The Last Jedi blasted into theaters a week ago where it has already topped $500 million at the box office. Unfortunately it has also divided fans like the force divides people between the light side and the dark side. Fear not this article is strong with the force and should go a long way toward restoring balance. As a life-long Star wars fan, I have learned to divide my reaction to the movies into two distinct categories: my fan reaction and my critical reaction. My fan self will always love Episode IV A New Hope best. George Lucas and his films (including the prequel trilogy!) will always be most dear to me. However, on a critical level which is the best made film? Which one hits the strongest emotional notes and resonates on the deepest levels? I will make the case that The Last Jedi is the best Star Wars movie yet.
15. I’ve Seen a lot of Strange Stuff
Star Wars has a “complicated” history with some of Mr. Lucas’s characters. You all know I’m talking about the Ewoks and especially Jar Jar Binks. Although I think fan hatred of these more humorous/cute characters has been over the top and reached cliche levels that require a little self examination on the haters’ part. Even if we stipulate that they were mistakes what are you going to say about the Porgs? Are they too cute? Arguable. Are they funny? Almost certainly. Should we despise them? Perhaps, but if we don’t accept them as part of the Star Wars universe doesn’t that say more about us than the Porgs?
14. Lose that Ridiculous Helmet
Kylo Ren’s helmet is pretty cool and is a worthy successor to Darth Vader’s infamous visage. On the other hand, he doesn’t need to wear it anymore than Jango or Boba Fett needed to wear their’s. Although, who can imagine Boba Fett without his bad ass helmet? Kylo’s helmet by comparison seems too much like an affectation which is why in The Last Jedi, Supreme Leader Snoke advised Kylo, in no uncertain terms, to get rid of it. It appears that he took his master’s good advice to heart, but who knows going forward? There is something very right about an arch villain in cool helmet though.
13. There is No Try
In the opening scenes of The Last Jedi the Resistance is attempting to escape the clutches of the New Order after the destruction of Star Killer Base. The two sides are engaged in a desperate space battle with giant ships blasting away at each other, but director Rian Johnson chose not to focus so much on the action or the special effects, but on a vignette involving a crew member on one of the Resistance bombers. There is a mishap that is preventing the ship’s payload from being delivered at a critical moment. The powerful scene is reduced to a young woman fighting with her last breath to strike a blow at the evil First Order.
12. Trust him! Trust him!
Benicio del Toro has played a lot of interesting characters including a small time crook, an assassin and an intergalactic collector. It was perhaps this last role that helped him get the role as DJ in The Last Jedi. DJ is a mysterious rogue described as a “slicer” of computer networks. He helps some of the Resistance characters hack into the computers on Snoke’s super star destroyer. Like any good rogue DJ is not to be trusted, but he is an interesting character who fans may want to see in Episode IX.
11. His Excellency Hopes You Will Die Honorably
Supreme Leader Snoke appeared in The Force Awakens only as a giant hologram. In retrospect this was the way to go because Snoke is a little underwhelming in the flesh with his sparkling gold robe – I kept thinking Hugh Hefner at a Christmas Party. His dark, smoky scenes in Episode VII worked well and offered the promise of more to come, but his appearance in The Last Jedi was only remarkable because he is unexpectedly dispatched by his apprentice Kylo Ren. This is one of the high lights of the film because now fans don’t have to care about his origins, fantasizing about Snoke being Mace Windu or whatever. He was also just a cheap knock off of the great Emperor Palpatine/Darth Sidious so good riddance.
10. You’re a Natural Leader
Don’t let the form fitting purple dress and matching purple hair fool you; Vice Admiral Holdo is a force to be reckoned with. Poe Dameron finds out that there’s more than meets the eye when he realizes, almost too late, that she indeed has a plan to save the Resistance from the pursuing First Order. Maybe Laura Dern doesn’t quite steal the show, but she does have one of the more memorable scenes in the Star Wars films when her character, alone on the abandoned cruiser, decides to ram Snoke’s destroyer so Leia and the others can escape. Vice Admiral Holdo and her act of valor is a pleasant surprise and one of the reasons The Last Jedi is the best Star Wars movie.
9. Never his Mind on Where he Was
When we last saw Luke at the end of The Return of the Jedi he was at the height of his powers by confronting his demons and turning his father back to the good side in time for Anakin to vanquish the Emperor. Thirty years have passed when we see Luke in The Force Awakens and The last Jedi and he has clearly seen better days. He has exiled himself on a remote planet after his padawan learner Ben Solo turned on him and literally burned down his efforts to reconstitute the Jedi Order. Rey meets a bitter, disillusioned Jedi Master who feels he has nothing to offer the galaxy. Eventually he is convinced otherwise by his trusty old companion R2-D2.
8. You Overweight Blob of Grease
R2-D2 is perhaps the single most beloved character of the entire Star Wars franchise. He’s a plucky little droid with a penchant for getting in and getting out of trouble. He has also endured being “Hardy” to C3-PO’s “Laurel” for about fifty years and counting. R2 has been right in the thick of it all along, but his most important job might be in The Last Jedi when he shows Luke the old hologram message Princess Leia sent to Obi Wan to enlist his help against the Empire. It was sort of a cheap trick on the little droid’s part, but for director Rian Johnson it was a stroke of genius that at the same time wreaked of nostalgia and advanced the current story.
7. That is Why You Fail
No doubt Captain Phasma has one of the coolest outfits in the Star Wars galaxy since Boba Fett appeared in The Empire Strikes Back. But there is also little doubt that the character was not thought through beyond the idea that it would be nice to have a bad ass female trooper. Ok, great, but then what? J.J. Abrams gave her nothing to do except look weak and stupid when she was bullied into lowering Star Killer Base’s shields. Rian Johnson gave her a thrilling fight scene on a burning star destroyer and a fitting death. Or did he? I suppose we’ll have to wait until Episode IX to find out.
6. The Force Runs Strong in Your Family
Apparently many fans have been eagerly awaiting for the “secret” of Rey’s origins to be revealed after being teased by The Force Awakens. There were two years of theories and counter theories with one of the most popular ones being she is Luke’s daughter. Alas, it was not to be. Rian Johnson and the powers that be at Lucas Film did the smart thing and put all the speculation to rest with a simple admission delivered by Kylo Ren: Your parents were good for nothing nobodies and so are you. It’s refreshing to be reminded that not everyone in the Star Wars galaxy is a Skywalker or distantly related to a Skywalker. Of course this revelation hasn’t stopped fans from speculating about the veracity of Ren’s news. Perhaps he is lying to Rey in a desperate bid to woo her to the dark side? Perhaps we’ll find out in two years.
5. It’s Time For the Jedi to End
Not so fast Star Wars fans. Yoda burned the tree down, but remember Rey had taken the texts aboard the Falcon. This sets up Episode IX with Rey in possession of the texts which she could use to defeat Kylo Ren and perhaps restart the Jedi Order. The last shot in The Last Jedi lets us hold out hope that a new generation will rise. There is scarcely a more hopeful scene in the entire saga then of the poor little servant boy using the force to grab the broom just before the credits role. Luke may have been the last Jedi of the old order, but Rey likely represents the spark of an entirely new Jedi Order.
4. I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing
Rian Johnson started to get on sci-fi fans’ radar with the film Looper, but had also made interesting films like The Brothers Bloom and Brick. When he got the chance to direct The Last Jedi most fans were satisfied that the trilogy was being passed from J.J. Abrams to another talented filmmaker. Johnson, like Abrams, is also a life-long Star Wars fan and this can impact the film in a number of ways. In Abrams’s case it seems to have led him to create a popular homage to Episode IV and fans mostly rewarded him for it. Johnson’s The Last Jedi is more complex, but more rewarding to the viewer because of some interesting surprises and some heartfelt scenes unlike those in any other Star Wars film.
3. Hear You Nothing that I Say?
Yoda is pretty much synonymous with wisdom in the Star Wars universe. He is always the voice of reason when other characters indulge in their fears and passions. Although he passed away in The Return of the Jedi fans knew this wasn’t the end for a powerful jedi as we’d already seen Obi Wan as a force ghost in The Empire Strikes Back. Fans only got a fleeting sense of Yoda in The Force Awakens, but in The Last Jedi Yoda “looms large” at a key moment to confront his old pupil Luke with one final lesson: the force is not to be found in a collection of ancient texts, the living force is in all of us. The force will always be there waiting for others to discover its will.
2. I Don’t Know Where You Get Your Delusions Laser Brain
For many Star Wars fans Princess Leia Organa is the ultimate woman from a galaxy far, far away. Senator Amidala, Rey and Jin Erso will always be known as the other female protagonists in Star Wars. Leia is equal parts pluck, smarts and femininity and pretty much defined female action heroes ever since. Rey and Jin in particular don’t live up to Leia’s legacy because they essentially play as male characters – the fact that they are actually female seems almost like an afterthought. Nothing about Leia or Carrie Fisher seems like an afterthought and they are given their due in The Last Jedi and somewhat surprisingly make it through to the end of the film.
1. The Force Will be With You, Always
Luke Skywalker is the archetypal hero who goes forth to fulfill his destiny. Mark Hamill was perfectly cast as the young farm boy who will become a Jedi, redeem his father and topple the evil galactic empire. This was a tall order and Luke pulled it off with an easy grace that is all the more striking when we see what has become of him in the decades since. An aging and disheartened Luke is reluctant to get involved in some damn fool idealistic crusade this time around, but he is eventually convinced to get off the sideline. At the end of The Last Jedi Luke is given a fitting “end” when he becomes one with the force after saving his sister and the other members of the resistance. We have two years to wait before we’ll find out if Luke will return in Episode IX.