I just got back from seeing Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Let’s get this out of the way right now: the movie is okay. Not great, not bad, okay. I would recommend that the Star Wars faithful see it, but I don’t think it’s worth the ticket price for the average movie goer. Adam Driver is great as Kylo Ren (up until the end of the movie, which I’ll get to in a bit). Kelly Marie Tran is lovable and bold as Rose Tico, and the chemistry between her and John Boyega’s Finn is outstanding (sorry to all the Poe x Finn shippers). Mark Hamil and Daisy Ridley are good together too, but the performances are weighed down by so much plot that the movie’s run time comes to an unbelievable 2 hours 33 minutes. I don’t want this to turn into “Jamil nitpicks Star Wars,” because it could very easily become that and that’s not useful for anyone. Instead, I want to focus on the major problem of the movie. The Last Jedi comes so close to doing some truly interesting things with its characters, but falls short when the time comes to push the envelope.
This complaint falls especially on Ben Solo/Kylo Ren. So much of The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi are spent showing us that Kylo Ren is not just a sneering villain pursuing evil for its own sake, but a young man torn between the Light and the Dark. The two sides of his heritage are embodied by his mother and father on the Light Side, and his grandfather, Darth Vader, on the Dark Side. He makes choices in TFA that we presumed would be explained in The Last Jedi, and Rey even asks him point blank about those choices, such as why he murdered his father. Ben simply doesn’t answer. When he finally commits fully to evil by murdering Snoke, instead of being surprised, I found myself asking “Why?” Without that answer, Kylo Ren devolves into the sneering villain doing evil for its own sake that the writers spent so much time trying to avoid.
“Why?” litters The Last Jedi. Why is Kylo evil? Why is Poe Dameron suddenly such a jackass? Why does Luke change his mind about the need for the Jedi to end? Why does Rey choose the Light? There were some fascinating questions raised in the movie, but they almost all go unanswered and the movie settles back into a comfortable status quo by sidestepping anything potentially interesting about the Force, the Jedi and the nature of good and evil. Snoke’s explanation about linking Rey and Ben telepathically is almost eye-rollingly disappointing, as the richest vein in the movie (aside from the budding relationship between Rose and Finn, which I can’t stop effusing about) is reduced to a plot point to get Rey in front of Snoke…who then dies the most bitch-made death since Mace Windu.
The Last Jedi ultimately fails its characters, and doesn’t have a plot interesting enough to make up for it. Captain Phasma manages to be criminally underused yet again, and her fiery death means there won’t be a chance to fix that in Episode IX. Snoke felt like a fake out instead of an actual character (Kylo was the Big Bad all along!). But the biggest waste was the relationship between Ben and Rey. There was an interesting dance between light and dark happening between then, and we reached the perfunctory conclusion of their connection before it could be explored fully. The Last Jedi certainly won’t be the last time we see the Jedi; Star Wars Episode IX is due out in theaters on December 20, 2019. I’ll be there on opening night, as usual, but my expectations will be tempered even further.