A Look Back At Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)—Is it as bad as we thought?
Updated: Jun 7, 2022
Star Wars. One of the most popular, yet divisive fan bases. The Star Wars movies are either loved or hated by its fans. While the original trilogy was beloved by fans, the prequel trilogy was absolutely hated by those same fans who loved the original trilogy. Due to the mixed reception the prequels received, Lucasfilm, George Lucas’s production company, decided to postpone any movies relating to Star Wars for a while. In 2012, George Lucas sold Lucasfilm and Star Wars to Disney.
Disney decided to release a trilogy that would be a sequel to the original trilogy, with the first of them, The Force Awakens (2015) being the seventh installment in the film franchise. The film was directed by J.J. Abrams, who was well-known for his work on Stark Trek (2009). Abrams made a film that was faithful to the original trilogy yet was a bit too safe for some audiences.
When it was announced that Rian Johnson would direct the eighth installment of Star Wars, The Last Jedi (2017), fans were unsure of the transition of creative visions from Abrams to Johnson. After the release of the first trailer, which showed more footage of Luke Skywalker, Kylo Ren, and Supreme Leader Snoke, along with the possibility that Rey could turn to the dark side, fans were extremely excited for the release of the film.
The film begins with a battle between The Resistance and The First Order. As the battle drags on, casualties increase on both sides. General Leia Organa, leader of The Resistance, calls for a tactical retreat, only for hotshot pilot Poe Dameron and a small group of pilots to disobey her orders and recklessly attack a Dreadnought, a large and powerful First Order vessel. The attack is rather successful, however, a number of pilots under Dameron’s leadership perish. The Resistance flees into hyperspace, only to be followed by The First Order. Led by Kylo Ren, The First Order attacks Leia’s flagship, killing most of The Resistance leaders and causing Leia to fall into a coma. Meanwhile, Rey attempts to convince a jaded and disillusioned Luke Skywalker to return to the front lines and fight alongside The Resistance, in addition to teaching her the ways of the force. Luke refuses and reveals that he gave up on the Jedi. R2D2 convinces Luke to train Rey and Luke agrees. During Rey’s training, she begins to communicate with Kylo Ren through the force, which Luke discovers one day. He then reveals to Rey the reason he exiled himself was due to attempting to kill his nephew, Ben Solo a.k.a. Kylo Ren, after he felt the boy was influenced by the dark side. Meanwhile, Vice Admiral Holdo attains command over Leia’s ship after Leia’s health conditions are announced. Holdo’s leadership is questioned by Poe who later sends both Fin and Resistance technician Rose Tico go on a secret mission to prevent the First Order from tracking them through hyperspace, meanwhile, Poe is planning a mutiny. With allies divided, The First Order grows stronger with every minute and slowly closes in on The Resistance.
Both Rian Johnson and Disney claimed that The Last Jedi (2017) would include a more diverse cast compared to the previous films. The cast would include more people of color and women. Shooting of the film would take place in Europe. For example, the scenes with Luke on his island of Ahch-To were shot in Ireland, while additional scenes involving Rey and Kylo Ren’s force communications were shot in Croatia. At the time, shooting was on the risk of being delayed due to a strike between two U.K. trade associations (the Producer’s Alliance for Cinema and Television, and the Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematograph and Theater Union). Filming and principal photography wrapped up in 2016 and a total of 125 sets were built, with another 200 creatures created with practical effects, more than any other Star Wars movie.
The Last Jedi (2017) was released to mixed reception between critics and audiences. Critics at the time praised the film for breaking boundaries and adding new twists to the franchise. However, long-time Star Wars fans were less than pleased by the film, claiming that the movie failed to deliver on expectations, was thematically too different from previous Star Wars films, and made Luke a depressed hermit who was radically different from his original trilogy self. One claim to support this is that unlike in the original trilogy, Luke was no longer the optimistic idealist that he once was, from forgiving his father, Darth Vader, to attempting to murder his nephew for being briefly influenced by the dark side. Another claim is that Leia using the force to pull herself from the vacuum of space was unrealistic and even cringe-worthy. In addition, most audience members claimed that the romantic subplot involving Fin and Rose was poorly developed, Admiral Holdo’s plan to evacuate The Resistance made no sense, and that Luke Skywalker’s final fight against The First Order was anti-climactic and not “cool” or “dramatic” enough.
My rebuttal to the first two claims are that a lot can change in thirty years. Luke likely developed some form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from his battles with Darth Vader. He experienced a moment of mental weakness, but he didn’t carry through with killing Kylo Ren. When Kylo destroyed Luke’s temple and Jedi Order, Luke—much like Obi Wan and Yoda—went into exile following his failure. Regarding Leia’s usage of the force, she most likely learned some aspects of the force from her brother, Luke. While she couldn’t devote her life to living as a Jedi Knight, she is still capable of using the force effectively. Once again, thirty years can make quite the difference. Regarding the romantic subplot, I agree with fans to a point. Fin and Rose’s mission to find the First Order codebreaker was unnecessary, however, I do think the romantic subplot could have worked. Instead of making them go on their mission, it would have been more effective if they stayed on the ship and had to, say, repair something on the ship and slowly develop a relationship there. Finally, regarding Luke’s final fight, initially, I also did not like it, as Luke casts a projection of himself using the force to buy The Resistance time to escape before dying. However, the more I thought about it, the more it made sense in the overarching theme of the Jedi. The Jedi are keepers of the peace, not soldiers. However, in the Prequel Trilogy, the Jedi always seem to solve their problems with violence. Luke’s sacrifice is the way that a Jedi should go out. When he arrives on the battlefield, the problem is solved without more casualties.
Overall, I don’t think The Last Jedi (2017) is a bad Star Wars movie. While fans do have some legit criticisms of the film, such as Holdo’s evacuation plan, the movie is not as bad as people make it out to be. I think that The Last Jedi (2017) deals with the theme of failure and living to fight another day in addition to asking the question of what it means to be a Jedi. Fans of Star Wars should watch the film with an open mind, and should try to understand the overarching themes of the film, rather than just expect fan service. Comparing it to the other sequel films, I think The Last Jedi (2017) is the best of the three. The Force Awakens (2015) was too similar in its story, visuals, and color tone to A New Hope (1977). The Rise of Skywalker (2019), on the other hand, was a creative mess. In a world where people are divided about everything, movies should serve to be a uniting force among people, and Star Wars should be no exception.