. So, that Dark Side hole on Ahch-To that called out to Rey meant…nothing
Luke yells at Rey to resist the temptation of the Dark Side hole on Ahch-To that was calling out to her as he started to train her in the ways of the Force. Eventually Rey gets yanked into that hole anyway, only to find herself in some kinda weird psychedelic kaleidoscopey Neil deGrasse Tyson acid trip. She saw a whole bunch of other Reys down there, and at this point the movie goes full McConaughey Interstellar mode as the multiple Reys display a time displacement in their actions without the movie giving any semblance of an explanation for what is happening, or what any of it meant.
Rian Johnson takes the full brunt for the gaping nothingness of this moment. It’s just a spooky scene that looks visually appealing and adds absolutely nothing to the ongoing narrative.
4. Don’t expect to get any additional information on why Captain Phasma matters.
5. What happened to Benecio Del Toro’s DJ character? Since he was not the master codebreaker they were looking for how was he skilled enough to bypass The First Order’s defense systems?
6. Why did Luke’s light saber call out to Rey since she isn’t a Skywalker?
7. Kylo’s decision to spare his mother’s life, which should have been a pivotal moment is never addressed.
8. Who created the map to Luke Skywalker in The Force Awakens, since Luke obviously has no desire to be found in The Last Jedi?
The Last Jedi is an above-average run-of-the-mill blockbuster movie for casual moviegoers who just want to see some stuff blow up while characters fight with glowy sticks. For the hardcore fans, this movie is really a freshly concocted steaming bowl of plot hole stew.
As a result, I am no longer excited for whatever comes next from Rian Johnson’s recently announced new Star Wars trilogy. I am also no longer excited for what’s to come in the sequel to The Last Jedi because this film leaves nothing to look forward to in the future.
The Last Jedi also has other issues besides plot holes. There are pacing problems. The movie is cut in an odd fashion where characters show up in different places than you saw them in their previous scene without any explanation as to how they got there. With all of these problems, I can’t help but wonder what George Lucas originally intended for the stories of the three movies to come after Return of the Jedi before Disney scrapped his plans in favor or charting off on their own course. If The Last Jedi is any indication, they might have been better sticking to what Lucas intended.
At the time of this writing, the audience review score for The Last Jedi over at Rotten Tomatoes is at 55% and dropping. The Force Awakens has an audience score of 89%. Maybe it is time for the Jedi to end after all.