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[Warning: This story contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Do not read further unless you have seen the film.]
For a normal movie, the dust might already be settling the Monday after its release, but Star Wars: The Last Jedi is no ordinary movie.
The film has been a huge commercial and critical hit, with twists and turns that have left fans with plenty to argue about. It’s also proven somewhat divisive: Its current Rotten Tomatoes audience score of (56 percent) is more in line with the prequels than with The Force Awakens or the original trilogy. It’s time for the team at Heat Vision to take a closer look at everything Last Jedi …
Aaron Couch: There’s a narrative that the response has been divided, but we should note The Last Jedi received an A CinemaScore. Audiences really did like this movie (and perhaps the vocal minority who didn’t are the ones going to Rotten Tomatoes to complain). While there was a bit of a backlash to Force Awakens after people had time to digest it, I could see this being one where its stock rises as people have time to sit with it and give it repeat viewings. This is a movie that isn’t just for opening weekend — it’s part of a legacy and is one of the few films that will come out this decade that you can guarantee people will still be watching 50 years from now. So what’s up with the fan complaints?
Graeme McMillan: I get it, actually. I enjoyed the movie a lot, but it’s … kind of a mess? A lot of what I liked about it — it doesn’t play by the rules! it’s surprising! — also turned out to be things I didn’t like about it. (Some rules probably should be played by, it turns out.) I’m seeing more and more people have reactions that are essentially, “It’s not a good movie, but it’s good Star Wars,” and I think that’s probably a really good way of putting it, for me at least.
Ryan Parker: I am shocked some fans loath this film as much as they do. Honestly, I suspect those with the most bitter rage are the same ones who said The Force Awakens was nothing more than a knockoff of A New Hope. There is just no pleasing some. What did they want? I feel like part of the problem is there are so many sites and YouTube channels now that give their two cents on what might happen that some fans expect far too much, and when, for instance, Snoke doesn’t turn out to be Darth Maul or Mace Wendu and Rey doesn’t turn out to be a Skywalker, they get all bent out of shape. Give me a break.
Katie Kilkenny: The difficult thing about being a Star Wars movie now — or any reboot, really — is that you have to both fulfill expectations for fans and also subvert them. This movie tried to pack a lot of both in and, yes, became way too long and had some weak plotlines because of it. But one difference I really enjoyed in this film was the original stamp Rian Johnson put on it (as opposed to J.J. Abrams, who added in a few lens flares but ultimately was very respectful of the two former trilogies). I can only imagine that we’re going to appreciate his take on the story more in a few years, once we’ve seen other younger, promising directors try their hands at the Star Wars franchise.
Patrick Shanley: I can understand unreasonable expectations from super fans, but let me say, as someone who was never a diehard Star Wars geek, this simply doesn’t work as a film. I am shocked I am the only negative voice here. There are multiple, glaring issues in plotting and character, the B plot is a complete waste of the audience’s time, the film is at least 20 minutes too long and the mistakes made by certain main characters (cough, Poe Dameron, cough) are so grievous and impactful in terms of the future of the story and the sheer collateral death and damage they caused that the repercussions should be exile or worse.
Couch: OK, Patrick, someone is as grumpy an old man as Luke Skywalker. Speaking of which … let’s talk about Mark Hamill, who has honed his craft over the decades and delivered his best performance of Luke ever. As magical as it was to see Han Solo back in Force Awakens, he didn’t have the weighty moments that Luke was given here (Han’s pre-death speech aside). Hamill’s work reminds me of Harrison Ford’s work in Blade Runner 2049, which was his best in years. There are moments that will stick with me for a long time (the look on Luke’s face as he slashes at Ben Solo with a light saber; Luke telling Kylo, “I’ll be seeing you around, kid,” — and most of all, Luke dying alone).
Kimberly Nordyke: My son, Braden, a huge fan of these films (he’s reviewed two of the original movies for The Hollywood Reporter), made a poignant observation about the similarities in Luke’s and Darth Vader’s deaths. When you break it down to an 8-year-old, they both essentially died exerting all their energy and everything in their power by saving others (in Darth’s case, he saved his son, Luke; in Luke’s case, he saved his sister, Leia, and the resistance fighters). It all comes full circle for the Skywalkers. And I think this was the first time I’d ever cried while watching a Star Wars movie.
McMillan: Hamill was great, and had one of the more fun roles in the movie — old Luke being a bit of an unfriendly, untrustworthy dick was one of the most enjoyable surprises in the whole thing. I’m kind of sad he was limited in his interactions so much, however, especially when Daisy Ridley was clearly struggling with some of the expeditionary dialogue she was saddled with. Was it just me, or was she surprisingly bad when forced to deliver the “The First Order is bad and we need you, Jedi Master” dialogue? I was cringing in my seat. What’s the Harrison Ford line? “You can write it but you sure can’t say it” …?
Kilkenny: It absolutely wasn’t just you that felt her dialogue on Ahch-To was weak. Rey seemed to have a prepped statement for Luke that could have been used for comic effect but was ultimately dropped (maybe something was left on the cutting-room floor?). But Ridley turned out to be a great foil for Luke, who was himself so often a foil in the original trilogy. It was nice to see Hamill get to play a grumpy type here, and an occasionally mischievous one at that. That scene where he’s tickling Rey’s fingers with the leaf to make her think she’s feeling the force was a great touch.
Shanley: I thought the leaf bit was one of the few cases in which the humor in this film actually hit the mark. That said, Rey is a far less interesting character than Kylo Ren. I still don’t fully understand her motivations or the source of her power (though, judging by the kid in the end scene, I guess anyone can be Force sensitive if they have hope? Cool, guess midi-chlorians officially mean nothing in canon).
Couch: Huh? Who says that kid doesn’t have midi-chlorians? But do continue …
Shanley: Well, the film itself, for starters … Regardless, what I found most egregious about this film was what it did with Luke. Not that he can’t be a deeper character who has evolved since the end of Return of the Jedi, but rather that, when I go to watch the original trilogy again in the future, I will know when my heroes are celebrating with Ewoks after defeating the Empire that they then go on to break up (Han and Leia), contemplate murdering a child on a whim (Luke), and simply give up and run away (Han and Luke, the latter allowing the murder of literally millions because he’s sad and wants to commiserate with space puffins on a secret island while his sister battles the second coming of an evil Empire).
Couch: OK, Patrick, let’s try to find something you like. The hype was real about Kelly Marie Tran, an actress Rian Johnson has been saying for months will be people’s favorite. Her line to Finn that the Resistance needs to be about fighting for what they love, not what they hate, had people in the audience wiping away tears. And while it’s not immediately apparent for those complaining about their Canto Bight interlude not accomplishing anything, don’t forget about Johnson’s final shot of the film — a Force-sensitive slave boy sporting a resistance signet. The Force really has awoken.
Parker: Kelly was awesome! And, slightly off topic, she was so incredibly grateful for the experience. We were working the premiere, talking to producer Ram Bergman when she came over and gave him the biggest hug and tearfully thanked him for everything. It was touching to see that pure joy and pride.
Shanley: Gotta go against the grain again and say I found Rose to be a pointless addition. Here’s what she does in the film: gushes about how great Finn is and how he’s her hero then immediately shocks him into a comatose state without listening to her hero’s reasoning for needing a pod (he was trying to flee for a good reason. Sure, she didn’t know that and you’d think she’d give her “hero” the benefit of the doubt or at least time to lie); she wastes everyone’s time on Poe Dameron’s idiotic and treasonous plan to fly to space Monte Carlo to break into the First Order’s ship; she fails as the duo can’t even find a parking spot (an offense that gets you locked in prison on Canto Bight, apparently); she stops Finn from making the ultimate sacrifice to save hundreds of rebels who have already risked their lives multiple times because she apparently loves Finn, which was news to not only the audience but also Finn himself. But, hey, it was “worth it,” according to Finn, because they rescued some space horses who were undoubtedly recaptured 12 minutes later and forced the slave children who were guarding their cages to almost certainly be severely punished after Finn and Rose peaced off the planet to go get hundreds of their friends killed.
McMillan: I’ve got to say, I don’t get the hate that the Rose/Finn plot is getting. Not only is Tran delightful, but I got more out of Finn getting over his cowardice — with the “rebel scum” payoff — than I did the Poe thread. It feels like there’s much more there than Poe’s opposite journey. Plus, you know, Benicio Del Toro wandered in from another movie altogether with hair so good that even Laura Dern should be jealous.
Kilkenny: Well, I don’t know if Del Toro’s hair was that good. I similarly thought Tran was great, though I was occasionally annoyed with the hammy dialogue she was given, especially her overly expositional speech on Cantonica about hating the planet for its arm-dealer one-percent population. Then again, that speech — and Tran’s character overall — introduced an element to me that was salient, and I thought, brilliant, about this film: This trilogy seems to be doing away with the weird bloodline elitism of the first and second trilogies and turns its eye to ordinary people who become heroes. Speaking of which, what did you think of the reveal about Rey’s parents? And do we trust it?
Couch: Maybe I’m gullible, but I read this as the truth and my guess is that’s what Johnson intended. Again, look at what the last shot of the movie is.
Nordyke: I thought it was so obvious that Kylo was lying that I was shocked to hear that so many people believe he was telling the truth. The moment wasn’t given enough weight for me to believe it’s true. (Just as nobody believed that Luke was dead once Kylo ordered every gun to shoot him down in front of the old Rebel hideout on the world of Crait.) There is clearly some strong connection between Kylo, a Skywalker spawn, and Rey. And if she is a Skywalker, why would Kylo tell her that? His only goal was to get her to join forces with him; he told her the one thing that he thought would accomplish that. Kylo killed his father; what’s a little white lie to him?
McMillan: I know that Johnson has said that he thinks Kylo is telling the truth, but it’s notable that the movie literally builds in a get-out clause for the reveal before it happens: Snoke outright tells Kylo and Rey that what they saw when they touched was his invention. If J.J. Abrams wants to undo the reveal, that’s all he needs to point to. That said, I hope Rey isn’t a Skywalker; it’s a bit too on-the-nose to have two of the three trilogies focus on relatives who don’t realize they’re related, isn’t it?
Nordyke: Speaking of Kylo and his lineage, it’s disappointing we won’t get to see him and Leia reunite onscreen. How do you think Episode IX will deal with her death? Do you feel like Episode VIII was an appropriate sendoff for Leia and, more importantly, for Carrie Fisher?
Couch: Johnson has said he did not change the film in light of Carrie Fisher’s passing, noting she gave a complete, beautiful performance that he wanted audiences to see. And Lucasfilm has said it won’t use CGI or old footage to have Leia appear in IX. I was so happy that Luke and Leia got their scene together in this movie, because we’d heard that before Fisher’s death, Leia was to have a bigger role in IX. I feared that perhaps a reunion scene might be held until then.
Parker: I thought that moment was perfect. I have seen it twice now, and I would be willing to be bet there wasn’t a dry eye in the audience at that moment. So many sniffles. It spoke to something so much deeper in fans. It was beautiful.
McMillan: Fisher being absent from Episode IX makes me very curious about where it’s going to go next, because everything is set up for it to be the Leia movie. I don’t envy everyone working out how to fill the void she’s left right now.
Couch: After seeing The Last Jedi, I have even more sympathy for Colin Trevorrow, who exited as Episode IX director in September. Truly, how do you follow up this movie? I loved how Star Trek Beyond paid tribute to Leonard Nimoy and Spock. It was so respectful and could be a guidepost for how to handle it.
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