I enjoyed watching Star Wars: The Last Jedi last night, but I also found myself unsatisfied with some features of it. At the risk of incurring the wrath of those who loved it, here I list several things I liked, and several things I disliked.
I am not a big Star Wars know-it-all so this is basically worthless. Also it has *spoilers ahead* so don’t read it if you haven’t seen it yet.
WHAT I LIKED
I liked the moral ambiguity invested in Kylo Ren. The fact that he hesitated in killing his mother showed a glimmer of good in him, and you cannot help feel that he is a somewhat more sympathetic character than the other bad guys. And obviously, he kills Snoke. But then, he doesn’t join the light side, so you have things a bit more complicated than in previous Star Wars movies, where the sides are more clear cut.
I liked how they keep developing new characters, especially Admiral Holdo, and her role in the film.
I liked the feel, aesthetics, and scenery, especially the salt planet at the end and Luke’s beautifully desolate island. I liked how the rebels have the same rag-tag, beaten down feel as in A New Hope or Empire Strikes Back.
I liked the fight scene with the red armored guys in Snoke’s room versus Rey and Kylo Ren. Those red guys had cool weapons.
There was some cool stuff during Rey’s training. I liked the fact that Luke is jaded and broken, even though I felt they took this too far (more below on that). I really liked the scene where Rey is staring at the mirror and sees many versions of herself. I also liked the character Rey in general, and whole struggle she has with her identity and not knowing who her parents are. I wish, however, that they had developed this a bit more.
I liked the dialogue when Luke was explaining the force to Rey as “balance” and “energy”–though again they really could have developed the interesting philosophical ideas that are involved in the idea of the force. My favorite line in the film is where Rey says, “you didn’t fail Kylo. He failed you. I won’t.”
WHAT I DISLIKED
I disliked the moral ambiguity of the good guys. I am glad that Luke is broken-down and disillusioned; that is interesting, but I felt they took it way too far in making him even contemplate murdering Ben Solo. Part of what made the young Luke great is how innocent he was. An old Luke would have been better if he was bitter and broken-hearted at his failures, but still unswervingly good–perhaps, for instance, refusing to train Rey out of fear for her safety? Similarly, I like the fact that Poe is kind of a renegade, almost a new Han Solo, but making him lead mutiny and rebel against his commanding officer at gun point? This was treated too lightly, I felt. And lastly, I wish they hadn’t made Finn try to run away. I like moral ambiguity that makes the struggle of the film more authentic to real life, but when you go too far with it, you start to lose your bearings.
The force is just getting too powerful and too easy now. I think superpowers of any kind work best when they are underplayed and subtle. When Leia saves herself by flying through space, or when Luke transports himself across the galaxy, or when Rey is totally powerful without much struggle and training (in contrast, think of all Luke’s struggle and discouragement on Dagobah), the force ironically seems to lose some of its gravitas.
I liked the action scenes, but I wish there was more strategy involved in them. I would have kept the rebels repeatedly escaping, hiding, and getting discovered, rather than being chased through space continually. This would have felt more authentic to earlier movies, and it just feels weird that with all that power, the First Order is just waiting for them to run out of fuel. Also, while I really liked the initial space fight where the rebels drop bombs to destroy the Dreadnought, the final scene on the snow planet was just odd. I love the setting–the snow giving off red color when disturbed was super cool. But the overall strategy of this fight was really weird. What are the AT-ATs doing? Why are we just flying our speeders straight at them? Why not have a little more actual fighting, rather than just charge and then run away?
Maybe I’m just getting oversensitive to this because I don’t know if others picked up on this, but a lot of things felt kind of cheesy, especially Yoda coming back, and Rose saving Finn.
The biggest thing: I wish they had developed Rey’s training under Luke more. There is little actual training that happens, little struggle. It would have been great to get more of the philosophy involved in the force, such as the nature of good and evil, the nature of energy and consciousness, and so forth. Why not tell us a bit about what is written in the Jedi texts? Yoda’s comment about learning from failure was interesting, but this could have gone a lot deeper, especially with a character as interesting as Rey.
Overall, I rank Star Wars: The Last Jedi a slight step down from The Force Awakens, and a far step removed from The Empire Strikes Back, but still a very enjoyable movie in its own right.