Each week, leading up to The Rise of Skywalker, we will ask certain Matrix team members for their takes on every Star Wars film in chronological order. Last week, we discussed Episode VII: The Force Awakens.
(Catch up if you need. We’ll wait…)
This week, we will unfold our thoughts on The Last Jedi, probably the most divisive Star Wars film to date. It does so much to subvert expectations and build off what has come, but obviously … not everyone liked it.
The Last Jedi follows the Resistance as they mount a desperate escape from the First Order, while Rey tries to convince Luke to train her and return to save the day once again. There’s so much to discuss in this film, so let’s get right in to see what our members at MoviesMatrix have to say…
Q1. General Thoughts?
Marsellus Durden: Monumentally divisive but undeniably ambitious, I am on the side that adores this film. Although it may have not been what the audience expected, I loved the challenging twists and risks this film took. Again, while not a strong point for many, I felt where this film ultimately took Luke Skywalker was truly fitting and beautiful as he literally transcended himself into the great Force.
Logan Slavin: Despite the controversy, I love this movie. The action is top notch. The cinematography might be the best in the franchise. The visuals are flawless. And the characters are entertaining. Rey and Kylo’s relationship is interesting and engaging. It’s great to see Luke again, even if he isn’t portrayed the way many people wanted him to be. Overall, it’s a great movie.
Owen: I really like this film. It comes in on the higher end of the lower half of my ranking, but there is so much to love. The new force-abilities, twists, character arcs, themes, action, cinematography — all prove some of these high points are among the Saga’s best. On the other hand, it does have some of it’s lowest points. Some of the comedy, while funny, did not feel like it belonged in Star Wars. While I don’t believe the same sense of adventure known for Star Wars films was present, my general thoughts on this movie are good.
Michael Colan: The Last Jedi is one of the best Star Wars films to date. Rian Johnson masterfully intermixing, action, grand storytelling and pushing the character forward into new depth. There are a few flaws here and there but on the whole it does everything that a Star Wars movie should do (more on that later).
WriteOnGeek: This movie was “controversial” because it didn’t meet crazed fandom expectations. Yet, let the sequel sit on the shelf and watch the movie for what it is — a continuation of the Skywalker saga and a novel introduction of where the Force can lead everyone in the cosmos. The new aptitudes and relationships were well done. And Luke’s triumphant return? Please. This worked!
Q2. Opinions on the New Force Abilities
Marsellus Durden: The new intricacies of the Force were some of my favorite moments Rian Johnson has brought to this universe. Especially Luke’s other worldly, all-powerful Force projection. The very thought of the amount of energy and will this would require is truly fitting for Luke at this stage in his life and fulfills his cycle from Padawan to Master beautifully.
Logan Slavin: I loved the new Force powers. The mind connection was an interesting plot point, and a cool way to allow the hero and villain to communicate and build a relationship without being in the same room. The Force projection is a very believable power, especially because it was in one of the Jedi Texts. I loved how it was used in the movie for Luke’s final sacrifice.
Owen: I love them, especially Rey and Kylo’s “force-call,” as I like to call it. It was such an interesting and clever addition to further their relationship. I was also a huge fan of Luke’s bad-ass force projection reveal at the end of the film. It was the ultimate move to show Luke’s mastery over the Force. (Also, I’m not so convinced we’ll never see him alive again, but only time will tell.)
Michael Colan: I like them. They all feel aligned with what came before in the Star Wars mythos and not out of left field at all. The link between Kylo and Rey feels appropriate given their rise in the Force, both acting as balances to each other. Specifically, the tradition in fantasy storytelling to have the antagonist and protagonist mentally linked in some fashion. This further complicates and challenges both Rey and Kylo’s development making for interesting character choices and more to examine than what was previously there (it’s also not that much different than we’ve seen previously between Luke and Leia mentally linked).
The Force projection is the ultimate Jedi power we’ve seen. Everyone wanted Luke to be strong in the Force, ripping down Star Destroyers and getting into epic lightsaber duels. Rian Johnson gave us that, but he did it in a far smarter way.
The Force projection is in with the proper teachings of the Jedi, used in a way to act in defense of his friends and not for attack. Sure, giving Luke a Darth Vader hallway scene sounds nice, but in terms of storytelling, it doesn’t exactly fit what is going on thematically. It was a more interesting choice to have Luke not engage in violence in such a manner.
WriteOnGeek: Somewhere, Yoda was hacking his way through Force Ghost muttering, “Get to do cool ish like that, I did not.” C’mon. Luke completely clowned his nephew by not even being there in the flesh. I took allegiance to canon, respect to material, and love for the subject matter to have Luke put Kylo to shame. (And, yes, that completely answers Q3.) To summarize, there were aspects of the Force most fans didn’t believe would ever see time on film. We did, and regardless of hurt feelers, we have The Last Jedi to thank.
Q3. Was Rian “Disrespectful”?
Marsellus Durden: Absolutely not. Rian brought us some of the most heartwarming and meaningful scenes in the entire saga. Most notably, Luke’s reunion with R2, Luke’s farewell to Leia, leaving Han’s dice, and Force Ghost Yoda having one more final lesson for Luke Skywalker all brought me to tears of both joy and sadness. Brilliant, emotional story-pieces that serve the greater narrative beautifully.
Logan Slavin: Rian Johnson was not disrespectful to Star Wars. Luke’s character progression was believable. He’s never been this optimistic hero. He was whinny and, above all else, emotional. So losing his cool for a second and almost making a rash decision is completely in character.
Owen: Not in the slightest. First off, many people try to push the idea that he was purposefully trying to “ruin Star Wars” but there is no evidence (no matter what conspiracy the Fandom Menace *eye roll* comes up with) to even remotely hint that he meant to be disrespectful. Rian was trying to make the best film possible. Second, the story is advancing, which means that things need to be added, and old characters need to change in order for their arcs to be believable and compelling. You may not like what he did with this film, but don’t attack the man, his intentions were good.
Michael Colan: Absolutely not. This is one of my biggest disagreements with my fellow friends that didn’t like this movie. To say this is disrespectful towards Star Wars feels silly to me. Disrespectful towards what exactly? This isn’t about “killing the past” as some would have you believe, that’s Kylo’s point of view that Rey rejects. This is about learning from the past, from failure. Improving upon yourself for future generations. The movie challenges our preconceived notions of what we hold as good and bad in the galaxy, showing there are shades of grey but still illustrating that it is important to take a side and stand for something. This feels like “Star Wars renewed.” It understands the basic principles of Star Wars, and updates them for a new generation of kids and fans dealing with the failures of previous generations.
It doesn’t disrespect Star Wars. It has the same silliness as the previous films, the same darkness and the same “Flash Gordonish” action we come to expect. I would assume most call it disrespectful because of the depiction of Luke, but just because it has Luke going through failure and making a mistake (dealing with PTSD in the process), doesn’t make it disrespectful towards Star Wars, which is a generational story.
Each trilogy deals with something new — each informed by what is going on in society. The original trilogy was informed by the Vietnam War. The prequels were informed by a post 9/11 America. This sequels trilogy is informed by something different. Having characters dealing with the failures of the past isn’t “not growing” or disrespecting them, it’s telling a story about them at a different point in their life and how that relates to the new world they inhabit. I haven’t heard a compelling argument to suggest this movie was disrespectful towards Star Wars yet.
WriteOnGeek: See my previous response. Suffice to say, you cannot have a product adhering to canon nuance the way The Last Jedi does without respecting the original material. People were looking to hate simply because “I wouldn’t have done it that way.” Well, good thing Kathleen Kennedy didn’t ask you to make it…and the person she did ask, did not do a bad job.
Q4. Snoke’s Death: Good or Bad?
Marsellus Durden: Admittedly, I had no idea how to process my initial feelings of Snoke’s sudden murder, but overall it was definitely necessary to show how strong Kylo Ren truly is and cements his role as the true opponent for Rey in the finale.
Logan Slavin: I’m divided on this subject. I liked it, but I also don’t like some aspects of it. I like how it was done and how everything Snoke said could be interpreted in two ways, but I feel like it was a little too early to kill Snoke. It was a good subversion of expectations, but a little bit rushed. I would have waited until the beginning of the third movie, that way it doesn’t feel early, but you still get Kylo as the supreme leader for the majority of the movie.
Owen: Very good. I would’ve loved to see more of Snoke, but I love that he’s dead even more. It made Kylo the true big bad of this trilogy, and took his character into a direction I never expected. It also paved the way for the Emperor to return in The Rise of Skywalker, which I for one am very excited to see play out.
Michael Colan: Yes! Now first, obviously I wanted to know more about Snoke but that burden wasn’t the film’s story to bear. Because of the lack of context in the previous film we are left a little in the dark over who Snoke is but never are the characters questioning who he is. Everyone in the story seems to know who Snoke is; ergo, they don’t need any big reveals or explanations. He is just the new big bad in the galaxy and within the framework of the story I think it works. Besides, Kylo turning on Snoke was genuine shock to me as a viewer and caught me completely off guard and geared up for one of the best scenes in Star Wars history.
WriteOnGeek: I would have loved to see Snoke and Palpatine interact in The Rise of Skywalker. Do I think Snoke was killed off too early? Perhaps, but his death cancelled any thought of Ben Solo going soft. Dude is a formidable Sith…in training. Then, he turns on Snoke and forces him to eat some saber. In my theater, a cacophonous “Holy Ish” rang out, so that was a lovely payoff.
Q5. Favorite Scene?
Marsellus Durden: This one may surprise some people but for decades it was speculated how Force sensitive and powerful Leia could be. Although I didn’t completely care for the way it was presented, seeing Leia finally use the Force during her most desperate hour brought a huge smile to my face. Moments like that are exactly what enriches the Star Wars experience for myself and fans all over the world.
Logan Slavin: My favorite scene is the throne room scene. The choreography is good and it’s fun to see the villain and hero team up instead of fight each other. Another great scene is when Luke force-projects himself to save the day. I love everything about that scene, especially that he dies looking at a pair of suns, just like on Tatooine.
Owen: Yeah, the throne room scene is one of the best of the franchise, but I have to say Yoda and Luke. Everything about that scene feels like it was ripped straight out of the original trilogy, and it felt so right. Plus, it introduces the film’s inspiring theme about failure, and how it is inevitable and we should learn from that failure. Plus, the music and cinematography was incredible! That scene was absolutely amazing.
Michael Colan: It’s the throne room scene. This is absolutely one of the best scenes in the entire franchise. There is but one noticeably mistake in terms of digital erasing, but outside of that I think this is nearly pitch perfect. The acting, writing, twists, and the surprise sight of Kylo and Rey banding together to fight the Praetorian Guards is beautiful. What an incredible sight to be behold.
Some will take issue with the choreography but when you look at the Star Wars lightsaber fights have evolved, they have gotten less realistic and more and more visually expressionistic. The choreography in the prequels feels like a dance, everyone is in sync with one another and while they might not have fierce emotional anger of the original trilogy they are visually dazzling to watch. The fights feel within the framework of a Shakespearean space opera. Lucas has always been a director that is interested in visual expression going all the way back to THX-1138. When he indulges that side, he is at his best.
Rian Johnson seems to understand better than even J.J. Abrams did when it comes to the fight scenes. The fight scenes are more about the expression of them, nearly all the technical elements are there, the acting is there, and it is so eye appealing. Whether or not it makes 100 percent logical sense isn’t the point of Star Wars. There are so many times Obi-Wan could have killed Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace but then we wouldn’t have the entire fight. Even observe the lightsaber battle between Count Dooku and Anakin in Attack of the Clones with its medium close-ups where lighting and sound don’t match up. It’s a communication of ideas rather than white knuckle fight. It’s the same idea here. It’s a weird obsession that we have with realism as if that should be the default in a fight scene. But Star Wars fight scenes stimulate my brain far more than say the realism of the fight scenes in the recently released The King. It’s more about the sight and expression. Once you’re on that wave length they become even more exciting and fun.
WriteOnGeek: Damn. I don’t have much room to share after that diatribe. The Throne Room worked in all the ways it was designed to work. Possibly a Top Three saber fight for me, but regardless, it didn’t trump the scene in the movie — Luke showing everyone just what kind of a Jedi Master he had become. The ending was perfect — from A New Hope to becoming that hope. Timeless.
Make sure to read last week’s article on Episode VII: The Force Awakens and catch Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker in theaters this weekend.