WARNING: FULL SPOILERS
I have a confession: I liked Episode II: Attack of the Clones when I first saw it in theaters as a teenager, especially the light saber fight at the end with Yoda. In fact, I remember telling my father at the time that I thought it was more entertaining than The Empire Strikes Back. When I saw it again, however, the appeal faded a little bit and it’s gotten worse every time I’ve seen it; at this point I enjoy Redlettermedia’s review more than the movie itself. Why is this relevant? Because I worried that something similar would happen when I saw The Last Jedi again.
Not since the prequels have I heard so many people tell me that they hated a Star Wars movie. A lot of the complaints revolve around Snoke and Captain Phasma being unceremoniously killed after being built up in Force Awakens, the casino story line at Canto Bight, and the new Force powers that the characters use.
The only of these which I agree with is the lack of development for Snoke and Phasma, though I can partially forgive this by looking at them as plot devices for Kylo Ren and Finn respectively. I actually liked the Canto Bight storyline, its implications as to why this galaxy is in a constant state of war, and how the visions that Rey and Ren had of each other tied into it thematically (ie exacerbated by an outside element). As for the new Force powers we see, I struggle to think of a Star Wars movie that didn’t showcase some new power or element of the Force. Even Force Awakens did this by introducing Ren’s ability to read someone’s mind.
A lot has been made of Mark Hamill’s statement that he disagreed with director Rian Johnson about the portrayal of Luke Skywalker in this movie. I can understand why, this is a very different Luke than we saw in the original trilogy, jaded and disillusioned with the legacy of the Jedi and himself. I think most people were expecting for him to not have changed this much and to be more of an optimistic, enthusiastic teacher. If Luke didn’t have anywhere to go, his story here would have been more as a supporting element to Rey instead of an engaging, changing part of the story. Mark Hamill was given new material to work with and he did it beautifully, leading to an ending for his character that was fitting while redeeming his past mistakes.
For me personally, two things bothered me when I first The Last Jedi: how Finn and Rose had sneaked off of a ship while it was being chased with enough time to have adventures on another planet, and how those same two characters were fooled by the con man who betrayed them. Seeing it the second time I saw these elements explained: they had a bridge officer covering their sneaking off the ship, their trip to Canto Bight took much less time than I initially thought, and the con man actually wasn’t planning to betray them and just luckily had a way to barter his own release.
Side note: an Easter egg that I noticed the second time is that the illustration on the inside of one of the Jedi texts is an image seen on the original poster for A New Hope. I noticed a few others but I’m going to keep looking the next time I re-watch this feature.
I didn’t find Rose nearly as annoying as I did the first time I saw this movie. She’s still my least favorite character, but her performance seemed more genuine than I remember and, aside from her stopping Finn from sacrificing himself at the end and her extremely awkward attempt to make their relationship romantic, she was fine otherwise. The writers should have made it so that Finn would not have survived long enough to save his friends so that her actions were more justified. I just think Rose could have been better written for her ending scenes.
All of the parts of The Last Jedi that I liked the first time I saw it I actually found myself liking more, particularly Rey’s training under Luke and Yoda’s reappearance. I need to ask though, given that he can summon lightning while being an unkillable ghost, couldn’t Yoda just end the
Empire First Order by himself? Or are Force Ghosts dependent on a living Jedi to materialize? Now that I think about it, only Jedi have ever seen Force Ghosts…
On top of that, there are a few other things that make The Last Jedi stand out from the rest of the other Star Wars movies. It’s the only one to be set immediately following the previous movie, with all of the others having a gap of at least a year between episodes. It’s the only one that has a chase scene as one of the main storylines, somewhat echoing Mad Max: Fury Road (though Mad Max did it better). Finally, it’s the only one which shows absolutely no regard for audience expectations. I think this last point is the one that has most fans upset, as they didn’t get what they wanted, particularly with Rey stating that her parents were nobodies instead of members of the Skywalker family. Is that the case or manipulation by Ren? Either possibility will be interesting to explore in the next movie, but I’m sure there’s more to that story.
Altogether, I enjoyed The Last Jedi significantly more when I saw it the second time. The parts that bothered me didn’t nearly as much this time and I found that I appreciated a lot of the things I liked more. This truly is a film that has to been seen more than once to process, so keep that in mind if you dislike it at first. Because it takes so many risks, people are going to debate whether this is a worthy addition to the Star Wars saga for a while, but I think that like Empire it will get better with age.
Final Rating: 4.5 ★★★★1/2