It’s 2017 and it’s time to write about Luke Skywalker being a show-stealing character… It’s one of the many weirder things about Star Wars being back, but I’m happy to see the character get to put in another great appearance. The film overall can be summed up like this: Great opening, great ending, dull middle. Two out of three ain’t bad! Let’s take a closer look then!
The First Order reigns. Having decimated the peaceful Republic, Supreme Leader Snoke now deploys his merciless legions to seize military control of the galaxy.
Only General Leia Organa’s band of Resistance fighters stand against the rising tyranny, certain that Jedi Master Luke Skywalker will return and restore a spark of hope to the fight.
But the Resistance has been exposed. As the First Order speeds toward the rebel base, the brave heroes mount a desperate escape….
Full Spoilers From Here On Out!
Cast of Characters:
Rey’s back, and does she really need that much training?
Rey (Daisy Ridley) – Rey has come from obscurity to realise she has a strong connection to the Force. She has found the legendary Luke Skywalker and hopes he can help point her in the right direction.
Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) – Born Ben Solo, Kylo has succeeded in killing his own father, but the experience left his physically, and most importantly, mentally wounded. This lead to his defeat at the hands of a complete novice, and is about to lead to a complete bollocking by his Supreme Leader…
Finn (John Boyega) – Formally a Stormtrooper, Finn is now dedicated to the Resistance… or at least dedicated to Rey who is now dedicated to the Resistance…
Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) – Luke failed his own nephew Ben Solo and has since ran off to hide, wishing to die amongst the ruins of the first Jedi temple. Can the recently visited Rey change his mind?
General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) – General Leia is desperately trying to lead what’s left of the Resistance away from the upcoming attack by the First Order, but it may already be too late…
Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) – Extremely powerful in the dark side of the force, Supreme Leader Snoke created the First Order and his apprentice Kylo Ren. He sits on his throne, intrigued by the girl whose power is so great that even as a novice she bested his prized underling…
Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) – Hotshot ace pilot of the Resistance, and could well be in line to one day lead it… if he wasn’t so impulsive…
Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) – A low-tier member of the Resistance who idolizes those at the top. The First Order took everything away from both her and her sister, and she is happy to help fight them any way she can.
BB-8 – Amusing ball-based Droid of Poe Dameron, though he does seem to spend quite a lot of time away from him…
General Hux (Domhall Gleeson) – The highest ranking member of the First Order, besides Snoke and his apprentice. Hux is a bit of a coward, and a lot of an idiot, but he does have his moments…
Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) – A vice admiral (GASP!) in the Resistance. She can be a little standoffish, a little hard to crack, but does have the Resistance’s interests at heart.
DJ (Benicio Del Toro) – A low-level hacker and codebreaker who currently calls the casino planet of Canto Bight his home.
Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) – Formally the hairy friend of Han Solo, he now follows Rey around in the Millennium Falcon.
Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) – A high-ranking Stormtrooper with a chrome finish, she’s… not that useful, it seems…
Luke manages to find a lower point to fall to, before that family-classic redemption!
The first thing that pops into my mind is Luke Skywalker’s arc. Mark Hamill has never been better, which is good because the material he’s been asked to act has never been more complex. Luke’s a broken and bitter man when Rey first meets him, and to eventually hear him talk about the old Jedi order and himself as arrogant, short-sighted and pretty much stupid was an eye-opener. He was right though! He momentarily had a moment of weakness when he felt Ben Solo’s darkness growing and thought to kill him in his sleep, and this lead to Ben waking, seeing what was going on and eventually go crazy. Just one, tiny thought, and it cost him everything. Instead of blaming Snoke (who was manipulating Ben’s darkness) and fight him, he ran in shame. Heavy stuff, not very Luke Skywalker-like as I mentioned in Force Awakens, but writer/director Rian Johnson made the best of a bad situation. When Rey goes off to fight, he gets visited by Yoda, who pretty much tells him he was right, mistakes have been made in the past, but forget about the old order and use your mistakes to teach.
This leads to Luke appearing before everyone (including Leia, in a nice scene) before confronting Kylo Ren. After some great lines about Rey being the next Jedi and that he isn’t the last, he reveals he’s actually a Force projection, and Luke is still on the Jedi planet. It took all his might to do so though, and Luke soon “becomes one with the Force” like Obi-wan, though he does so while looking at a twin-sunset with the classic Star Wars music playing, echoing the very first scene we saw of him all those years ago. It was the perfect send off. Much like his father, his last act redeems himself, and Luke got to die saving everyone but without killing or even harming his own nephew. Only kill in self-defence, it seems some old Jedi was still in Luke after all. I can’t tell you how much I loved how this film managed to redeem Luke’s fall from Ep. VII and write a good redemption. How it echoes his own father’s story is again a good way out of the corner the character was put in, and given what Kylo Ren is like, it seems the Skywalker lineage is all about absolute power corrupting and making one arrogant, leading to destruction for all those around them. Fascinating idea, and one with a cold and clear message: for peace to truly exist in the galaxy, the Skywalker bloodline must end…
Oh what’s that? The rest of the movie? Right, well, the relationship between Rey and Kylo Ren was great in this. The two become connected via the Force, able to speak and even touch each other halfway across the galaxy, despite everything the two form a bond, with Rey believing that Ren can be saved. She goes off to meet him and ends up in handcuffs and brought to Snoke, who for the record orchestrated all of this. This plays out almost exactly the like the scenes between the Emperor, Luke and Vader in Return of the Jedi, except Ren sneakingly kills Snoke and then battles his guards alongside Rey. It was a great moment, mostly because of how Snoke “felt” Ren about to ignite his lightsaber and “strike down the one he wants to kill”, but didn’t realise his apprentice was manipulating Luke’s old lightsaber that was on Snoke’s throne rather than his own one, leading to his end. A very clever scene, and the battle between Rey, Ren and the guards was great!
Sadly for Rey, Kylo Ren now claims he’s going to tare down everything old and rebuild it anew and wants Rey by his side to do it, which of course Rey wants no part of. The two fight over Luke’s old sabre before being blown backwards. Rey escapes and rejoins up with the Resistance and Kylo Ren becomes the new Supreme Leader, setting up a big battle between the two in Episode IX. It’s a very fun dynamic.
One of the best scenes has to be Vice Admiral Holdo and her suicide ship ram. Basically Snoke’s impossibly gigantic ship is looming over the remains of the Resistance fleet, so she, alone on the cruiser, points it at the super-large vessel and light-speeds through a good portion of it. It was so beautifully shot as soon as it happens all sound cuts out and your treated to a light show as the ship explodes and nearby star destroyers are lit up by it. It’s such a great moment.
There are plenty of other good scenes, General Leia using the Force instinctively to save herself when the bridge of the cruiser she was on was blown up, Poe’s attempts to save everyone being too reckless, eventually teaching him a lesson about valuing lives over results, and Finn and new character Rose make a pleasant couple. Oh, and the final assault on the salt-covered planet of Craite was good as well, though not a patch on the Hoth scene! General Hux continues to be a great snivelling git, and great comedy fodder (although a scene set up to be like Poe prank calling Hux at the start of the film was maybe a bit too much)
I also have to say that this film does a great job of making the Resistance out to be against the wall, that’s for sure. They lost their entire governing body in Episode VII, here they lose a bunch of ships and soldiers in the opening battle, including Admiral Ackbar (no!!) and every other high-ranking general in the Resistance barring Leia, and eventually are down to one ship, then just a group of them in a small factory on a salty planet. Talk about underdogs!
“Well, it was good while it lasted…”
Okay, so this film isn’t perfect. It really sags in the middle, after the Resistance start to pull away from the enemy fleet, they two sets of ships get into some sort of… space… lock… thing, where the First Order can’t catch up to the Resistance ships so just slowly barrage their shield for the hell of it and wait for them to run out of fuel. This is the set up for, like, over an hour of the film, possibly an hour and a half. During this we get some good Luke and Rey training scenes, but we also get a subplot of Finn and Rose going to a casino planet and trying to find a codebreaker, then freeing a bunch of tamed and mistreated animals, make their way back, get on board Snoke’s ship, get caught, and escape… all of which has no effect of any of the plot. It’s complete filler, with the possible exception of getting Rose and Finn close, for presumably romantic purposes in Episode IX, but you could literally cut that whole thing out and it would make no difference.
Captain Phasma, who literally did nothing of note in Force Awakens returns! … and gets swiftly beaten by Finn and seemingly killed in minutes. Jeez… why bring her back at all?!
Although I get you needed someone to manipulate Ben Solo and command the First Order, but Snoke in the end was pretty pointless. He was a means to give Kylo Ren powers and then thrown to the side when it was time for Ren to take command. I’m sure he’ll have a good backstory in expanded media, but still… seems like a waste. Especially since I actually liked his cheesy evil ways in this film, even though I liked his death scene… Hmmm… kind of a mixed bag, this one.
A room with a view! … of factory machines. Great?
Well then, as I summed up in the opening paragraph, this film starts off great and ends great, but sags in the middle. That being said I’m almost tempted to give it 5 stars for giving such a great send off to Luke Skywalker (although I’m sure he’ll be back as a Force Ghost!), and throw in the great Rey-Kylo Ren stuff… Erm… Hmm… Nah, I still can’t quite give it 5, during the dull middle I was metaphorically checking my watch to see how much time had passed, waiting for something exciting to happen. No matter how fantastic the bread is, I can’t forgive a disappointing filling. Still, well worth your while going to see!