Critiquing and Revising Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Warning: This article contains heavy spoilers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I recommend viewing the film regardless of this article as it is the kind of movie most people should see it before critiquing it.

I should clear the air before starting this essay. Under no circumstance do I believe that The Last Jedi ruined the franchise and that Rian Johnson damaged his career as a result of this film. Those that subscribe to this argument should thoughtfully examine the continued success of the Star Wars franchise and watch the previous and recent works of Rian Johnson, especially his episodes of Breaking Bad and Knives Out. Additionally, those that demand a remake of The Last Jedi and the removal of Kathleen Kennedy take their admiration of Star Wars to an extreme level and do a disservice to the enthusiast community. To anyone who thinks harassing people who have worked on this film and adjacent projects online represents appropriate behavior, please log off the Internet and improve your character. I do not want this essay to serve as an instrument of harassment or abuse to any individual. Thank you and let’s talk about a space movie.

I greatly admired the aspirations of The Last Jedi and I continue to cherish certain aspects of the film to this day. As for the entire cinematic experience, I find myself disappointed and defeated. I feel like I’ve gained nothing from it and lament the precious time that I have lost once the credits rolled. Rarely did a film leave me depleted of satisfaction to the level The Last Jedi had the first time I watched it in theaters. Other films that have achieved that level are The Last Airbender, Brave, and Captain Marvel. All of those films share one thing in common to The Last Jedi, I immensely adore the franchises and brands that they represent. I walked in the theater with a childlike exuberance, greatly anticipating what this new piece of art from my favorite franchise or brand has in store. Once the story ended, I internally asked myself, “Wait, what happened?”

The purpose of this essay hopes to answer that question of mine and seeks to examine what went wrong and how I would expunge the issues that I identified in The Last Jedi. I will dissect this film into multiple parts. Each part varies in importance and reflects specific aspects of the film. The first section critiques Rey and Kylo Ren’s evolution, the second focuses on the supporting cast, the third tackles the narrative structure, and the last section takes apart the climax and conclusion. Please note that my criticisms do not originate from a lack of understanding of the story and universe; rather they stem from personal disagreements. I comprehend the reasoning behind these decisions, but I would alter them to suit my own tastes. I welcome a rebuttal article to my commentary if necessary. With all of these conditions being established, sit back and relax as I dismantle and reassemble The Last Jedi.

My thoughts do not represent the majority of folks that disliked this film and upon further reflection, I may have given this film too much flak. I would not consider weakest parts of the film objectively bad. Strangely enough, my own issues stem from the strong parts of the films being too strong for its own good. I may have had a too active imagination when viewing this film, so I should probably lower my standards for subsequent Star Wars media in the future. My criticisms originate from personal disagreements and are not based on factual evidence on Star Wars lore. I’m just a film enthusiast that desires thought-provoking material in cinema and The Last Jedi was close to achieving that standard.

Part I: Rey and Kylo Ren’s evolution

Unlike other aspects that I will eventually cover in this essay, I commend the character development of Rey and Kylo Ren, especially for the latter character. Kylo Ren’s backstory truly complicates both he and Luke Skywalker. Kylo had valid reasons to convert to the First Order and Luke reasonably developed an intense shame and guilt for his failures. The humanization of Kylo remains some of the strongest character development in the Star Wars saga. Upon further analysis, I subsequently started to appreciate Luke’s humanization as well. The Last Jedi had a crucial opportunity to examine Luke Skywalker after the events of Return of the Jedi and the film masterfully capitalized on it. 

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Luke’s character arc provokes a discussion about the difficulties of failure and how to live with them. Enthusiasts argue whether Luke’s contemplation of killing Kylo accurately portrayed his role as the last known Jedi Master in the universe. Intriguingly, The Last Jedi twisted the conversation by reminding the audience that Luke remains a human being. He, too, can resort to committing heinous acts to prevent Kylo Ren from converting to the Dark Side. The sacred nature of the Jedi Order demands so much of the most loyal disciples of the Force, yet Luke Skywalker nearly betrayed the most critical law. I must declare this story arc to be nothing short of brilliance and the themes it proposed should have populated a much larger part of the film.

Compared to Kylo Ren and by extension Luke, Rey’s character did not evolve as much as I wanted, but The Last Jedi explored her in greater detail than The Force Awakens, which I respect. In both the Force feeling scene and the cave scene, Rey seemed far more curious and vulnerable. She desired to acquire the truth of her past and discover herself as a person. Her subtle indecisiveness in her alliances inspired a plethora of intriguing alternatives to where the film could have gone. Kylo Ren’s Force bonds exploited her indecisiveness and thus increased her vulnerability. Kylo Ren essentially assumed the role of Snoke in swaying her moral and spiritual compass away from the Jedi. My qualms arise when realizing the missed potential of this dynamic.

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