last jedi phasma

So Good To Have You Back: What Doesn’t Work

This is going to be brief, because the good far outweighs the bad. That said, The Last Jedi has some issues. Pacing is the biggest one. This is the longest Star Wars film so far, and it feels like it. Johnson does his best to hustle from one location to the next, but the narrative has a tendency from time to time to drag.

The biggest example of this are the scenes on Canto Bight. Which is a shame, because a huge chunk of the film’s message is established on these scenes. But the very nature of the story, with its many moving parts, inadvertently makes this section of the film feel like a diversion. We’re much more interested in spending time with Luke and Rey.

Lumped in with the Canto Bight problems are Benicio del Toro’s character, who is called DJ in press materials but never really has a name in the film. Del Toro’s performance is fun – he’s doing some sort of Tom Waits by way of Roger Rabbit thing, and it’s pretty amusing. That said, the film never really finds much use for him. He eventually betrays Finn and Rose, and then vanishes from the film. I’m sure he’ll be back for the next movie, but for now, the character was little more than a distraction.

The same, sadly, can be said for Gwendoline Christie’s Captain Phasma. Once again, Phasma is a potentially awesome character who looks really cool, but like The Force Awakens, the film has no real use for her. She shows up near the end for a big showdown with Finn, which is entertaining, but also results in the character’s death. Of course, there’s always a chance she could come back, but if they’re just going to bring her back for another one-note scene, maybe don’t bother? Give Phasma something to do, damn it!

The biggest mistake the new franchise has made so far is wasting Lupita Nyong’o in a brief motion capture performance as Maz Kanata, but if you thought her appearance in The Force Awakens left something to be desired, you’ll be pining for it here. I get that the script is crowded and they didn’t have much room for Maz, but the character literally Skypes in a quick appearance here, and it just comes across as a waste of time. Nyong’o deserves better.

Johnson has said there are “extensive” deleted scenes for The Last Jedi, and I believe it, particularly when it comes to some loose threads. At one point, Luke tells Rey he’s going to teach her “three things,” but only gets around to telling her two – was there a third thing that get left on the cutting room floor? If not, maybe they should’ve just changed this line to “two things”? The same sort of issue arises with the Holdo/Poe subplot. Poe has problems with Holdo, which is fine on its own – he’s spent years following Leia, so it would make sense that he clashes with his new boss. But Holdo’s motivations are deliberately vague, and I have a feeling this is a result of deleted scenes. Holdo keeps her plan a secret from Poe, which leads Poe to actually mutiny (a fact that everyone sort of forgets about pretty quickly after it’s over). I have a feeling that there was a scene or two where Holdo explains her decision to play things close to the vest by saying the Resistance suspected there was a First Order spy in their midst – the First Order is able to track The Resistance when they jump lightspeed, which you’re not technically supposed to be able to do. But since such an explanation never comes up, it just makes Holdo’s actions seem like a cheat to move the story forward, and I think Johnson is too smart a writer for that to have happened on purpose.

the last jedi luke

Let’s Go Somewhere Else

I feel like I’ve said a lot here, and yet I haven’t said enough. I don’t consider myself a huge fan of the Star Wars films. I appreciate the original trilogy, I loathe the prequels, I love Force Awakens, and I thought Rogue One was a huge disappointment.

Yet The Last Jedi is something truly remarkable. I’ve had a few days to mull over the film, and the more I think about it, the more I love it. Rian Johnson takes the saga to exciting, unexpected new places, and shows audiences that filmmaking within a big studio franchise need not be constricted, or travel down mundane paths. And I keep coming back to the final shot of the film: a boy used as slave labor on Canto Bight is going about his chores. He draws his broom to his hand with the Force with an ease and grace so unpracticed it’s likely he doesn’t even know he has the power.

Johnson frames this shot at a distance, with the boy looking up at the sprawling sky loaded with billions of stars – billions of planets, galaxies, stories yet to be told. The boy clutches his broom like a lightsaber. This is every kid who ever saw a Star Wars film and then raced out to reenact moments with friends, or action figures, or by themselves. The future is wide open for this individual, and those like him. The sacred texts of Star Wars will always exist in some form. We don’t have to reject or ignore them, but we would do well to look up at the stars, and see where the future takes us. As Neal Scanlan said, “What a fantastic way to say, ‘Goodbye.’ And ‘Let’s go somewhere else.’”

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About the Author

Chris Evangelista is a staff writer for /Film. He's contributed to CutPrintFilm, RogerEbert.com, Nerdist, Mashable, and more. Follow him on Twitter @cevangelista413 or email him at chris@chrisevangelista.net