I am not a Star Wars franchise fan. I loved the first film when it came out, was sorely disappointed by The Empire Strikes Back, and pretty much ignored the movies, books, games, toys, and so on for the next several decades.
My expectations for The Last Jedi were shaped by those films, not the mass of other Star Wars related media. So I won’t be talking about whether or not any particular details meshed with works that may or may not be part of some official or unofficial canon. I want to look at it simply as a film.
I will be discussing spoilers. If you haven’t seen the film, haven’t run across spoilers in other places on the internet (and if you haven’t, kudos, because they are everywhere) and still intend to see it, read no farther.
Okay, we’re clear on that? I will be assuming from this point on that readers know what happens in the movie.
Let me cut to the chase: The film was flat out badly written.
The opening scene with Poe shows him disobeying a direct order and mounting a suicide charge that resulted in losing an entire bomber wing, to essentially no purpose.
Yes, one First Order ship was destroyed. The cost of that action in Rebel losses, though, both in numbers and in percentage of available forces, was outrageous. As a tactical move, it scored somewhere below the charge of the light brigade at Balaclava.
Then, upon returning to base, Poe is not summarily executed for dereliction of duty in the face of the enemy, but instead given a minor demotion and a verbal reprimand. Those few pilots who did survive the slaughter, in fact, treat Poe as a hero.
Fifteen minutes into the film it is obvious that the Rebellion, as a military unit, is suicidally incompetent. They are going to lose and they deserve to lose. So much for Plotline One. From this point on, it was impossible for me to care about anything that happened with the Rebel fleet.
Plotline Two, Rey & Luke & Kylo & Snoke, was marginally better. Stripped of its surrealistic metaphysical imagery, there were two competing points of view, one espoused by each master and argued against by each student.
Luke wanted an end to the conflict, to set aside the war and try to live in peace. Snoke wanted to continue the hostilities until one side was exterminated. (Unsurprisingly, Snoke was on the winning side, while Luke represented the suicidally incompetent side.)
Rey was being mentored by Luke, but agreed with Snoke, while Kylo was being mentored by Snoke but agreed with Luke. That actually worked, and gave rise to the film’s one legitimate moment of greatness, the confrontation between Rey and Kylo in Snoke’s dance studio. For a moment it look as if Kylo and Rey could begin to engineer a lasting peace in the galaxy, but then, the series isn’t called Star Ceasefires, now is it?
Like I say, that Plotline mostly worked–it was long and talky, and featured a return of my least favorite character in all of film, Yoda, but if it was cut out and presented as its own short film I’d give it a solid B.
Then we have Plotline Three, Rose and Finn. Let me start by saying that Rose is my favorite character in the film, and one of my top five favorites in any Star Wars movie. She’s up there with Alan Tudyk’s sarcastic robot in Rogue One.
What’s more, her chemistry with Finn makes him a lot more likable. The “lowly grunt pining for magic space princess” thing between Finn and Rey made Finn annoying. But with Rose I began to see Finn as she saw him, as a decent man who had been handed the short end of the stick and did the best he could with the hand he was dealt.
Tragically, all of their best and most heroic scenes took place in a subplot that made no fucking sense whatsoever. The whole Planet Vegas sequence was pointless and logically inconsistent. What’s more, it ended in abject failure, which is not surprising since it was Poe’s idea. Instead of pointing out that Poe’s last idea got her sister killed, Rose goes along with it.
A big deal is made about how there is no way for people to escape the First Order ships that are pursuing them and that they are almost out of fuel. And then (on the recommendation of Little Old Lady Ninja Space Turtle via Skype) Rose and Finn and Super Beachball take a ship, not to ferry refugees to safety, but to go to Planet Vegas to find some random hacker, whom they don’t find, but do end up losing the ship to an impound lot for a parking violation.
Then the man that they do find turns out to be a First Order plant. Because a holding cell in the Planet Vegas jail is the logical place to find Rebel troops to hoodwink. Or something. Plus the industrial military complex is evil. Also animal cruelty is bad, cute kids dressed like victorian chimney sweeps are good.
Then other things happen, but by this point I’m not really paying a lot of attention. The Rebel admiral decides that her career is in such dire straits that a kamikaze charge with a freighter is the logical next step, and Rey shows up to save the day in a scene that seems designed just as an inversion of the “Rocks Fall, Everybody Dies” gag. (Rocks rise, everybody lives.)
Plus Luke Skywalker does the Obi Wan Kenobi “strike me down and I will become more powerful than you can imagine” bit, only longer and with a bunch of emo dialogue.