In “The Last Jedi,” Star Wars Gets Self-Aware

2017 has been rough. After a year of being cyberbullied by the president, everyone just wanted to put on their ugly Christmas sweaters, go to the new Star Wars and fricken love it. And people did! After all, it had everything: blood sand, sparkle foxes, edible penguins, breastfeeding monsters, magic bracelets, mirror holes and sexy mind connections.

This Star Wars cast aside the **arguably** derivative minimalism of The Force Awakens to create a turducken-like experience that took the best of its franchise, seasoned it with notes of Harry Potter, wrapped it in a bit of The Hunger Games and glazed it with Marvel. It was funny. It was self-aware. It was at times beautiful, and at other times excessive.

I fall into the camp of people who loved The Force Awakens. I saw it four times. Rey was a revelation. John Boyega as Finn (FN-2187), the escaped Stormtrooper was brilliant. Jakku was a great garbage planet. Adam Driver as Kylo Ren was so emotive and angsty that I almost liked Girls better because of it. Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux was truly chilling. Even if it had too many echoes of the original trilogy, you can’t deny that it followed the semiotic code of Star Wars to the letter. It made us believe so hard it almost erased Jar Jar Binks. J.J. Abrams, you nailed it.


I expected a similar vibe from The Last Jedi. Instead, one of the very first moments found us LAUGHING at General Hux as Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) played a phone prank on him. What??? Please do not neuter the villain I found so scary in the last movie. And why is Star Wars being so funny? I got worried.

Then, I discovered that Finn was to barely have any interaction with Rey (who I had bet my sister-in-law he would kiss). Instead, he went off to some Hunger Games-like gambling planet with Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), who kisses him. What? And then Benicio Del Toro makes a cameo. He’s great but I do not want people I recognize from like 20 other movies in Star Wars. It ruins the illusion for me.

On that note, enter Laura Dern. I LOVE her. Also do not want her in Star Wars. Her costume and general vibe is very Hunger Games.

Many moments in this film made me wonder if Rian Johnson sat down to write it after marathoning that series and the work of  her majesty J.K. Rowling. The many delightful critters felt quite Fantastic Beasts to me, and the scene where Rey snaps and asks who her parents are is much more HP than SW. Not to mention Leia surviving cold, hard outer space and magically floating back to her ship.

But The Last Jedi is purposely frenetic, different and experimental. After all, Kylo Ren talks about killing your past to move on. Maybe I’m just being stuffy! HOWEVER, if it’s about killing your past, why so much screen time for Luke, Leia, Chewy, Yoda, C-3PO, R2-D2 et. al.? Can’t we focus on our wonderful new characters, especially Finn, who deserves a better plot line?

That said, there were many things I loved about this movie. The Rey-Kylo connection was fire. Who did not get literal goosebumps when Rey throws him the lightsaber during their epic battle with the praetorian guards? Let’s hope they don’t turn out to be twins, because we’ve had inappropriate feelings about them together by now.

When he surprises her by wanting to start a new party rather than joining the rebellion, I was like, wait … does this symbolize the rise of democratic socialism as a legitimate third party in America, and Rey is Hillary Clinton being like WHY CAN’T YOU JUST BE A DEMOCRAT? Uh maybe not. But maybe?

I also almost cried tears of femmmmiiinism when Leia says “We have all we need” to Rey, even though let’s be honest, the rebellion is totally fucked.

There’s a lot to love about The Last Jedi. I’ll see it again, but I don’t know if I’ll see it four times. While it was very decorated and glitzy and even funny, it didn’t follow the code of Star Wars that I love so much. Part of the beauty of the originals is how simple they are. Each character is boldly a single archetype, and it works!

Star Wars has always brought moments of levity to its very dark, beautiful plot lines, and that’s part of its charm. But after a slightly bloated second installment, I couldn’t help but wonder if it’s winking a little too hard.

Anyway, I’ll end my review with this tweet from Jenny Jaffe, which basically sums it all up:

” Last Jedi is a 3-hour long rebuttal to those who thought the cold shoulder trend was going anywhere”

— Jenny Jaffe (@jennyjaffe) December 19, 2017