STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI (9.75 out of 10) Written and Directed by Rian Johnson; Starring Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domnhall Gleeson, Laura Dern, and many others; Rated PG-13f or sequences of sci-fi action and violence. Running time 152 minutes; In wide release December 15.
This review WILL contain spoilers.
Big Shiny Robot!: Picking up where Star Wars: The Force Awakens left off, The Last Jedi tells the story of the Resistance and their escape from the clutches of The First Order, and deepens the mythology of the Force with Rey and the return of Luke Skywalker. For a film with a plot as simple as that, it’s intensely character driven, allowing the characters to take center stage in what might be one of the most personal Star Wars films ever made. To review it with spoilers, we’ve gathered a group of Big Shiny Robot!s who have seen it: Bryan “Swankmotron” Young, Iris Robin, and Kelly Adams.
They’re going to start with their overall impression...
Bryan: After two viewings I might be willing to put this film up on the shelf with the six films of the classic saga as a flawless Star Wars film. I think I’ve put Rogue One on that shelf, too. And it adds so much nuance and complication to The Force Awakens, I might finally be able to put it on that shelf as well.
Iris: It was incredible! The visuals were outstanding and though the plot itself was simple, I loved the film’s emotional depth and rich mythology.
The full cast at the world premiere of The Last Jedi on December 10, 2017.
Big Shiny Robot! What was the most shocking moment for you?
Bryan: For me, I think the most shocking moment might have been the death of Snoke and the tandem fight with Rey and Kylo Ren. That might have been something I was expecting if this was the third chapter of the saga, but it leaves so much wide open for where JJ Abrams can go next in Episode IX.
Iris: Even though this moment didn’t have the highest shock value, I was most surprised when we found out that the Resistance’s distress signal had been received but nobody responded. That was a bleak and totally necessary moment for me. I was expecting Resistance allies to swoop in and save the day as we’ve seen before, but this moment showed that sometimes, you have good reason to feel hopeless and that there’s overwhelming evidence that your situation is dire. And for Rian Johnson to turn that around and somehow create hope out of this dark and friendless situation was utterly brilliant without being trite or overdone.
Kelly: Snoke’s death shocked me. The scenes with him were highly reminiscent of Luke being brought before the Emperor in Return of the Jedi, but with the movie so full of surprises, I didn’t expect the apprentice to kill his master as Vader did the Emperor. It also brought an anti-climactic end to Snoke’s story and, based on all of the theories about his origin and who he really is, it’s a moment that will no doubt shock a lot of people. I’ve always said Snoke is Snoke so I didn’t feel cheated. Simply surprised.
Snoke's Praetorian Guards arrive at the premiere.
Big Shiny Robot! What did you like best about this film?
Bryan: One of the things I love most in Star Wars is seeing it reference the particular films that make up a filmmaker's brain. With George Lucas and the original film, you had this wonderful blend between Flash Gordon and Kurosawa. Rian Johnson brings new Kurosawa to the table with his Rashomon treatment of Luke and Ben’s story and a moment of Throne of Blood, but he gives us moments of Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious and even Battlestar Galactica. Rian Johnson took up the DNA of Star Wars and matched it perfectly with the DNA that made him a filmmaker. And it never once seemed pandering. This might be the least cynical Star Wars film since The Phantom Menace.
Iris: I absolutely loved its unpredictability and tension because it was so character-driven. Rey and Kylo’s struggles and weaknesses were so beautifully handled and I spent the entire movie feeling like they could both go either way. I also loved the humor. It was refreshing to see the bad guys get their share of laughs. I am delighted that we got to see more of Leia being a General and I only wish that we had seen more of her using the Force in combat. Though her ‘Force-floating’ was a gorgeous touch.
Kelly: Yoda. Yoda. Yoda. He was perfection. I’d heard for a long time rumors and speculation that he would appear in this film, with Frank Oz having recorded new lines of dialogue, but I couldn’t let myself dare to hope. And when I saw the back of his head on screen I cried tears of joy. It was easily the most emotional moment of the film for me. I love Yoda so much. Whether he’s a CGI character or puppet, he’s always a joy to watch.
Big Shiny Robot! What didn’t you like?
Bryan: The only thing that took me out of the film for even a moment was Yoda. I was hoping for a Force ghosted Jedi Master (my fingers were crossed for Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker), but when Yoda appeared twas a puppet it threw me right out. I am so accustomed to preferring the CG Yoda in this modern era, it felt like the one unnecessary nostalgic indulgence Rian Johnson allowed himself.
Iris: I wasn’t overly fond of Yoda either, but the most disappointing thing for me was the film’s treatment of Rose. She has a fascinating backstory, a wicked personality, and a kickass skill-set and yet I felt that all of the awesome things about her character were overshadowed by that forced “love” for Finn. I think it would have been sufficient for her to admire him for his bravery and save him at the end without having to love him because we simply didn’t see the development of a relationship, working or otherwise, that would lead us to conclude that there’s a viable romance there. The whole idea seemed very unnatural and honestly felt like it was thrown in to focus on Kylo and Rey, which makes even less sense since Rey’s connection with Kylo is well-established at that point and doesn’t mean that her bond with Finn needs to end, or that characters can’t have more than one significant relationship in their lives.
Bryan: I thought it was telling, though, that Finn didn’t reciprocate her kiss at all.
Iris: Oh yeah, absolutely. It just feels like an unnecessary and distracting set-up that I’m not invested in at all.
Kelly: I’m going to pretend I didn’t read all that negativity about Yoda. He was amazing. I didn’t like Leia’s survival from the destruction of the bridge. Don’t get me wrong— I’m glad she survived, But I thought her floating through space and then landing very similarly to Superman was a bit odd. All this from a woman who we have never really seen exhibit signs of using the Force. And it also is a poignant reminder that she was probably meant to survive that scene to go on and feature in the final film and we will never get to see that storyline for her to come to fruition.
Bryan: It directly references a moment in Rebels though, where Kanan is spaced out of an airlock by Darth Maul and he similarly survives. I thought it was poignant and touching. And we HAVE seen her use the Force. In Empire, she is able to pinpoint Luke. In Jedi she senses he’s alive. In The Force Awakens, she senses Han’s death across the galaxy. We should take Luke at his word when he says she has that power, too.
John Boyega (Finn) and Kelly Marie Tran (Rose) share a joyful moment.
Big Shiny Robot! How did you feel about the new characters?
Iris: DJ was a definite stand-out for me. He got the plot moving and he was the best example of that unpredictability that I liked so much. I would watch an entire movie about his life, how he ended up in Canto Bight, who he had to fight to get where he is. I loved Vice-Admiral Holdo too—I was sad about her death, but I know that it was necessary. Captain Canady annoyed me a little, I don’t know why he was there when existing characters like Phasma or Datoo (if he survived the collapse of Starkiller Base) would have done just as well.
Bryan: I thought they were all lovely additions to the canon. I loved Paige and Rose and wish they could have had more screen time. Holdo was my favorite of the new cast, though. She put a smile on my face every time she was on the screen.
Kelly: Holdo was my favorite as well. Laura Dern brought such depth to the character in a relatively short time onscreen. Warmth, compassion, toughness, bravery and sacrifice.
Laura Dern's Vice-Admiral holdo was a sure hit with our panel.
Big Shiny Robot! Lightning round—did you like the Porgs?
Iris: No. I would prefer them covered in BBQ sauce.
Bryan: Loved them. I only wish they were as consequential as Ewoks and Jar Jar.I loved everything about her character.
Kelly: Loved every second of them. And they were on screen for a perfect amount of time. Not too much to be annoying, but just enough to provide some cute moments.
Big Shiny Robot! How satisfied were you with the answers that the film gave us?
Iris: Very! My remaining curiosities are less plot and fact-heavy than more expansive things like the First Order’s source of funding, and the Resistance’s networks elsewhere. There’s a lot of opportunity to explore those things in canon material outside of the movies.
Bryan: I love when Star Wars movies leave us with more questions than answers. It gives us something to chew on until the next one is out. And we did get a lot of answers.
Kelly: Very satisfied. I never put much thought into Snoke beyond what we were given in The Force Awakens, and it’s actually rather refreshing to learn that Rey’s parents were nobodies. Unless of course that’s another misdirection and we find out something else in the next film. And Luke shutting himself off from the Force explains why not even Leia could find him before. I had wondered about that.
Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) and Daisy Ridley (Rey) reveal new secrets of the Force in The Last Jedi.
Big Shiny Robot! What’s your rating and why?
Iris: 9.5/10 because I loved this film, I really did, but the forced romance really did bug me.
Kelly: I want to give it an 11 because of Yoda. But 10/10 since that’s the highest score.