This took a while, I know. Star Wars is one of the most important franchises to me when it comes to movies. They are probably the movies I re-watched most throughout my life and despite the ups and downs I love the universe. I needed to take some time before reviewing Star Wars: Last Jedi to ensure that my bias towards Star Wars as a whole did not affect my analysis to the point of unreality. With that being said, what I state here is as honest as I can be about the film.
The Last Jedi is a high stakes sequel to The Force Awakens that keeps fans on the precipitous edge of the "all is lost" concept, with a central theme of failure. Kicking off at the tail end if it's predecessor, The Last Jedi opens with the Resistance on the run from the First Order and maintains that status until the very last scene. They suffer major losses and are perpetually just inches out of reach of total oblivion, but still manage to deal major blows to the overwhelmingly powerful enemy, even with all odds against them.
The first scenes of the film immediately get our blood rushing as military tactics are employed by both armies. Nuance is introduced in a staggering, tense moment with Paige Tico on her bomber ship and in a blink of an eye several high-profile leaders of the Resistance are killed. Among these is Admiral Ackbar who is unceremoniously disposed of and never made mention of again. This is the movie's first blunder, given the history behind the character. Instead of utilizing him and giving him an honorable death, he is instead replaced by Amilyn Holdo who has never been seen before save for her teenage appearance in the Leia, Princess of Organa novel. This action alone creates a disconnect for the avid Star Wars fan base.
Still the movie drives on and introduces us to Luke Skywalker on screen for the first time in over 34 years, as Rey attempts wear down at him for his help both with The Resistance and her own training. The dynamic between the two is that of an ambitious student and a reluctant teacher that calls back to The Empire Strikes Back, when Luke himself was in the student position. The conflict does well for the exploration of both of their characters and further understanding of the ways of the elusive but all-binding force.
The relationship between Kylo Ren and Rey also unfolds through a mysterious bond between the two that is later found to be deceitfully implemented by the Supreme Leader Snoke. This creates a means for the characters to develop an interesting relationship without the threat of physical confrontation. A mutual means with which to talk and an execellent source of character development. Though they are both struggling to find their way throughout the movie, both Rey and Kylo find their place in everything by the end.
Luke also gets his due respect. Having a troublesome struggle between Episodes VI and VII, the Last Jedi Master has never come to terms with his failures with Kylo Ren. As such, he has secluded himself on the lone island and cut himself off from the force. Throughout the movie and his discussions with Rey and his old Jedi teacher he learns to face his failures and as a result faces down Kylo Ren in a gambit befitting of a true Jedi Master. These scenes are beautiful and overwhelmingly emotional as they encapsulate just who Luke Skywalker has become. The setting of the twin suns, mirroring the twins suns that rose in Episode III when he was an infant, speaks volumes to his legacy.
Where their stories and character arcs shine, some of the others fall flat. While Poe Dameron gets some moments that make us love him more, other than the opening he doesn't have anything that allows him to truly shine. This is even more so for Finn and the new Rose Tico. Both of these are lovely characters but the plot calls for them to be sent off on a mission to Canto Bight, a casino city on the desert planet Cantonica, that drops the film into its most stagnant point. Character development opportunities are missed and the whole situation feels out of place from the rest of the film and is frankly forced in. The aliens and the fathiers are beautiful to see, as is the setting itself, but other than pointing out the blemishes in the Resistance this serves largely no purpose. Rose and Finn are both undersold as far as character arcs go.
The action is a high point in this film. From the Starfighter skirmishes to the battle with Rey and Kylo and the Praetorian Guard, I was visually stunned. Unfortunately, some of the scenes felt less than adequate, such as the battle between Finn and Captain Phasma. While we know that she is of some import in the background, without reading any books of hers, it's hard to really appreciate that because the movie does not showcase her skill at the level that it should have. While she is defeated on something of a fluke, the fight hardly lasted 20 seconds or so.
The last major flaw is leaving some questions unanswered. While the idea of Rey being essentially "a nobody" from a backwater planet may be staggering, it isn't an issue, as her past isn't actually important to the plot. Things that are important are Luke's questions concerning his lightsaber. He never addresses this. Furthermore, who Snoke is. While we shouldn't expect some known figure from the past, we should have an idea of who he is and how he is so powerful. His abilities are unnaturally expansive. When he dies it leaves us wanting for more.
Overall, the film’s high points were high, but there are a few unforgivable moments that could have made the movie a masterpiece if they had been properly attended to. With that being said, even with the pits and failures, the movie accomplishes the main things that it sets out to do. It creates conflict that isn't so easily solved and forces our protagonists to adjust to the twists and turns offered by the plot. It moves forward the personal stories for Kylo Ren and Rey, and seals Luke's story with a powerful poetic justice. Finally, it sets the stage for the final film, in which it seems the odds are stacked against our heroes and everything is on Rey's shoulders. This was an enjoyable movie, and highly entertaining. Despite the gaping plot holes it still tends to come together with at least a strong B in grade. While we scrutinize with a sharp lens right now, I’m sure the film will age well with time. I will most certainly be seeing it in theaters again.