No But Listen: The Last Jedi

The Last Jedi was, perhaps, the most divisive film of last year – and that means it’s prime fodder for our antagonistic selves to get out teeth into. Without further ado, let’s take a look at the latest entry into the Star Wars canon, and add some more general yelling to the broader internet discourse with one of our patented debate articles!

The Case For

“This isn’t going to go the way you think.”

This is Luke Skywalker’s promise, first seen in the second trailer for Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. Within the film, it’s a promise to Rey that she isn’t going to find what she expected to, which is guidance, wisdom, and a legendary Jedi master. Most importantly, though, it’s Rian Johnson using Luke to tell fans that this isn’t going to be the Star Wars movie they wanted, and thank the maker.

I love The Force Awakens. I love all of the things that JJ Abrams and his writing team set up for this new trilogy, and I love the fact that The Last Jedi subverts most of those expectations. The Force Awakens is the quintessential Star Wars film, which is its biggest strength and its biggest weakness. While I think calling it a crap remake of A New Hope is typical reactionary nonsense, it does play things relatively safe. It’s up to Johnson and The Last Jedi to break new ground.

So, what are the criticisms? The most popular one is Johnson’s treatment of the holy Luke Skywalker. Many fans are pissed that he mopes around on an island rather than trying to stop the First Order. People are so pissed at Johnson for Luke’s portrayal that they are forgetting a something crucial: Johnson didn’t put Luke in exile, Abrams did. Luke’s failure is a major arc of The Force Awakens which means that Johnson had to address it. By doing so he brought Luke, considered one of cinema’s greatest heroes, down to Earth. I don’t know about you, but I want my favourite characters to be flawed, to have weaknesses that they can overcome, because what’s the fucking point if they’re perfect.?“My Luke wouldn’t do that” – bollocks, it’s been 30 years, and you need to move on.

The Last Jedi has a lot of strong themes that don’t tend to appear in crowd-pleasing blockbusters. Yoda, who may be the greatest failure of them all (COME FUCKING AT ME) puts it perfectly in that failure can be a great teacher. Poe learns through his own failures how to be a leader, Rey learns that if you want something done, do it yourself because destiny is for chosen ones, and Finn learns that the Resistance is more important than his own fears. Also, I’m in the Flying Leia is Awesome camp. Put simply, The Last Jedi is about learning from your past mistakes, not wiping them out like Kylo Ren wants to, or ignoring them like Luke does for most of the film.

The Last Jedi isn’t a perfect film – no Star Wars film is – but perfect is boring.

Finn’s plot still sucked though.

By Kevin Boyle

The Case Against

So, I have some opinions on The Last Jedi. A lot of opinions. Three thousand words of opinions, which many of you have had plenty to say about. But – one more into the breach, dear friends, I’m going to try and compress my problems with the latest instalment of Star Wars into a much more reasonable length for the sake of our latest No But Listen.

My biggest problem with the movie, especially on a second watch, is the lack of tonal consistency. I’m all for a movie that plays with humour even in it’s most serious moments, or comedies that flash into darkness every now and then, but The Last Jedi struggled with the courage of it’s convictions, refusing to properly commit to it’s serious moments and instead undercutting practically every single one of them with nervous humour. If the movie can’t take itself seriously, then I sure as hell can’t.

There’s also the problem of the Finn/Rose plot which, well, actually has no real bearing on the story of The Last Jedi. It seems like a hand-wavey way to give the most promising and internally conflicted character of the first movie, Finn, something to do. And that’s a shame, not just because it underserves My Secret Favourite John Boyega, but because it’s also the plot that introduces Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), a new character who feels more Binks that Calrissian – and that has everything to do with the script and nothing to do with Tran’s charming, committed performance, to be clear. But the plot she’s stuck in feels like a lost Clone Wars episode, one of the ones that is set on Naboo and has a bunch of galactic politics in it that you half-watch while making dinner or something.

I’m not on board with the criticism of Luke and the direction his character took, mainly because, you know, I’d be bored if I tuned in and found that the Luke in The Last Jedi was the same one we saw in Return. And, in fact, I think that this is the best Mark Hamill performance of the franchise to date, not to mention the fact that the Ren/Rey plot works in a serious way. But The Last Jedi is the first Star Wars movie that started to feel interchangeable with other movies of the Disney canon – the silly side plots so clearly meant for the kids, the endless, unsettling humour that never lets the film get into a truly serious groove, and the weird moments (like Leia floating back into the ship) that feel massive as they’re happening but actually add up to nothing by the movie’s end. The Last Jedi isn’t the worst movie of the Star Wars franchise, but it’s the worst of the 2010s canon. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but bring back JJ Abrams, whose far superior The Force Awakens had a much stronger grasp on the things I want to see from a Star Wars film.

By Louise MacGregor

If you enjoyed this article and want to see more stuff like it, check out our earlier articles on The Force Awakens and Rogue One! And, as ever, please consider supporting us on Patreon.

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