Star Wars: The Last Jedi released on Disney+ Thursday, so now seems like a good time for a retro review and a look at its awesome special features.
The franchise has been in peril of late in terms of the films. After polarizing reviews for The Rise of Skywalker, which premiered this past week, the Skywalker saga has taken some lumps.
Episode VIII upset the established order in the first place. Writer-director Rian Johnson took Star Wars in some bold and unexpected directions, much to the chagrin of fandom.
But with the full context of the sequel trilogy at hand now, and a couple years to process, let’s take a fresh look at The Last Jedi and review its merits as it debuts on Disney+.
CHECK IT OUT: Star Wars: The Last Jedi release date on Disney+
Features first: Deleted scenes, score-only silent film
Disney+ gives Star Wars junkies a good fix in terms of bonus material for The Last Jedi. There’s an option that allows subscribers to play a version of the movie with the only sound being John Williams’ epic score.
The legendary film composer adds so much to the saga with his brilliance. Star Wars wouldn’t be what it is without Williams’ genius. This feature is available on certain other digital and DVD media, but how awesome is it that you can stream it now?
Also included are the deleted scenes. One of the highlights is a tense sequence where Finn, Rose and “DJ” are on an elevator with a bunch of First Order stormtroopers. One recognizes Finn from the old days, and praises him for rising in the ranks.
It appears Finn is a higher officer due to his disguise. The stormtrooper hamming it up to congratulate him is none other than Tom Hardy!
Another great extra scene: Luke Skywalker mourning the death of Han Solo. Johnson explains in the commentary it was an example of limiting intercutting. OK, but you could’ve used it here!
Speaking of controversy surrounding Luke, that brings me to the beginning of Episode VIII‘s retrospective review…
The Last Jedi‘s drawing of Luke Skywalker
Many fans HATED how Luke was drawn as an old hermit who criticized the Jedi Council, refused to fight the First Order and initially wouldn’t mentor Rey.
But this is the first area where Johnson hugely succeeded as a storyteller. Luke saved the galaxy, and where does he go from there? He tries to train his nephew, Ben Solo, as part of a new generation of Jedi.
That goes totally sideways, as Ben is turned to the dark side by Supreme Leader Snoke. Luke’s Jedi academy is burned down, and Ben flees with several other students.
Luke worked so hard to bring balance to the Force, and defeat the Empire. Suddenly, all his well-intended efforts — and split-second impulse to vanquish Ben before his nightmarish transformation into Kylo Ren — went up in smoke, and, well, Snoke.
However, by the end of the movie, Luke pulls off one of the most epic feats in Star Wars history. He Force-projects to Kylo on Crait, distracts the heavily-armed First Order and allows the shorthanded Resistance to escape.
Luke does this in the most pacifist, Jedi way ever. He doesn’t even engage Kylo in a physical duel. Luke still uses epic powers, just not in the way fanboys were probably hoping.
Johnson created a far more complex character than a safer-minded filmmaker might. That’s why this version of Luke is so fulfilling to watch.
Canto Bight: an unnecessary side quest?
Many dislike the B story of the movie where Finn and Rose venture to Canto Bight in search of a master codebreaker. It’s viewed as unnecessary and should’ve been scrapped.
While the execution is admittedly muddled, it’s vital to the rebels escaping the First Order’s unprecedented ability to track through light speed. How’s that not vital to the story?
Also, they ultimately fail. As Yoda tells Luke in their scene together, “The greatest teacher failure is.” Luke failed Ben Solo, and is in the process of failing his friends and sister, Leia, by going into exile on Ahch-To and not fighting.
Finn and Rose fail, but they also inspire the younger generation to fight back against oppression against seemingly impossible odds. This is exemplified in the final scene, when one of the kids is inspired by Luke’s epic story from the Battle of Crait. he’s shown to have Force sensitivity and takes up a broom, looking to the stars, prepared to rebel.
That paints such a wider, more inclusive vision of the Star Wars galaxy. Without the Canto Bight adventure, the theme of failure wouldn’t be quite as strong, and the universality of inclusion wouldn’t be as prominent in The Last Jedi. More on this shortly.
Reylo, “ForceTime,” “Let the past die” and FAILURE
Episode VIII‘s strength is the relationship between Kylo and Rey. Their “ForceTime” chats create a bond filled with romantic tension and longing to connect.
Johnson frequently subverts expectations in The Last Jedi, and a lot of review haters suggest it’s for the sake of it, but watch on Disney+ again and decide for yourself.
Exhibit A: Kylo looks like he’s about to kill Rey in Snoke’s throne room. Instead, he kills Snoke. Then, Rey and Kylo take out Snoke’s guards in one of Star Wars’ best action sequences.
Is Kylo turning good? Nope! He asks Rey to join him and rule the galaxy together. She refuses, but also acknowledges that her parents are nobody.
Kylo says more than once that old things should die. It’s a means to justify killing his father, Han Solo, and to lure Rey to the dark side.
Here’s a common misconception: Kylo’s assertions directly reflect the film’s primary message and theme. No! He has short-sighted ambition to obtain absolute power — precisely Anakin’s downfall!
This mentality warns against the failure to acknowledge the past — namely, the past failures of his idol, Darth Vader. Rey can’t move forward either, because she can’t accept her place in the story. Her unresolved past holds her back, but helps her resist Kylo’s offer.
Luke doesn’t initially confront his biggest failure. He runs from it. Ultimately, he relies on his past virtues and Master Yoda to lift him out of his rut. He evolves and makes one last heroic stand. Even Poe Dameron takes his lumps in failure as a demoted Resistance fighter, and becomes a better, more well-rounded leader because of it.
Without spoiling The Rise of Skywalker, let’s just say all this comes into play in a big way again to cap this allegedly disjointed trilogy.
The Last Jedi verdict: BINGE
- Streaming on Disney+
- Written & Directed by Rian Johnson
- Starring Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, Mark Hamill
There’s a reason critics on Rotten Tomatoes rated this in the 90s, and fans gave it a 43% approval rating. Fan expectations create false hope, and Johnson asked Star Wars viewers to let go of all that and embrace a fresh, new take.
Name the last Star Wars movie that wasn’t polarizing. Here’s the answer: the 1977 original. All the prequels fielded criticism for bad acting, wooden dialogue and too much reliance on CGI. The Force Awakens was a raging success critically and commercially, yet borrowed too heavily from A New Hope for the liking of some.
Return of the Jedi used Ewoks as a merchandising ploy — ahem, sorry — a plot device, much to the chagrin of many. Episode VI is widely regarded as the “worst” of the original trilogy.
Even The Empire Strikes Back released in 1980 to polarizing reviews. We’re talking about one of the best films of all-time, with the most famous plot twist in cinematic history.
Now The Rise of Skywalker is fielding criticism for playing things too safe.
Many fans didn’t go for Episode VIII. I did. The story is daring, layered and undoubtedly original. The lead performances from Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver and Mark Hamill are all incredible. Johnson pulls off the most controversial Star Wars movie to date — one that will age extremely well.
Disney+ provides a chance to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi in a new light, and if you take the time to review its strengths, you’ll likely be rewarded with a wonderful experience.