Renegade Review: The Last Jedi

Alex Volkerijk and Charlotte Mandy

The following are two reviews of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The first of them is spoiler free, the second is not.

Review #1 by Alex Volkerijk

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the latest installment in the Star Wars franchise. This is my review of the movie, so this is just my point of view on it.

Firstly, the story and script. I believe it was enjoyable enough, but I do have some complaints. The editing and pacing of the movie was jumpy and oddly paced in some places. Not going into specifics, there are some points in the movie where the focus would be on one group of characters, and then abruptly jump to another. At other times, it felt like the focus was on one group for too long. This was most noticeable during the middle of the movie. The ending and beginning were very well done.

Regarding the actual story itself, it was brilliant. I felt we got a perfect balance of new and old Star Wars, captivating heroes and villains, and an amazing second installment in this new trilogy. It almost makes me sad that we only have one more movie with these characters.

Speaking of characters, the acting in this movie is the best in the entire franchise. The dynamic relationships between the characters were absolutely incredible. The three standout performances in the movie for me were Mark Hamill as an older, almost washed up Luke Skywalker, Carrie Fisher’s last beautiful performance as an older and wiser general Leia Organa, and, in my opinion the best actor in the movie, Adam Driver as the dynamic and mesmerizing Kylo Ren. Adam’s acting as a torn yet confident leader of The First Order was brilliant, stealing every scene he is in. I especially loved his almost sibling-like rivalry with General Hux, played by Domhnall Gleeson. All the main cast from The Force Awakens is back as well. Daisy Ridley as Rey, the main protagonist and wide-eyed scavenger from Jakku, John Boyega as the stormtrooper-turned-Resistance fighter Finn, and Oscar Isaac as the headstrong and confident Resistance pilot Poe Dameron. Along with a cast of new characters, the movie would not be as good as it is without all these extremely talented actors.

As for the technical aspects of the movie, the CGI and practical effects, camera work, sound design, puppeteering, prosthetics, costume design, set design, and of course, John William’s beautiful scoring as always, were all absolutely breathtaking. Industrial Light and Magic knocked it out of the park. Rian Johnson’s cinematography was also very well done and always kept the audience close to the action.

All in all, I think The Last Jedi was a wonderful movie that everyone should definitely see.




Review #2 by Charlotte Mandy

Admittedly, I was counting down to The Last Jedi, not Christmas.

Like the utter nerd I am, I anticipated this next chapter of the Skywalker saga more than any movie in 2017. Two years have given the fans (including me) a long time to form expectations and ‘must-haves,’ so it is not surprising that there is a noisy dissonance between the thoughts of professional critics and the thoughts of fans. I myself am a little bit divided on the film, with my focus being predominantly on the characters themselves.

Creatively, it was far more original and emotionally engaging than The Force Awakens. The attention to detail was familiar and welcome, as was another one of John William’s galaxy-spanning scores. That said, sometimes I felt as if the story was running in place, creating problems and ‘sidequests’ just to fit the adage “failure is the greatest teacher.”

Many have praised Johnson’s choices for the narrative as courageous and groundbreaking, but I found them somewhat underwhelming when considered alongside the narrative direction for The Force Awakens. Rather than give more complex answers to those questions posited by JJ Abrams (Who are the Knights of Ren? Why is Rey strong with the Force and what are her origins? Who is Snoke?), Johnson  elected to consistently ignore or dismiss them with a ‘not important anymore.’ Or Snoke’s outright bisection-by-lightsaber, which I admittedly applauded. If this was the plan all along I could understand and appreciate this trope-flipping route, but Abrams explicitly had different goals for the characters, and it makes these two movies seem slightly disjointed and in-cohesive despite having no time lapse between them.

I found the tongue-in-cheek Guardians of the Galaxy-style humor out of character for Star Wars, but very funny nonetheless, not to mention refreshing to see the franchise not take itself so seriously. I never knew how much I needed to see General Hux be prank-called, or Luke chuck the so-called sacred cow of the Skywalker saber off of a cliff. (I am not sure how I feel about seeing him milk an actual space cow, though.)

Rey and Kylo’s scenes were absolutely electric, completely unpredictable, and among my favorites, as well as a refreshing next step from their more one-dimensional adversarial relationship in TFA. They opened up a new frontier for the Force and introduced a constant underlying tension, like a drum the film was marching to and the very conflict and connection the saga is built on.

Even the soul-crushing ‘your parents were terrible nobodies, you are nothing and no one’ was well done (although I am not sure if I can bring myself to believe it just yet– after all, Snoke gave them those visions– yeah I’m not letting this one go), and while I may disagree with this specific choice for the character, I can really get behind this theme of ‘unknowns’ using the Force.

Seeing a little slave boy staring off into the stars with tales of Jedi in his eyes and a broom he just summoned to his hands was perhaps the most Star Wars ending of any movie yet.

I would be remiss if I neglected to mention Carrie Fisher’s final outing as Leia Organa, having passed away before filming for Episode 9 began. My immediate reaction was that her loss of hope in the end was a great disservice, but it plays upon the central idea that these idealized people are still fallible.  Still, she was a wise and experienced general this time, more powerful in the Force than we have seen her yet, and more humble. I am still having difficulty accepting it was her last hurrah. Though, as Luke says, no one is ever truly gone.

Finn, Poe, and newcomer Rose also gave some impressive performances, though I could not help but feel they had been over-simplified simply to prove points and missed out on some greater storyline in midst of the time-wasting diversionary tactics of about half an hour of the movie.

Finn and Rose’s wild goose chase for a Master Codebreaker was visually compelling, that is the best I can say for it.

Overall, I would not rate it as my favorite installment, but I think in terms of originality, I concur with the critics heaping praise upon it. Simply put, I don’t think it was meant to be a satisfying or comforting story, or the typical ‘hero’s journey.’ The Last Jedi excels in being quite the opposite.

It takes some of your most prized and closely-held ideas about what Star Wars and the people populating it should be and turns them on their head, because it can. It challenges you to evaluate your heroes and why you admire them, as well as your enemies, and what defines the difference—as Rose says, “look closer.” It presents Rey as a self-made heroine, choosing the side of the Light not because it is her birthright or lineage but because she feels it is right. It dismantles the idealistic Luke Skywalker, lays bare his weakness, allows him to forgive himself and face the storm one last time…and drains his life.  

In short, it feels more like an ending than, I think, even Episode IX might. Like that symbolic burning of the Jedi tree, The Last Jedi marks the end of an era, but also the beginning of a new one.