The Last Jedi is a pretty controversial and divisive movie with a Rotten Tomatoes Score of 91% for critics and 43% for audience as of this writing. I’m pretty sure I am in the same boat as most people where upon first viewing at the theaters, I thought the movie was pretty mediocre. Then the internet hate train starting gathering steam and I gladly hopped aboard because the movie does have some very glaring flaws.
Focusing only on the flaws however detracts from the great parts of the movie as well. Upon re-watching all the of the Star Wars movies, from the prequels, to the original trilogy, to the newest one, I have started to warm up to Last Jedi as a work of cinema.
While it does still have flaws, I started to see how much nuance and character focus this movie has. Force Awakens and Rise of Skywalker gives the audience no time to think as it has chase sequence after chase sequence and action at a neck breaking pace. The Last Jedi is a more slower and contemplative piece of work that reflects on the nature of character as well as Star Wars itself and the fandom surrounding it.
From the insecure and conflicted Kylo Ren, to the lonely and lost Rey, to the bitter and self hating Luke Skywalker, all of these characters are more real with flaws and insecurities that make them much more endearing and relatable once the audience stops projecting what they want to see onto these characters and see them for what they truly are.
In this manner the meta commentary provided by Rian Johnson is brilliant. The legend and our perception of the world of Star Wars and the characters living in them overshadow the reality that this galaxy far, far away and it’s inhabitants are far from perfect.
Let us take Finn as an example. Finn was at first, a forgettable character for me. He was not the picture perfect image of a hero. He came from a humble background as a space janitor and all throughout the story he is running away and only seeking to help Rey. In other words, he is a coward. It is a flaw that is deeply entrenched in his character. However, in situations where there is evil, where good can prevail, Finn struggles with his own cowardice and does his best to fight his way through obstacles. He gets his ass handed to him most of the time but he gets up, struggles with his own fears, and tries again. This by far is a greater example of a hero and more relatable and true to the common man than a farm boy who hops into a X-wing and blows up the Death Star on his first try. Characters have flaws, they fail, they do their best with what they are given. All of these characters have this level of nuance. Except for Rose. We don’t talk about Rose.
Even Luke’s character arc has lot of depth and meaning once we get past the Blue Milk. In his hubris, he sought to train a new Jedi Order. Refer back to The Empire Strikes Back to see the reasons why Yoda did not want to train Luke. His flaws are on display here in the Last Jedi and he paid dearly for it. With a great and convincing performance by Mark Hamill, we see a Luke Skywalker who made a very grave mistake and the guilt of that mistake is eating away at him. He tried to kill his own sister’s son. You can feel the self hatred and resentment as he talks about what happened that fateful night when Luke thought of killing Ben Solo in an attempt to prevent the evil that would come, including losing his old friend Han Solo.
As you can see, once you get past the flaws, and most of them are minor, you start to see a more beautiful and touching film with nuanced characters and with a layer of meta commentary that speaks true about the nature of Star Wars. I’ll be writing a more detailed write up about each of these aspects in future articles but for now, I wanted to leave a glimpse of what I saw in hopes that people will re-watch this movie and give it another chance because if they do not, what we’re left with is this action heavy, character light drivel. I don’t want that. For me, story and characters are the most important part of this universe. I fell in love with these characters, not star-ship battles and light saber duels. I will be genuinely sad if this is the direction Star Wars is heading.