Warning (Heavy SPOILERS) discussed below, if you have not yet watched Star Wars: The Last Jedi, come back when you have!!!
It’s been less than 24 hours since I saw The Last Jedi, and since then I have been trying to resolve the conflict within me on what I truly thought of this movie.
I have spent some time discussing full spoilers for this movie with some fans online including one or two of my own friends.
One thing has become very clear to me: the film is hugely divisive.
I have seen people declare it the best Star Wars film of all time, and I’ve seen people declare it the worst one. How can there be such a swing between fans?
I personally still haven’t fully resolved how I feel about this movie and I don’t think I will until I have seen it two or three times. But let’s explore the big debates that are reverberating around the fandom. I am going to try and stay as neutral as I can throughout this article, I want to know what you guys think of the different views here.
It seems that one of the key things sparking debate is the way Luke is portrayed in this movie. In it, Luke has essentially shut himself off from the Force and has no intention initially of coming back. As the character’s emotional arc is explored, we discover why he feels so guilty about the fate of Ben Solo. From Ben’s point of view, Luke betrayed him and was going to kill him. This is the push that ultimately turns Ben Solo into Kylo Ren. From Luke’s perspective events played out a little differently, but for a moment, he really did consider ending Ben Solo, his own flesh and blood, to prevent the darkness in him spreading.
For many fans, this has ruined Luke. They cannot get around Luke taking such drastic action as it’s not in keeping with the Jedi code or the character established for him in the previous movies. This was the guy who despite everything risked it all to bring his father back from the Dark Side. Luke saw good in someone whose actions were evil, yet here in this movie, he sees only darkness in someone whose actions were we assume at that point fairly measured.
The other side of this argument is that Luke, despite being briefly tempted to strike down his nephew, instead remains calm and the moment passes. Luke never actually went to that dark place, despite the briefest of temptations, and the choice to turn to the dark was still that of Ben himself. He just used his uncle as an excuse. Luke’s guilt over this then explains his absence and his reluctance to connect with the Force. This then drives his character arc in this movie so that finally when he does reconnect with the Force, his guilt can be resolved, and it allows him to make a heroic sacrifice for the future of the Rebellion (Not a typo, they clearly are now called the Rebellion) and Rey herself.
Of course there will also be fans unhappy that Luke has perished, the other side of that argument is that Yoda has clearly shown that being dead does not mean you cannot have an influence on the living world. The Yoda scene was far and away my favourite scene in the movie. Perhaps we need to remember that this story is not that of Luke Skywalker, even though his character got the most complete arc of the film.
On one hand, we have people annoyed at the incompetence of the First Order, and wondering why they didn’t just send in more attack fighters. On the other hand, we have the tension of a race against time which allows our leads to have their own stories, and yet reconnect when necessary.
One of the things I’m not sure worked was Benicio Del Toro’s character, he was seemingly falling into the Lando Calrissian role of this movie, only to turn against the people who hired him when the opportunity arose. Subverted expectations for sure, but did that make it a pointless plot mechanic? On the other hand, one could argue that the main problem here lies with fans who are quick to want to categorize characters into little boxes. As a result, when someone acts “out of character,” it throws them off.
Johnson blurred the lines between good and evil very heavily in this story, almost painting the Rebels/Resistance in a similar light to the First Order… Almost… This is a galaxy that has allowed many individuals to grow extremely wealthy as they profit from the constant wars and power struggles. It’s once again clear that for many people this showed maturity and realism to Star Wars for the first time. But for others, it was a departure from the very clearly drawn lines between good and evil that Star Wars has always employed thus far.
Well, this is another contentious one, again if you are reading this you either don’t care about spoilers or you have seen the movie. Snoke is killed around midway through this movie by Kylo Ren, after being ordered to assassinate Rey in his throne room. The how is quite well done, as Kylo hides his intentions from his master and surprises the guy who says he cannot be surprised or deceived. Whilst this is a moment we know has happened many times before in the history of the Sith, it does leave a few problems for fans in this movie.
Who is he?
We still know nothing about Snoke, nothing, and for that reason alone many feel he is a wasted opportunity. We have no true idea what his motivations were other than to destroy hope. We are also shown just how powerful this Snoke is as he moves Rey and Kylo around like rag dolls at times, so why is he so powerful? But again you have people who think this was an impressive twist as essentially both Masters have perished in this movie, leaving Rey and Kylo to sort things out amongst themselves. If The Force Awakens had done a better job of establishing just who and what Snoke was, perhaps this wouldn’t have been as much of an issue. Whatever way you look at it, fans are leaving The Last Jedi confused about why Snoke was ever in these movies to begin with. I must say, The CGI and voice work of Serkis in this role was very well done and I still hold out hope that we will either see more of Snoke somehow in Episode 9, or that his story will be told.
The other issue regarding Snoke’s death is whether you feel that Kylo Ren and General Hux are an effective threat to carry the next movie, because neither are shown to be as effective leaders as Snoke. It might just feel like there is a big hole in the villain department, but I will let Jammer get into this side of things in his piece about what this all means for Episode 9 (which is set to hit later today).
They make quite a big thing of Rey’s parentage and then Johnson pulls the rug from under us as Kylo reveals that Rey has always known the true answer. Rey’s parents were nobody, she is nobody, they sold her to a junk dealer and drunk themselves to death and her connection to Kylo Ren was simply something Snoke orchestrated to bring Rey before him.
Now, I’m going to go away from neutral here and say that I actually liked the fact that the twist was… there is no twist. But many fans are annoyed that Rey is this extremely powerful being, who seems to just be a normal Force-sensitive person. To that I’d argue that Snoke explained this well enough in terms of balance. Snoke predicted that to counter the growing darkness of the extremely powerful Kylo Ren, an equal opposing force of light would challenge him, Snoke just expected that this would be Luke Skywalker and not Rey Noname. We’d also argue that Rey coming from a bunch of nobodies adds to the message of the film that anybody has the ability to be Force-sensitive (remember the kid from the stables on Canto Bight?).
They also haven’t really developed Rey much with the Force in this movie with her training from Luke focussed on showing her why the Jedi must end. She does learn how to connect with the Force and control it to a small degree. To steal the line from Darth Vader, the Force is with you young Rey, but you are not a Jedi yet. However, I’d be shocked if Luke does not appear in ghost form to teach Rey in Episode 9 and she is shown to have left with the Jedi history books from the tree as well. Does this film do anything to elevate Rey above being classified as a Mary Sue? That debates still rages on.
The argument here is simple. Some people loved that Leia got to show herself connecting with and using the Force to save her own life. Others think it was jumping the shark, and they should have either killed her off or simply not put her in that situation to begin with. If you haven’t seen the movie and came here for the spoilers, Leia is blasted out into the vacuum of space and uses the Force to float back into safety. I can see both points of view here, and I am as yet undecided. I always wanted to see Leia connect more with the Force than she has, but at the same time, this almost seems Yoda-like in power.
The other tragic side of this story is that Leia is left as the only one of the old trio still alive at the end of this film and we know that sadly Carrie Fisher passed away just under a year ago. It’s going to be tricky for JJ Abrams to resolve this issue in Episode 9. There’s a part of me thinks that Johnson could have changed the ending slightly to have Luke explain to Leia that to do what he does, he has to connect through her and use her power as well. With Leia having been injured and frail, perhaps this could have caused both of them to become one with the Force. Whereas now Abrams must deal with this ‘off-screen’.
Whilst there were many other moments of controversy and debate in the movie. The points raised above seem to be the ones that people are struggling to come to a consensus on, which is fine. In some ways, I have to commend the film for being willing to subvert expectations so wildly. I think we can also erase the rumour that Kathleen Kennedy rules this universe with an Imperial like iron fist. It’s very clear that Johnson was given the leeway to tell the story he wanted in his own way here.
These are the lines of debate currently taking over the internet, which side do you fall on? Let’s discuss this film in more detail below and let us know what you thought of all this.