Star Wars: The Last Jedi was a deeply polarizing film for apparently a large number of people on the internet. And the people who dislike it give countless reasons for why they think it’s bad. But they’re all wrong.
The Last Jedi is the best Star Wars film in the past 39 years. Only Empire Strikes Back trumps it in my book, and a large portion of that is because Last Jedi follows a lot of the Empire playbook. The Last Jedi made some bold plot moves, showed the heroes in a severely weakened state, and included the same eye-twinkle-inducing magic that made Star Wars special in the first place, and created a visually stunning adventure at the same time.
Instead of trying to counter the naysayers and allow them to set the terms of the discussion, I would much rather talk about what makes this movie great on the merits alone. While some amount of contrasting with the prevalent negative points may occur, they are not the focus here, and “refuting” them is not the goal.
(Also while we’re here, the rest of this essay is going to just be spoiler-city, so if you haven’t seen The Last Jedi, and intend to, but don’t want any of it spoiled, go watch it now before you continue reading this. Actually, regardless of if you’ve seen it already, go watch it before you continue reading this, it’s just a fun time)
It’s just so pretty
Regardless of your feelings about any other part of the movie, it’s undeniable that The Last Jedi is a truly beautiful film, filled with iconic scenes.
The set of Snoke’s throne room, and the scenes set in it, easily stick out as one of the, if not the singular, best action scenes in the past decade. The bold use of red alone make it stick out beyond the majority of action sequences, and when coupled with Rian Johnson’s strong framing, the set and scenes become incredibly memorable.
But not only does The Last Jedi have the throne room, it also contains Holdo’s sacrifice.
And again, regardless of your feelings related the plot around that scene, it is undeniably striking and memorable from a compositional standpoint alone. Everything about that sequence is just breathtaking.
The only other Star Wars film to come close to the visual quality of The Last Jedi is Empire Strikes Back. From my perspective, while Empire had some fairly iconic shots (the close up on Vader’s helmet while gazing out the forward windows, Yoda raising Luke’s X-Wing, “No, I am your father”), they just don’t have the same visual punch as Last Jedi’s.
It was willing to try something new
Unlike The Force Awakens, which played it incredibly safe from a story perspective, The Last Jedi tried something new.
The Last Jedi is not a rehash of the Star Wars that has come before it, but actually something new. Instead of relying on relying on a single, special family, the heroes are, by and large, nobodies. The story is truly unpredictable, and not in the bad, they’ll do anything to make sure you’re still watching sense, but in the sense that it’s not clear where the next step will land the characters. Unlike the prequel trilogy or Return of the Jedi, there is no final destination the story must reach, and The Last Jedi uses that freedom well.
This may be the most controversial thing I say here, but exercising those freedoms allowed the characters to do unexpected things that still feel right when they’re thought about.
Kylo Ren killing Snoke was genuinely surprising, but it’s an action that makes sense given what we know about the character (that Snoke pushed him into situations where he had to fight and kill his family, was content with, and even fostered, the rivalry between Ren and General Hux, and, perhaps most importantly, explicitly revealed moments before that he’d been manipulating Ren).
Luke throwing away the lightsaber and saying the Jedi must die? Shocking, but not out of character. The man became a hermit on a lost planet and seemingly avowed to let the universe do its own thing without him. Given that setup, what else would this person do when confronted by someone who wants them to go save the galaxy?
And the list goes on. I genuinely do not find any of the actions of the characters in the story to be out of character. At times their actions may not be perfectly logical, but no one is perfectly logical, including you.
It was just a fun time
The Last Jedi is filled with fun and ridiculous and great things. Why worry about some of the more fantastic elements when you can instead:
- remember that you’re watching a movie about space wizards, and
- just enjoy yourself and have fun?
Let’s just look at some of the more fun elements of this movie:
As mentioned before, the throne room fight scene
A little gremlin dude puts a bunch of coins in BB-8, thinking they’re a slot machine
The dark side cave sequence
Leia storming on to the bridge and shooting Poe
Holdo’s sacrifice, and the resulting damage to the First Order’s fleet
Some guy who felt like tasting the ground and confirming that it’s salt
I completely understand the desire to tear things apart and analyze them, but at the same time we really need to remember the context. Star Wars is a series of relatively light-hearted adventures in space. Sure, there are real stakes for these characters, and the scale of these stories is an entire galaxy, filled with alien things (both that are aliens, but also the space magic called “The Force”).
Just because it’s not the exact story you wanted, played out with the exact beats you wanted. But you’d hate that if you got it too! The joy of stories is that they allow you to explore the unknown, they allow you to live in another reality, and that’s amazing.
Instead of complaining about how you didn’t get the exact things you wanted, revel in the joy of a new story that takes you new places.
The Last Jedi was great, and you can’t change my mind.