Thoughts on ‘The Last Jedi’

(Originally written on December 18, 2017)

Before I begin I want to make something very clear: I enjoyed this film and it was still fairly entertaining to me despite its major and minor flaws. If you have a differing opinion, I respect that. What’s written here are just my thoughts and not meant to sway anyone to think along the same lines as I do. Thank you for understanding.

If I’m completely honest, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a very divisive film, especially among the more hardcore fans of the franchise. Even for a casual fan such as myself, it took me about a day to process everything I had experienced. Does this take away from being able to enjoy the film? That depends on how critical you are as a fan of movies and/or Star Wars.

It was difficult to organize my thoughts around this movie, and even more so when figuring out what to share. Then it hit me: I’m just here to write what I thought of the film, nothing more. I will present my pros and cons for the film and leave it at that. Let’s begin with the cons.

In any film, one of the things I look for is character development. I want to be able to care about the characters and how they are growing in their given circumstances. Unfortunately, there isn’t too much of that for some of them here (key word being ‘some’). Picking up shortly after The Force Awakens, I assumed a new journey would allow characters we were introduced to in that film to develop in new and exciting ways. Instead they are just strung along with the story, needing to be there only because they are main characters. As well, certain characters are portrayed as almost too one-dimensional, giving no room for them to become fully fleshed out until it’s too late. And yes, while some characters were in separate locations and dealing with different things, they were just given things to do as opposed to having experiences that allowed them to grow.

In terms of the movie’s pacing, it felt somewhat disjointed. Many of the scenes ranged from meaningful to simply ridiculous. Some subplots didn’t even need to be there. It seemed almost like the movie was trying to complete a checklist at times too. Also, while there is humour in the film, some of these moments felt unnecessary and out of place. Finally, there seemed to be a sense of wanting to incorporate “new” and “fresh” ideas just for the sake of being different (I’ll discuss this briefly in the pros portion).

So on the opposite side of things, I did find things to like about The Last Jedi. For one, though some might be inclined to strongly disagree, I actually enjoyed how different this film is from the previous ones (which took some time for me to accept). What I mean is how director Rian Johnson was able to bring new ideas to Star Wars. This ranged from ideas about the Force (some I liked, some I didn’t) to seeing the universe (the conflict between The First Order and the Resistance) from different perspectives. Even seeing one character we know from past movies in a different light, though off-putting at first, became interesting to me.

Speaking of characters, the new additions to the cast are delightful (even if a few had very limited screen time). The actors/actresses all did admirable jobs in their respective roles (and seeing Mark Hamill as Luke again was nice). Another thing I enjoyed were the actions scenes. Though there weren’t as many as I thought there would be (which I didn’t really notice while watching), what we did get were moments of creativity and just pure exhilaration. One action scene in particular made me curious and excited at the same time, while another brief scene made me go silent in awe. As usual, composer John Williams brings his best to yet another Star Wars film with both new pieces of music and some throwbacks from past films. The different planets and environments we see are also well realized, expanding the universe even more.

As I mentioned in the beginning, The Last Jedi is a film that will either be loved or despised depending on the viewer. The notion of change and all the new ideas presented here may turn off many fans of Star Wars, but I’d like to believe that change is necessary in order to move forward. Now granted, this movie didn’t really achieve passing the torch to a new generation perfectly nor elegantly, almost as if they’re still unclear about where it’s all heading. Nevertheless, I still enjoyed what this movie had to offer, and if you didn’t, that’s totally fine! I just hope the next film will be able to properly end the trilogy with respect to both the story and its characters, and the audience.

Rest in peace, Carrie Fisher. May the Force be with you, always.

- A. Shin

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