Movie Review: “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” – Stuck In The Middle

Written by Matt Butler December 28, 2017

the last jedi

I haven’t felt this conflicted about a movie in quite some time. Star Wars: The Last Jedi has so much going for it. It’s got interesting themes, great cinematography, and good music (well, it’s John Williams, so that’s a no-brainer!). But there’s something deeply amiss about it. A cog in the wheel. An imbalance in the force. These are the metaphors I’m looking for! Following the events of The Force Awakens, this eighth episode in the Star Wars saga chronicles the Resistance’s continued war among the stars with the new Republic, the First Order. It’s General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) against her own son Ben aka Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Meanwhile, Rey (Daisy Ridley) seeks the wisdom of the now sage Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill).

*This is about as far as I can go before treading into murky spoiler waters. So take this as the last warning.*

The biggest twist in The Last Jedi is that there are no twists. No one’s related to anyone important, no one’s pulling the strings behind the curtain, there are no monumental revelations. It’s as if everything we thought was set up in The Force Awakens was never set up to begin with. And, in a way, that’s pretty much true. Writer/Director Rian Johnson approaches this film practically carte blanche. He subverts audience expectations by providing non-answers. In the moment, it’s infuriating. It’s almost like a betrayal. But then you step back and look at how the universe works, and realize it doesn’t always, or rarely ever, arrange itself in a way we can distill into fate. What was once the will of the force is now the will of the director.

“This is not going to go the way you think.”

I’m okay with this. Give me time, and I might even be thrilled about this. We now have no idea what to expect in a Star Wars movie. But we also don’t have much to hope for either. In The Last Jedi, failure is the predominant theme. Nothing goes as planned, and everyone seems incapable of controlling a situation. This isn’t a far cry from the events in The Empire Strikes Back, but in The Last Jedi, failure is spread throughout. There’s not really a push and pull so much as a fall proceeded by another fall. This is where the tension drops. There are no competent heroes or threatening villains. The Last Jedi seems decidedly gray (so much so, it’s a wonder they didn’t at least allude to the idea of gray jedi, but whatever).

the last jedi

Again, this is interesting. It’s not something I can hold against the movie simply because I’ve never seen this approach to a Star Wars movie. It’s different, Empire different. And maybe, eventually, it will grow on me. But the one part of this movie, the one fly in the face, is the inconsistent tone. Every two minutes, there’s a joke, regardless of the scene or characters involved. Like when Rey hands Luke the lightsaber, the closing image of The Force Awakens, Luke throws it over his shoulder with aloof disdain. It’s not to say the action itself is wrong, just the way it’s executed. It’s done on a comedy beat, when it’s clearly asking for a dramatic one. The comedy in this Star Wars movie is pretty forced, and I’m definitely not the first person to come up with that joke.

“I need someone to show me my place in all this.”

So yeah, I’m torn on this one. I can see why it’s divided so many people, and I want to be the voice of reason to say which side is right, but I just can’t! I think the best way to describe my thoughts on The Last Jedi is with this line from Return of the Jedi. In which, Luke implores his wayward father to turn away from the dark side.

the last jedi

Luke: “Your thoughts betray you. I feel the good in you. The conflict.”

The Last Jedi has its problems. A muddled tone, misfired comedy, and more than a few ‘skippable’ scenes. But behind all that is some daring ambition, something Disney and Lucasfilm is in desperate need of. I’ll always advocate for the singular vision of a writer/director, it just needs to feel consistent. I say check it out just for curiosity. It seems impossible to tell who will love The Last Jedi, and who will not. Just like the film itself, I’m decidedly gray.

My Rating: 6/10 

the last jedi

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About Matt Butler

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is a strapping young English Major with a fiery passion for the art of cinematic storytelling. He likes long walks on the beach and knows the proper use of 'your' and 'you're'. (Example: I hope YOU'RE having a wonderful time browsing our site, and I hope you enjoy YOUR time reading my film reviews. I wrote them just for you.)

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