This is Part I of IV in an ongoing series where I review The Last Jedi.
I watched The Last Jedi again over the Christmas break and I came away feeling much happier with the overall movie. The first viewing definitely felt disjointed for me, but it flowed a lot better the second time around. I understood both a) Johnson’s direction and why he could have chosen certain routes, or b) character motivations.
Now that I have two viewings under my belt, I’d like to go into a TLJ series and delve a little deeper into the different storylines and characters we met or got to know better.
The Resistance was pummeled again and again in TLJ. It’s a very dark, desperate movie for most of our protagonists. The wins for the Resistance are small, and even though they ended up destroying so much of the larger ships of the First Order by the end, I still did not feel like the Resistance by any means won or came out ahead. It felt more like they barely escaped, which essentially, is the truth of it. I think this movie showed us more about the “wars” in the Star Wars title than Rogue One.
I felt a slight stab to my heart when they released the beacon at the end of the movie but no one had come to their aid. I wonder how that will play into the next movie. Were other supporters tracking what was happening and saw them lose more and more members and realize it may not be worth it? Will they rally around when they see Rey with her lightsaber, a sign that a Jedi has returned, a sign of hope?
With the main Resistance plot, I had two slight issues with the First Order tracking the them through hyperspace: 1) It reminded me strongly of the first episode of Battlestar Galactica, almost to the point of a rip-off and, 2) it takes away the strength of lightspeed. With ESB, this was cleverly done by having the Falcon’s hyperdrive malfunction/break. With TLJ, it seemed like a cheap way to spin old plotline.
That aside, we’ve never had the Rebellion/Resistance stuck. Just stuck. Nowhere to go, losing fuel, with more and more members being killed off by the First Order. It was very painful to watch. I think this movie drove home the fact that you lose lives in war more than any other Star Wars movie. It’s something that underlies the other movies but not something that is blatantly obvious. With TLJ, you get that point in the first 15 minutes and it breaks your heart. I thought the beginning battle sequence had a slight ROTS similarity, but the death of Rose’s sister and her sacrifice for the Resistance was gut wrenching. I don’t think I’ve ever felt like I was punched in the stomach that quickly into a Star Wars movie.
Poe is given a larger role in TLJ than he has in TFA and I enjoyed his character more. Thank goodness they gave him that scene in the beginning of the movie because otherwise he would have been a sitting duck the rest of the two hours. I’m glad we got to see some more of his pilot skills and some slight humor once more when he was bantering with General Hux.
I liked having Poe as a brash pilot who thinks and knows he’s that good that he can get away with what he wants. But he also strongly believes in taking the chances they have, which unfortunately ends up losing more lives than General Organa would like.
What I enjoyed immensely was how often he was put in his place by both Leia and Holdo. I feel like a lot of fans were upset about Poe’s treatment, which I understand, because we glorified the cocky, handsome pilot with Han but are punishing Poe. It’s easy to romanticize characters like Poe who are awesome at what they, but Poe is a working member of a military organization. If you are not obeying the rules of unity of command, then you are putting lives at stake and deserve to be demoted. He made constant mistakes throughout the movie by not being patient and it cost lives repeatedly. I believe that it was nice to see his behavior is not allowed and there are consequences for what he did. He lost too many lives for one chance. Was the chance worth it? Yes. But what if every good pilot was taking chances and not listening to orders? It can’t be allowed. And if it happens, there must be consequences.
Vice Admiral Holdo
I wasn’t sure how I felt about Vice Admiral Holdo. I thought she was a good addition in the sense that it was nice to see Leia have a female friend and I liked seeing another high-ranking member of the Resistance be a female.
In my first post after watching TLJ, I could not understand why Holdo did not tell Poe her plan and strategy. I was upset about it. Yet after reading some tweets between fans, I realized that the only reason I wanted her to tell her plan was because Poe is a main character. At the same time, it contradicted what I have just mentioned about the military organization. Why should a high-ranking officer tell a brash pilot their plan? Especially someone like Poe who can’t seem to be patient and respect a higher rank?
Holdo’s sacrifice towards the end of the movie drove home again the desperation of the Resistance. They finally catch a break and head toward Crait in transports only to find themselves getting destroyed. Holdo turns around and saves the remaining members of the Resistance by sacrificing her life. I wanted to cheer and cry at the same time.
As an addition to the movie, I’m not sure if Holdo was the strongest character, but I did appreciate her end. I went from being annoyed at her to admiring her. For a short amount of screen time, that’s impressive.
The first time I watched TLJ, I was waiting for Leia to die the entire movie which made the movie a little distracting. Some of me wishes I had known she was not going to die, because then I could have watched her scenes with more interest, instead of trying to become slightly detached because I knew her death was imminent.
There is always one scene in each of the new movies that I can’t stand, and in this one it was Leia floating through space to get back to her ship. In a way, I thought the fake-death was a fitting ending for Leia’s character. Her son does not kill her, but it still gets her death out of the way early in the film. I also think it would have made Vice Admiral Holdo’s character stronger. Instead, she survives her stint in space while somewhat frozen, and propels herself back to her ship using the Force. It was just…silly. This is one of those scenes where people tend to either love it or hate it. I am going for the latter.
I enjoyed Leia’s character development for most of this movie. We saw her as a mother, a leader, and a friend. I don’t think we’ve ever seen that combination before. In TFA she was a mother, a lover, and a leader. It was nice to see her friendship with Holdo, another woman, as I mentioned previously. Her connection to Ben showed her strength in the Force, so much so that she knew he was going to shoot her ship, but then decided not to. When she demoted Poe in the beginning of the movie, it also kind of reminded me of her leadership in ANH, when she was being rescued by two kids who needed her rescuing more than she needed theirs.
My only disappointment with Leia, and I know so many people felt like this, is that the movie did not give her a satisfying death. Since we know she will not be in Episode IX, it would have been appropriate to find a time where she could die and work that into the storyline.
The last scene on Crait was interesting, mostly because it reminded me of a Star Wars Rebels episode. I’m finding as I continue to watch these movies under Disney, I see traces of how they are pulling the canon into a cohesive unit. Together, but separate. I liked that it was in old Rebel base so it tied back to the Original Trilogy and the Vulptexes (crystal foxes) also reminded me of how Rebels often finds ways to bring animals into their storylines. The most important part to take away from this scene/ending (other than the Luke/Ben showdown), was that Poe was taking over in command. It’s almost as if Leia gives her blessing when she tells everyone to follow him instead of looking to her. It’s a small moment, but I believe it will be critical to how we view Poe in IX.
One of the most important lessons I took away from TLJ was to always do the right thing, no matter how hard it might be. I talked with a lot of people who thought the overarching sentiment was to never give up hope. Yes, I believe that is true, but I came away with the fact that you never, ever give up doing what you believe is right. Even when all the odds are against you, you keep at it because that is what will produce the hope that others need.
What was the lesson you took away from watching the Resistance and it’s characters in TLJ?