As of Dec. 18 at 10:27 p.m. MST, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is at 93 percent on the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer, but only 56 percent for the audience score.
This suggests that critics love the film and fans hate it. I’m a fan but rather like it.
Besides pointing out the evils of sexual assault, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is so more-than-good-enough that the real question we should be asking with the new Star Wars trilogy is where Disney/Lucasfilm is going from here, given that Episode IX was going to be Leia’s movie but Carrie Fisher is gone. (“We pretty much started over,” Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy said.)
I say this despite being fairly upset coming out of the theater the first time. But then I went a second time and gave a thumbs-up to a theater staffer after the showing was over. And it wasn’t because I cried again at parts that made my childhood immediate. Rather, I noticed details that made me realize that Rian Johnson’s film had a quality script.
Wanted Luke Skywalker? We got a whole film about him. (The title even refers to him.)
Wanted him to be legendary? He displayed an entirely new Force power.
Wanted to know who Rey’s parents are? An answer WAS given – and while it was in a way we didn’t expect, isn’t the bigger question why she Force skills in The Force Awakens that we’ve always seen developed? (And there’s reason from the very film in discussion to believe that will yet be answered.)
No, we didn’t learn who Snoke is. But ever since we saw that he represented a clear attempt to invoke nostalgia over Emperor Palpatine, we should have asked why he was in Awakens at all.
Perhaps we should consider that Jedi got the story where it needed to be despite having a long way to get there since Awakens didn’t do much more than invoke nostalgia, winning back the fan base.
That’s not a slight on Awakens – it did its job marvelously.
But with millions back on board with the franchise, there needed to be challenges for the protagonists to overcome to the level seen in The Last Jedi. Otherwise, the characters from the old trilogy may as well be limited to late-night comedy as seen with Mark Hamill on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.
And that’s not a slight on late-night comedy or The Late Show. But we want mythology, right? That skit served no better purpose than laughs. For mythology, we must see the characters on uncharted courses.
And how better was that seen than with Luke thinking that the organization he sought to be part of should be no more? That Luke never wanted to again put himself in the position of being tempted to kill a pupil?
Luke saw a made-whole, epic end. He saved the day by demonstrating a power in the Force previously unseen. In becoming one with the Force, he joined the ranks of the greatest Jedi.
We should not lose one bit of hope that Rey’s untrained skills as seen in Awakens will be explained. That’s because this film spoke to it, suggesting that it’s not off the minds of Kennedy and her team.
Among other lines throughout the film, Snoke says “the light to meet it” in reference to Rey after saying “darkness rises” in reference to Ren. And this comes after Rey and Ren clearly have a remarkable connection in the Force. We must be crazy if we are to think that Snoke’s statement and the scenes where Rey and Ren are psychically linked has no relationship. And if we aren’t, then we’ll have J.J. Abrams to blame after seeing Episode IX (he’s that film’s director).
What we watched helps us know that Rey indeed may still be a reincarnation of the Chosen One, or a reincarnation of the first Force user, or an expression in some way of the Force providing a means for the balance to the evil that Ren wrought. This may have even been suggested when Luke is giving his first lesson to Rey.
Because what was that? Rey seeing that there is always balance – and that the Force exists because of that. Recall also that when she was meditating in this film, she was seeing visions of things that applied to her. Including when she saw how the need for balance was the Force.
(That’s another thing – we got an expansion of the definition of the Force. The mythology was indeed expanded. Even for that reason, let alone for the tree, books and especially what Yoda said, the mythology was indeed expanded.)
Awakens was meant to echo A New Hope – and Palpatine wasn’t in a A New Hope. He came later, after we became convinced of the villain of Darth Vader and could yet imagine how evil his master would be. Yet, we got all excited about Snoke in Awakens.
But he had no purpose. He was brought in without any introduction, let alone in a gradual process through his pupil that let us know how evil he is. That leaves us to consider that Snoke was written into Awakens only because of our nostalgia concerning Palpatine.
There was no place to go with Snoke. Yes, it actually would have been kind of cool if he gave a 30-second speech about how he was Darth Plagueis, even if Rey naturally would have said “who?” and moved on, as Johnson pointed out. But it would have contributed actually nothing to this story of Episode VIII of the saga.
If anything, be upset not with Jedi, but that your emotions, there because of the way you thought as a child, were manipulated in Awakens.
Or don’t, and realize: Awakens did its job. Jedi did its job. And the overall story arc is at the point it needs to be.
Instead, we now have two compelling stories to follow: the one on-screen AND the one off – how Disney/Lucasfilm is going to recover the Episode IX story from the ashes in the wake of Carrie’s death.