Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi is No Empire Strikes Back, And That’s a Good Thing
WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi.
Two years ago I walked out of the theater after Episode VII with a heart full of hope – not just because the movie was amazing, but because it reassured me that the Star Wars universe is still full of stories to be told. Tonight, Episode VIII: The Last Jedi proved that The Force Awakens wasn’t just a fluke.
*I cannot express how serious I am about the fact that those who haven’t seen Star Wars: The Last Jedi should not read any further. Unless of course you for some reason WANT to be spoiled, in which case I guess I’ll just say read on at your own risk.*
I started to write this review only to stop, go back, and delete the beginning…not once, not twice, but several times. I love the Star Wars saga so much that it’s more difficult than I’d like to put things into perspective – while there were more than a few moments during The Last Jedi where I found myself cringing and/or wondering ‘WHY?’, the overall feeling that I had while watching this film was that I never wanted it to end.
Seriously, it was a very odd experience – and one I’ve never had before – to see The Last Jedi get to a point where I felt like I’d been in the theater for eons, but knew that if it ended right then it would do so at either a very awkward stopping point or on a huge cliffhanger. I actually checked the time on my phone because I was worried that it would be over soon, and when I saw that it had been running for nearly two hours already I felt a…let’s say mild…sense of panic. Not because I was bored or wanted it to be over; I literally felt the exact opposite. (And okay, it wasn’t just a MILD sense of panic.)
To be honest, now I’m drawing out actually *reviewing* The Last Jedi for basically the same reason: I never want it to end. But please stick with me, because I definitely have a lot to say!
First things first, the only [somewhat minor] spoiler I saw before the film was someone talking about how people complained that Episode VII was too much like A New Hope, while apparently people are complaining that Episode VIII isn’t *enough* like The Empire Strikes Back. And in a way, they aren’t wrong – The Last Jedi isn’t Empire. But unless you’re such an Empire fan
boyperson that you can’t see the good in any other decent Star Wars movie, I can’t imagine disliking TLJ simply because it doesn’t ‘stay true’ to Empire.
I mean, come on – even the cutesy animals that I for one was more than a little bit worried about were actually pleasantly surprising. Sure, I’ll admit it: I was nothing but excited for those ice foxes and guys…THEY DID NOT DISAPPOINT. But the *porgs*? They were already being shoved down our throats months ago, and I was NOT a fan. Only it turns out that there was juuuust enough of them to be adorable comic relief. So Last Jedi gets an A++ in this department…at least from me. (Sure, they might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I really don’t believe they were overdone, and like I said…pleasant surprise.)
Weirdly enough, while I thought one of my biggest complaints about Episode VIII would be porgs, it’s actually the exact opposite – the villains. To be honest, the villains are probably the biggest reason why The Last Jedi is no Empire Strikes Back…because hey, remember all of those theories about who/what Snoke was? Well, they kind of don’t matter at all, because while we finally got to see him in person, we learned nothing about his history and now he’s dead. While we didn’t learn much about the Emperor in the original trilogy, he was a shadow figure until the last third of ROTJ, so to have his analog revealed and removed in the second part of this new trilogy definitely shakes things up a bit.
And generally I wouldn’t judge that too harshly, except for the fact that Snoke’s death meant that the main villains in the end of Episode VIII (and therefore likely through Episode IX as well) are Kylo Ren and General Hux. Meanwhile, Kylo Ren is still acting on pure [mostly negative] emotion – he behaves like (and I suppose therefore is) a petulant man-child…which somehow leaves *Hux* as the most capable villain of the lot. I mean…my friends who love Hux are going to be happy, but I can’t imagine I’m the only one left wondering, ‘what???’
What about Phasma, you ask? Because unless you’ve been living in a hole, you must have known she didn’t die in Force Awakens…and she definitely makes a badass comeback in The Last Jedi. Unfortunately her total screen time is [I believe] less than five minutes, and while I SUPPOSE you can say that her ‘death’ was once again left [sort of] up in the air…she definitely fell into a fiery pit. Sure, her armor was bulletproof, so maybe it was fireproof…I guess? Except that her helmet had a hole in it and you can’t tell me there was NOTHING flammable through that hole (like you know, HER SKIN). So while I hate that this is probably the case, I think we have to say goodbye to Phasma. And hey, I’ll admit it, her appearance and probable death in this movie actually makes me want to read that book about her sooner rather than later, despite its mixed reviews – so good on you, Disney.
As for the good guys? They were definitely one of the best things about Episode VIII, and a lot of that was because I kind of never knew what to expect. My biggest concern was about Leia – with Carrie Fisher’s untimely and heartbreaking death, every time Leia was on screen I was on the edge of my seat wondering if this would be her last scene. I wish that I could say that I always believed she would be alive at the end of the movie, but I was never really certain. And even though she did live through it all, I’m not afraid to admit that I shed a tear during her scene with Luke, particularly when he said “no one ever *really* leaves us”.
Meanwhile, we got to see more of Poe being a badass pilot, but it was nice to see him make mistakes, as well…and while I wish that Laura Dern’s character Vice Admiral Holdo hadn’t been a one shot wonder, I’m guessing (okay, hoping) that we’ll get some backstory on her eventually…likely through a novel, and if it’s not already in the works, can I put my name in as a potential author? Because not only would I love to write a Star Wars novel, I would love to write about her in particular. Not just because she had a history as an amazing fighter herself, but because I want to explore her relationship with Leia. I mean, this could be the new ship – not replacing StormPilot, of course, but guys, I want General Leia/Vice Admiral Holdo background. (If you have ship name suggestions, please send them my way, as I’m stuck on HoldLeia and I’m not sure that’s any good. But maybe it is, and if so, you’re welcome.)
Speaking of StormPilot…while I can’t claim to be a big purveyor of the ship, I’m definitely ‘meh’ about that Finn/Rose kiss. Sure, they were cute as partners in crime, but if she hadn’t professed her love and kissed him I wouldn’t have thought that’s where The Last Jedi was going with these two. Rose herself was a cute edition to the cast of characters; an idealistic girl with a rough past who lost her sister to the cause? It checks all the boxes! I just don’t like forced relationships and her ‘love’ for Finn seemed a bit…misplaced? I mean, is it still hero worship considering she herself became a hero?
Thankfully we at least got plenty of Poe and BB-8 because that is a broship I will go down with. Once again, BB-8 stole most of the scenes he was in. How about that time they put him under a trash can and he looked just like an old-school Imperial droid? HILARIOUS. And as for his ‘evil twin’ BB-9E? That is now a backstory I need in my life.
I realize that I have waxed not-so-poetic for well over a thousand words without even touching on Luke and Rey, which to be honest is because I’m so torn about everything that happened there. Some of it was very true to Star Wars lore – for instance, Luke residing on a planet that has strong dark side energy because the dark and the light balance each other and therefore hide him, a la Yoda. But as someone who has seen all of the Star Wars movies more times than I can count, has read nearly every EU and new canon book that’s been released, and played several of the Star Wars video games, I’ll be honest…I really liked the idea of there being no more Jedi, at least not in the way they’ve been portrayed for so long. Granted, now that Luke has become one with the Force, Rey has the ability to move forward and handle things differently…but she did take the Jedi texts from the island, so I have my doubts.
All that said, so far Rey’s brushes with the dark side have been portrayed as necessary, and yet she has never faltered in her commitment to be good. Does this make her what is known as a ‘Gray Jedi’, or is it just a [very strong] hint that she is incorruptible? I feel like the latter is pretty unrealistic, but who am I to talk? Maybe these days people need to see incorruptible heroes…though after all, there’s still Episode IX. Unfortunately, it also seems as if all those theories about her parentage were wrong…unless she is holding something back and/or Kylo Ren is lying, her parents were ‘nobodies’. And while I personally didn’t ascribe to any particular Rey parentage theory, I’m a bit torn about her parents just being drunks from Jakku and would love to hear others’ thoughts on this!
To be honest, I could probably write another thousand words about The Last Jedi, but we at The Geekiary have plenty of Star Wars content for you throughout the next few days – including our third annual FEELINGS…with The Geekiary Star Wars Holiday Special on Sunday 12/17 at 8 PM Eastern! So for now I’ll leave you with these random thoughts:
- The Maz Kanata cameo was nice, but I hope this isn’t the last we’ll see of her!
- The casino stuff was not my favorite, and did anyone else have a freakout OH GOD NO NOT POD RACES moment before they revealed that it was an
- Speaking of that ^ did they not take any lessons from the prequels re: having little kids in these movies? Or am I the only one ‘ugh’ing about those scenes?
- Is Benecio Del Toro’s character DJ supposed to be the new Lando? I’m guessing so but that’s another thing I’m not feeling.
In the end, Episode VIII was essentially Episode V and most of Episode VI of the original trilogy. With The Last Jedi, this new trilogy set the table, and now we really don’t know what Episode IX will be. Moving forward, they can do their own thing, and I’m inclined to believe that’s for the best.
What did you think of The Last Jedi? Let us know in the comments!
Author: Tara Lynne
Tara Lynne is an author, fandom and geek culture expert, and public speaker. She founded Ice & Fire Con, the first ever Game of Thrones convention in the US, and now runs its parent company Saga Event Planning.
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