Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Late to the Party: ‘The Last Jedi’

Due to my longstanding ‘Star Wars’ ennui and all the vehemently negative word-of-mouth surrounding the movie, I feel like I must be one of the last people on Earth to see ‘The Last Jedi’. When a window of opportunity opened the other day, all that hectoring from one of our readers must have gotten to me, because I finally watched the damn thing.

Rian Johnson’s ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi‘ was simultaneously one of the highest-grossing and most popular movies of 2017, and also one of the most hated. At the end of last year, it topped both our Favorite Blockbuster of 2017 and Most Disappointing Blockbuster of 2017 polls. It seems like the people who hate it do so with an unceasing, volcanic ferocity that they are compelled to tell everyone about as loudly and as often as possible. Long before watching it, I couldn’t avoid having almost all of the movie’s plot spoiled for me, and had read countless complaints tearing it apart scene by scene, if not frame by frame. The unavoidable perception this left me with was that ‘The Last Jedi’ was not only the worst movie ever made, but quite possibly the worst piece of narrative fiction ever conceived in human existence. Given that I wasn’t particularly a fan of its predecessor, ‘The Force Awakens’ (not to mention the George Lucas prequel trilogy), I was neither inclined to disbelieve any of this nor eager to find out for myself.

Well, now I’ve watched it. Does it make me a bad film fan to say that I kind of liked it?

(Spoilers follow, in case you didn’t bother to watch the movie either.)

Don’t get me wrong, the movie has some issues. It has a number of pointless and/or dumb scenes and plot points that don’t make sense, and the story hinges on both Luke Skywalker and his sister Leia suddenly revealing new magical powers that had never been mentioned or even hinted at in any prior ‘Star Wars’ canon. It’s also at least a half hour too long. I do not believe this is one of the best ‘Star Wars’ movies. However, it’s also definitely not the worst. I’d rank it around the middle of the pack. Its problems don’t seem particularly worse to me than most other blockbuster movies of this type or scale. Frankly, I thought ‘The Last Jedi’ was a lot better than ‘The Force Awakens’.

I can understand some of the complaints about the plot of the movie ultimately going nowhere. The heroes don’t actually accomplish much of anything, except to lose time and again. Every plan they enact fails. In particular, Finn and Rose’s extended trip to the casino planet ends with everyone worse off than they started. However, I don’t agree that these storylines are a waste of time. Johnson clearly made a conscious decision to deconstruct the classic Hero’s Journey narrative that this franchise has relied on so heavily, even setting up an elaborate side-quest that viewers expect will prove critical to saving the day, only to pull the rug out from under that at the end. I get that this pissed off a lot of viewers, but it worked for me, especially since the film is positioned as the middle act of a trilogy where the heroes are supposed to get their asses kicked, much like what happened in ‘The Empire Strikes Back’.

Honestly, I don’t really understand the vehemence of many viewers’ loathing for this movie. Even the things about it I decidedly didn’t like (especially the lame attempts at humor) don’t seem that bad. Anyone claiming that ‘The Last Jedi’ is worse than ‘The Phantom Menace’ has very different views on the definitions of “good” and “bad” than I do.

I recognize that by writing this post I am opening the floor for the haters to expound once again on everything they found wrong with the movie. I think it might be nice for a change if some of the people who did enjoy the movie (and a lot of people did) might be allowed some space to explain what they liked about it.

With all that said, I have to concede that the Blu-ray is one of the worst-looking and -sounding discs for a major blockbuster I’ve seen in quite some time. The video is frustratingly soft and flat, with milky, elevated black levels. As an experiment, I tried to watch the Ultra HD copy downconverted to 1080p, but because that disc is encoded with Dolby Vision, it locks my OPPO player out from using any video adjustment controls, and as a result the entire image was far too dim on my projector to be watchable. The standard Blu-ray looked at least slightly better. (I cannot judge what the UHD looks like on a true 4k Dolby Vision display at this time.) Worse, even after cranking the volume above reference level (I watch most movies around -9dB below reference), neither the DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack on the Blu-ray or the Dolby Atmos track on the UHD had any bass at all. Literally none. This is the worst-sounding movie I’ve suffered through since ‘Age of Ultron’. I’ve watched classic movies with mono soundtracks with far more dynamic range than this one.

47 comments

  1. Slayer117x

    I’m kinda with you on this. It really wasn’t that bad of movie. It did make a few mistakes, but it just had too much hype to live upto. I’m pretty sure if “The Empire Strikes Back” was released today, these same people would hate it just as much.

    I also agree with you on the sound mix. I’m more than beginning to worry that that is Disney’s MO.

    • Clark

      Every Disney Blu-ray has terrible sound, at least all the ones released in the last two years. I don’t know why they do this. I was so disappointed with my “Coco” Blu-ray!!

    • Timcharger

      I’ve been traveling. I flew from tomorrow to yesterday (intl date line). I had to travel to the ends of the earth for this to happen. After I get my time/sleep bearings aligned I’ll sit down with a cup of coffee and read this…

  2. Jon

    Anyone wanna be how long it’ll take before someone spouts off ‘SJW’ thinking that they’re being clever. What a stupid dog whistle that term is…….

    For the record, I was disappointed by some of Rian Johnson’s choices and plot elements, but I didn’t hate the movie. I’m curious to see how Abrams handles it though.

    • C.C.

      Anyone wanna be how long it’ll take before someone spouts off ‘SJW dog whistle’ thinking that they’re being clever. What a stupid phrase that is…….

  3. Chris B

    I didn’t hate it but didn’t love it either. I appreciated the fact the movie felt darker and grittier than TFA, (which I found overly glossy and shiny-looking), but I was dissapointed with the script.

    Leia should have been killed off instead of flying back into the ship like Neo from The Matrix (there were people audibly laughing in my screening during the scene).

    I didn’t mind the side quest but Del Toro’s charcter ticks were distracting and annoying, plus those giant CGI beasts looked incredibly fake even with today’s modern effects capabilities.

    Luke was made out to be too much of a curmudgeon IMO. I get that he’s jaded and despondent, but his character in no way resmbles the Luke Skywalker I grew up watching.

    Rey is supposed to be the centre of the trilogy but her story sort of takes a back-seat in the second half if the movie which I didn’t like.

    Lastly, the best part of any SW movie for me is the lightsaber duel at the climax, the fact this movie lacked a proper one really stung.

    Things I liked about the movie:

    The space battles were well done.

    The throne room sequence was thrilling.

    The fact Rey and Ren and communicate across distances by use of the force was a cool idea.

    I watched the move and walked out a bit dissapointed but didn’t feel the need to howl about how bitter I was over the last 6 months like a lot of people. I’ll still go see Episode 9 next year, hopefully it’s a satisfying conclusion.

  4. njscorpio

    I enjoyed it less upon rewatching it. I feel like everything related to Fin, Rose, and the Casino planet was a waste of time.

  5. photogdave

    I pretty much agree with Josh’s article and most of the comments.
    At the end of the day it was a pretty enjoyable space adventure movie but not the best, or the worst, Star Wars movie.
    Most of the jokes were bad (but the audience was laughing when I saw it), the CG creatures were embarrassing and the casino planet story was a waste of time and a wasted opportunity to do something really cool. The Jedi “newsies” made me want to barf.
    I didn’t mind the new force powers. They’ve had years to learn and practice. All the interaction between Rey and Ren was really well done and had me on the edge of my seat.
    I’ll probably re-watch it this weekend on Netflix. Waiting for the inevitable trilogy package before I buy on disc.

  6. Opinionhaver

    What makes TLJ bad isn’t in comparison to every movie that exists, it’s in the context of Star Wars as a phenomenon. This hack of a writer took it upon himself to reinvent the wheel when no one asked him to and he did it in his usual smug, pretentious fucking way.

    Just like anything that gets overpraised and you tend to cross your arms and raise your eyebrows watching it, so can a film like this that struggles to achieve even mediocrity seem better than it is after you’ve heard nothing but hyperbolic negativity for months. Even so the best I’ve seen from its fans is lukewarm apologism, because there’s really nothing great about the actual content and everyone knows it.

  7. samovies10

    Unpopular opinion coming…

    It’s my favorite Star Wars after Empire Strikes back. I agree that it is not perfect but I thought Rian Johnson did a wonderful job evolving all the characters so by the end every single main character has changed and progressed one one way or another. I thought that every plot point added something to the story either thematically or for a character(s) arch so I didn’t think any of them were pointless… but that’s just my opinion.

    I can see why some people might not have liked it but I do not think it deserves the level of hate it gets. I liked TFA but even then I could see how much it recycled from past entries, so it felt very refreshing the first time I watched The Last Jedi on opening weekend.

    As for the blu-ray looking flat with milky levels… that was a creative choice. I remember watching the film in Laser IMAX and in a Dolby Cinema and in both presentations the black levels were weak with the film having low contrast. That was a creative decision which later on Rian Johnson confirmed. He said they created the 4K/HDR version to faithfully represent how they intended it to look like, and as such they didn’t push the contrast much higher (I believe via Twitter). So even the 4K blu-ray with Dolby Vision looks kind of flat in terms of contrast but that’s just the way it was meant to look. Colors are great however, with the many reds looking spectacular. Fine detail does get a very nice boost and film grain is handled extremely well with the 4K/Dolby Vision encode looking very film-like.

    Audio-wise… I didn’t have any problems with it personally. I thought the Dolby Atmos mix was excellent. It’s true the bass isn’t as ass-kicking as Cloverfield but I didn’t think it was anywhere near as bad as Age of Ultron. I did have to raise the volume higher than usual but after that it sounded just fine to me and I enjoyed it a lot.

  8. Amityville 315

    The Last Jedi is the worst Star Wars movie ever made and RUINS Luke Skywalker. Hamill was right!

  9. Guy

    It’s bottom tier for me. I have The Last Jedi at #6 out of the eight saga films that have been released so far, but that’s a soft positioning because I really lump them into categories in my head. ESB, RotS and TFA are the ones I like pretty well, ANH and AotC are mixed bags with some serious fast forward-inducing dead zones and RotJ and TPM have a few scenes or sequences that are worthwhile between a whole lot of crap.

    The Last Jedi sort of falls between the second and third categories because it’s a different beast. It becomes an issue of execution vs. enjoyment and which is more important. Johnson made hardly a single plot or character decision I like in The Last Jedi’s script. Almost anything that occurs from opening crawl to the credits nags at me to varying degrees, but it’s very well made and acted throughout. The visual thrills and the intellectual groans cancel each other out and the movie just feels like a shrug. On the other hand, Return of the Jedi and The Phantom Menace have parts I unabashedly enjoy, yet their lows are physically cringe-inducing. I give the edge to craft and put The Last Jedi higher, but I’d rather watch a supercut of Qui-Gon scenes than anything from this film.

  10. Peter

    My favorite behind Empire. Made Luke a full character and gives him a wonderful send off while making him the inspiration for a new generation of rebels with the last scene of the children playing out what he did in the final battle. The Luke/Yoda scene was my favorite.

    I have a feeling that Leia was to save Kylo in IX but with Fisher’s passing, who knows now. They have left that door open just enough to redeem him still. Or at least partially and then explore the road further in the future as Kylo and Rey try to succeed where Luke was unable to. As Yoda said, “We are what they grow beyond”.

  11. I am going to say its my fifth favorite – 1) A New Hope 2) Solo 3) Return of the Jedi 4) Empire Stirkes Back 5) TLJ 6) Revenge of the Sith, 7) Rogue One 8) TFA 9) Clones 10 ) Phantom

    So in terms of favorites, I also put it in the middle, but I REALLY LIKED this one. Character development, a Luke who just wants to be left alone, Leah finally showing Force powers. The casiono even worked for me – it was kind of nice seeing them follow a lead that was totally a dead end.

    So I don’t LOVE the movie, but I did REALLY LIKE it. It was very refreshing after the travesty that was The Force Awakens.

    And as far as my list, the valley between Rogue One and Clones is huge – I really liked Rogue One, I disliked Clones, and loathed Phantom

  12. DaMac80

    Johnson was definitely aiming to deconstruct Star Wars and was arguably successful (I think it has problems as a film too but less than people say). The problem is Star Wars was not yet at a point where it needed that or the audience wanted it. Especially not to the degree Johnson pushed it, where he made Luke a totally different character than people wanted him to be. People wanted Luke to come back and be the badass good guy who crushes walkers with his mind and instead they got an whiny old guy who refuses to do anything. Johnson thought that was an awesome thing to do, but the audience? Not so much. You can only toss the audience’s desires in their faces so much.

    I think if they did a solid (if expected and repetitive to some degree) trilogy first, THEN did this kind of deconstruction, it would have worked out a LOT better for them. Kathleen Kennedy and Rian Johnson simply pushed for it too fast.

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      I don’t think I buy the argument that it’s too soon to deconstruct Star Wars, given that this is the ninth movie in a 40-year-old franchise and media empire. If not now, when? Is Star Wars doomed to stay stuck in the same rut forever?

      I guess I also don’t understand how Luke following the direct footsteps of both of his mentors (Obi-Wan and Yoda) “ruins” the character. I mean, it was literally established in the very first movie that running off to live as a hermit on a remote planet in the ass-end of the galaxy where they’ll be difficult to find or reach is a thing old Jedi masters do after they’ve lost.

      • Chris B

        I don’t think the whole running away thing wad what bugged people, it was the fact they made Luke such a grumpy asshole. And the fact he couldn’t even bother to leave the island to help out his friends, dude just sat on his ass and force-projected himself. This cause used to mean everything to you, at least show up to the party.

          • Timcharger

            No. Yoda trained Luke. He trained Luke for what Yoda thought was most important. For the ability to defeat Vader and the Emperor. There’s fair debate whether Yoda should have cared more about the lives of the many Rebels and the various space battles.
            But Luke cared about none of that. Cared not about the anonymous Rebel lives. Not caring about his best friend, Han. Not caring about his R2 droid. Not caring about his sister. (And waiting till there were 30 lives left, who could fit in the Falcon, that doesn’t count as caring or redemption.)

          • Could it really be argued that Luke was trained by anyone?

            ObiWan – Reach out with your feelings – your eyes can deceive you. Use the force, and go see Yoda.

            Yoda – You are too old. Okay, fine, move this rock, move this droid, move this ship, don’t go down that hole. Wait, you have only been here a few days, don’t go! Never mind, you don’t need any further training.

            Yet in the prequels, there is a school where students study for years. ObiWan trained for years, Anikan studied for years. If Luke trained, it was from the ghosts.

            Oh, and the Jedi council were whiny as well and not wanting to really take any action.

            So Luke, attitude wise, is at least consistant

      • DaMac80

        I think the problem with the 40 year argument is that for many fans the prequels definitely did not count. They were tonally very different and their quality level has been much maligned. So for those fans The Force Awakens brought the franchise back after a 30+ year hiatus, giving them that feeling again. Then, after the iffy Rogue One, the next movie in the main series is a think-piece that attempts to deconstruct the series along with the main character who wasn’t even really in Force Awakens at all. I think it was jarring and too sudden. Also it didn’t help that most media outlets (NOT this one, to be clear) basically told these people they were whining manbabies who needed to shut up. That just leads to more defensive anger.

        As a casual fan (like you) I was much more okay with it, and honestly would have been just fine with no more Star Wars movies after Lucas was done. I’m just saying for certain types of big Star Wars fans I can see why Last Jedi felt like a smack in the face. Even just for more “popcorn entertainment” movie-goers I can see it. My wife liked Force Awakens because it was a fun and amusing romp and she found Last Jedi boring and slow. I doubt she’s alone among the casuals, and Star Wars was always a casual popcorn franchise. Anyway, I am sure Disney, Kennedy and Abrams are working on making those people happy with the next installment.

        P.S. Storywise I have zero issue with Luke being in exile for what he did, but I think the movie would have worked ten times better if Rey, Chewie and the old Leia message in R2 convinced him to really go back and confront Kylo at the end of the movie, rather than him (kinda?) doing that after the fact.

        • and honestly would have been just fine with no more Star Wars movies after Lucas was done

          I am just sick of the Skywalkers. Rogue One was interesting. Solo really felt like the first movie to really explore anything new. But my issue is that the expanded universe is so large, why are we still focusing on the cast of a 40 year old franchise?

          I am not sure if there is enough interest in the expanded universe to justify the costs of movies, but I have long said that I would love to see a television series (Netflix series?) based on something like the Old Republic or the Siths or something.

  13. Dwight E. Calloway

    Didn’t love it…didn’t hate it. it was definitely a “middle of the pack” movie for me. I DO have some SERIOUS issues with the latest batch of Disney UHD/BD releases in regards to the sound mixing. As far back as “Age of Ultron”, the mixes on Disney Home releases has been disappointing ( to say the least ). The sound mix on “The Force Awakens” was decent, but other releases such as, “Thor: Ragnarok”, “Coco”, “Black Panther”, and the UHD release of “The Incredibles” have all been severely lacking ( for lack of a better word ). Granted, I realize that other people may think they sound fine and that I’m just too picky. To those people I say to read the reviews of those discs, and other Disney releases, on this site and the others out there. The consensus seems to be that the mixers at Disney have all fallen asleep at the mixing boards…or that Disney simply doesn’t care..because they know that consumers are going to buy the product anyway…crummy sound mixes or not.

    • Jon

      They’re mixing the home releases for the largest market: the sound bar crew. By necessity that is going to lead to compromised mixes. It sucks but we’re probably stuck with it.

      • Guy

        As someone with a sound bar, Disney’s certainly not mixing them for me. I have the exact same issues with the releases in recent years that everyone else seems to.

  14. Pedram

    I think the big difference was that you didn’t like The Force Awakens, while most people did.
    This film failed to follow through with a lot of the things the previous one set up, which lead to a lot of disappointment for many, including myself. It also gave us a bastardized Luke without much justification (only weak reasoning) as to why/how he became like that. I could have been on board with it if that part was fleshed out more, but I guess there wasn’t enough time.

    I haven’t watched it again since I saw it at the cinema, and the lacklustre reviews for the UHD disc and Atmos sound doesn’t make me want to go out and do so any time soon (apart from the fact that the more I think about the film the more annoyed/disappointed i become with it).

    I’ll probably just watch it again before episode 9 comes out, and I hope I like it more the second time around.

  15. plissken99

    This review is spot on. It’s not great, but far better than episodes 1-3(none are much better than Phantom as they age). Ultimately how good this movie is will depend upon how Episode 9 is.

  16. Thulsadoom

    The Last Jedi genuinely plays out like Randolph and Mortimer had a $1 bet that if they went out of their way to make a nonsensical mess, it would still be a success, hailed for its brilliance simply because it is a main-sequence Star Wars movie. Heck, the Fast and the Furious movies are more logical and character/story driven…

    I thought the only way was up, after The Force Awakens. Boy, was I wrong… Whilst I’ve seen worse films, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a major, mega-budget studio production quite this poor. Even Jupiter Ascending, Suicide Squad or John Carter were less of a mess. Perhaps the worst sin, is that ultimately the film is truly boring. Nothing of consequence happens, and even the moments that should be full of excitement or emotion are simply flat and lifeless.

    And it’s not like I hate new Star Wars out-of-the-box. I really enjoyed Rogue One, and I even enjoyed Solo, despite some of it’s flaws. I can think of few films where The Emperors New Clothes come into play, quite like TLJ, which is a huge surprise after TFA! 😉 It’s easily the worst Star Wars film by a vast distance, and a terrible film regardless of Star Wars.

    It wasn’t cleverly ‘deconstructing’ Star Wars, just because it does a couple of things that contradict everything we’ve seen so far. It’s like having a story teller show you a hundred different boxes, each with different paths for a story to take, then suddenly they drop a lump of dog-faeces at your feet and claim it’s brilliance because you didn’t expect it.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if a Lucasfilm/Disney suit suddenly tweeted “Hah! Got you all! Biggest joke ever!” 😉

    • DaMac80

      I think the last third gets genuinely pretty exciting. The guard fight is good, the battle on the salt planet is good. I didn’t like the hanger fight as much because it all looks too fake, but it’s okay. Lots of thrilling moments. The problem is the entire movie up to that point is a slow, meandering character piece which is NOT what Star Wars should be. I like plenty of movies like that, but they aren’t Star Wars movies, and that audience has expectations rightly derived from the name on the tin.

      • Thulsadoom

        To be honest, I didn’t think it was a character piece at all, certainly less-so than any other Star Wars movie (And really, they are more character drama at their core). Sure, Rey has her ‘Luke in the tree-cave’ moment, and her long-distance awkward-tween calls with emo-Darth, but none of it really amounts to much (even though her chats with Ren were probably the only hint of something interesting story-wise).

        As for the action, I found it quite lacklustre as well, but that could be because I never engaged with the events or weak characters, so the action had no impact. Then again, even an eye-candy Transformers movie can be awful but have pulse-pounding fun action. TLJ just left me without a single quickened pulse or raised eyebrow of interest. 😉

    • Thulsadoom

      Oh, even Josh is allowed to have an off day… I’m sure every one of us here likes some movies that most everyone else considers awful. 😉 Hell, I’d sooner watch Omega Doom than TLJ again!! 😀 (Actually, I consider Omega Doom a guilty pleasure… ahem – Where’s the Shout Factory special edition?! Anyway… ).

      And at the end of the day, reviewers are just people with opinions like everyone else, and you know what they say about opinions. 😀

  17. Timcharger

    Josh: “Long before watching it, I… had read countless complaints tearing it apart scene by scene, if not frame by frame. The unavoidable perception this left me with was that ‘The Last Jedi’ was not only the worst movie ever made, but quite possibly the worst piece of narrative fiction ever conceived in human existence.”

    Before watching it, I was told by HDD that it’s a 4.5 Stars film. The critical reviews were glowing, pulsating neon signs of adoration. The “best reviewed Star Wars films ever!” So if you watched it 7 months ago Josh, you would not have such low expectations, and you would be highly disappointed.

    So you’re welcome. You were counseled appropriately.

      • R

        And you were absolutely correct, Luke. It’s a shame other critics didn’t share your opinion. Your review was spot-on!

      • Timcharger

        Luke, I appreciate your article. And I enjoyed reading it afterwards. But since it was a “Spoiler Warning” piece, I didn’t read it prior to watching the Last Jedi. So I wasn’t really warned. This is your first sentence:

        “When I walked out of last Monday’s press screening for ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ and heard just about every other critic gush over the film’s supposed greatness…”

        And that’s the accurate assessment of the environment by which the Last Jedi was released in. So if Josh watched the film 7 months ago, this article would be > than Star Trek Into Darkness + Prometheus levels of vitriol.

  18. Timcharger

    Josh: “It’s also at least a half hour too long.”

    Josh: “Johnson clearly made a conscious decision to deconstruct the classic Hero’s Journey narrative that this franchise has relied on so heavily, even setting up an elaborate side-quest that viewers expect will prove critical to saving the day, only to pull the rug out from under that at the end.”

    No Josh. Johnson clearly wrote (my imperfect memory; I haven’t rewatched) in the film, that Canto Bight was all worth it. It saved some horses?! Either it was a nice magician-slight-of-hand writer’s trick, or the film was 30 minutes too long. You can’t have it both ways. This waste of a time detour was ridiculously long.

  19. Mark

    I liked it the first time, but thought it had definite problems. Seeing it a 2nd and 3rd time, it became less engaging and the flaws began to stand out more. Usually, a good or great SW film gets better with each viewing. This was more like the prequels where each subsequent viewing got worse.

  20. Dave M

    I’ll chime in with hopefully something new.

    I don’t 100% blame Rian for his take on Luke. I didn’t like it, but he was written into a corner by someone else. Michael Arndt even said (when he was writing TFA) that every time Luke showed up he took over the movie. So they bumped him to the end.

    But what I didn’t like is that all of the new characters were relegated to secondary status so we he could focus more on Kylo Ren. I didn’t-and still don’t-give a rat’s ass about Kylo Ren.

    Rian didn’t want to make a sequel to TFA. He wanted to make his own movie. But the movie he made doesn’t follow with what happened with the events of Episode VII.

    And I would accuse him of the same thing we accuse Zach Snyder of: he had a ‘cool scene’ (the hyperdrive into the dreadnaught scene) and he manipulated 90 minutes of nonsensical plot just to make that happen. The movie didn’t flow: it was force fed (ha: accidental pun!) down our throats.

  21. deaditelord

    Has Disney explained why the audio in their home video releases have been so poor of late? They used to be one of the top tier studios in that regard.

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