Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Release Date: December 15, 2017
Let me start by just saying that I'm a huge Star Wars fan. If you read my review of The Princess Diarist, then you already know this. If you know me in real life, you definitely know this. I've seen every Star Wars released in the theater (thanks to that time they re-released the original trilogy) and I always see the movies with my Dad. It's a tradition that we will hopefully get to keep having for years. I was stoked to see this movie, and also, as usual, a little nervous. What if this was the movie that ruined the series? Although let's be honest, we survived the prequels, so we would probably be fine.
The Last Jedi really didn't disappoint at all. I personally thought the story was great, it traded on tradition and the familiar just enough to make us all feel at home, and then twisted it and introduced exciting new characters and abilities, so that it felt fresh and not just a retread of what we have already seen. Rey and Kylo are the perfect balance of the force and the movie really uses that relationship to show that it isn't as simple as good and bad, dark and light.
I've tried to write a solid review of the things that surprised me and that I loved about The Last Jedi, but, while I'll admit the name A Reader's Ramblings is generally apt, even I could tell I was rambling on too much. Instead I will just highlight all the things in list form.
1. The separation and reunion of the core 3: After seeing the trailers I was a little bummed that it seemed like Rey, Poe and Finn would be spending the bulk of the movie apart. They are great together and I was worried that separating them and adding in new characters would make the film unwieldy, with too many plots to follow. I was totally wrong. Finn and Rose are off on a great secret mission to find a code breaker that leads to some amazing action scenes, Poe Dameron is locking horns with Holdo (who assumed command of the Rebellion) and Rey is off trying to convince Luke to train her, while also dealing with Kylo Ren. The three plot weave together fairly seamlessly and when they all reunite at the end it really highlights that while they are a great team, they aren't codependent and can do amazing things all on their own.
2. New powers: Speaking of amazing things, this movie showcases some new ways to wield the force that we haven't seen thus far. The most prevalent is the ability of Rey and Kylo Ren to communicate telepathically. Both are surprised when it first happens, but quickly fall into the habit of speaking to each other. These conversations serve several purposes, they give us backstory on Luke and the Jedi Academy and what really happened to Ben Solo to make him turn and they also show how desperate both Kylo and Rey are to find someone who understands. Luke attempting to break off the communications only drives them closer together. When Supreme Leader Snoke tries to pull them apart after Rey refused to bend to his will, we get one of the best light saber scenes that I've ever seen, with Rey and Kylo teaming up to defend each other and we see the power that they could yield together. They both are looking for some sort of support and when the fighting is done, we see them trying to "save" the other. Neither is yet willing to change sides, and we find them separating again, only this time there is a relationship there that will likely come into play as we move forward.
We see another new power emerge with Leia. The First Order has been tracking the Rebellion and when Kylo Ren is unable to pull the trigger on his mother, someone else does and we see the leadership of the Rebellion, Leia included scattered into space. As she floats we see a twitch, and then Leia's eyes open. Using the force Leia is able to muster the energy to pull herself back to the ship, where Poe is ready to grab her and take her to the medics. We know Leia is strong with the force, not only because she is a Skywalker, but because we've seen inklings of it before. Luke specifically says "The force is strong in my family. My father had it, I have it, my sister has it..." and we've seen how Leia is able to sense when Ben kills Han in The Force Awakens, but until now we haven't seen Leia wield that power on a large scale. I will say that I spent the whole movie essentially waiting for Leia to die. We knew Fisher would be in the movie, but I didn't have any idea to what extent she would be part of the story. So for me, I was constantly on the edge, wondering if this was it, if this would be the last time we saw Fisher on screen as Leia. Seeing her find the force and rescue herself was an astounding moment in the film and I was happy to see Leia be able to continue her role through the film.
3. That other big reveal: At the end of The Force Awakens it felt like everyone was trying to figure out who Rey's parents were. Fan theories abounded online and each one seemed to hold a decent amount of credibility. Personally I was in the Rey Kenobi camp, based almost entirely on the fact that I didn't want her and Kylo Ren to be related and during the one vision scene in The Force Awakens we hear someone who sounds remarkably like Obi Wan say "Rey". I was wrong. Most of us were wrong. Rey, as is pointed out a few times, is a nobody. Her parents were nobody's. A fact that Kylo attempts to use to being her over to his side. She is simply strong with the force and destined for something greater then where she came from.
4. Kylo's conflict: Which brings us to Kylo. While Supreme Leader Snoke and General Hux are the bad guys, it has always seemed as though we are gearing up for Kylo to assume to mantle of Big Bad in the last movie. What I like about this film is that neither Rey or Kylo are fully set on their path yet, both want more. There is room to maneuver and we see throughout the movie how they try to jocky for power and get the other person to flip sides. Together they could be extraordinarily powerful, and while both make small moves (Kylo killing Snoke for example) neither is ready to make a big move and join the other team. The scene in which Kylo tries to use Rey's parentage to sway her is particularly poignant. I've seen in several places where Kylo is called out for using this knowledge as a low blow, but honestly, I was conflicted on that scene. After the fighting is done, Kylo reaches his hand out to Rey and when she hesitates he says, "Your parents were nobodys. To the world you're a nobody... but not to me." I didn't see this as a low blow, although I see why others do. Instead I saw it as a moment of truth for Kylo. He has made his choice and doesn't believe he could ever go back now, but he's also a kid who believes that even though he came from the legacy of the Jedi, he is still all alone. He was unable to believe that his family would ever take him back and chose instead to lean into the dark side to kill Luke and Han (although Luke survived). In Rey he sees someone special, someone powerful, someone he could work with as an equal, he doesn't care that she's a "nobody" he just wants her on his side. We see over and over again that Kylo is conflicted. The fact that Rey is equally as conflicted makes for a whole new balance to the force and I'm really excited to see how it plays out for Rey and Kylo in the future.
5. Those other things I loved: So many other things are worth noting. Poe Dameron being a next level troll when he calls General Hux was a great way to start of the movie, and hearing Leia calling him out on his impulsive actions by saying "Get your head out of your cockpit" was awesome. Rose Tico is a great addition to the team, watching her fangirl over Finn and then taser him when she realize he isn't the hero she thought he was is basically everyone who has ever found their hero lacking. The fact that over the course of the film that Finn and Rose bring out the best in each other is icing on that cake. Chewie getting overrun by Porgs lends a certain level of humor to a movie that deals with some really serious issues.
6. One Last Thing: The fact that there are so many amazing, powerful women in this movie also has to be mentioned. Rey, Leia and Rose take center stage. Holdo assumes control when Leia can't. Captain Phasma still reigns over the Stormtroopers and tries to exact her will over Finn. Lt. Connix (played by Billie Lourd, Fisher's daughter) works tirelessly to help save the Rebellion. We see women step up and save the world even if their characters are only with us a short time.
Carrie Fisher as Leia was the first woman I remember seeing in a starring role of an action film. I wanted to be her. I wanted to have adventures with my friends, kick ass and look awesome doing it. That Fisher turned out to be a smart, funny, take no prisoners kind of human in real life made her even more impressive to me.
I'm sure that as the days go by, and I see this movie again (which I absolutely will) I'll have more to add here. But in short, this was a great movie. I can't wait to see what happens next!