It’s been about eight months now since “The Last Jedi” was released in theaters, and while the controversy surrounding the most recent Star Wars saga film has died down, it certainly hasn’t gone away. “The Last Jedi” proved to be surprisingly divisive amongst the core fanbase, launching numerous debates and discussions. I personally don’t quite trust the often-cited Rotten Tomatoes audience score of 50 percent; I still believe more people had a positive reaction to this film than a negative one (especially when considering the high critics’ rating), although I’m definitely willing to acknowledge that my own biases could be coming into play here.
As of a couple weeks ago, my husband Aaron still had not seen the film, though he’d heard it was controversial. I always have to chuckle a bit when I tell people that my husband isn’t really a fan of Star Wars, because he’s married to the biggest Star Wars fan in our circle of family and friends. 😉 He’s not really a movie buff; he geeks out more over board games and video games. However, since I haven’t shut up about how much I loved “The Last Jedi” since I saw it last December, I finally convinced him to watch it. I thought it would be interesting to share his response, since he’s not really a fan of the franchise and could offer an outside perspective.
Some quick background information, for context: Although Aaron is not really into movies as much as I am, his favorite films are anything by Christopher Nolan (particularly “Interstellar”) and the new movie “Annihilation.” “Rogue One” is his favorite Star Wars movie, even though he’s not super excited about the others. I told my husband I didn’t want to watch “The Last Jedi” with him, because I didn’t want my own opinions to color his response (or to interrupt his viewing experience by exclaiming “Ooo, that’s my favorite part!” too many times or quoting lines of dialogue along with the film). He knew the portrayal of Luke was controversial, but I tried not to go into a lot of detail about common complaints regarding the film; I wanted to see what observations he would come up with on his own.
So, what was his verdict? He actually liked “The Last Jedi”! Not as much as “Rogue One” (he likes the grittier war movie feel of that one), but he said he would add “The Last Jedi” to the list of Star Wars movies he likes (sadly, that list has only two items as of now, but I still love him). 😉 I’ll bring him over to the light side someday!
Before I go further, I do want to clarify that this blog is not designed to shame anyone who didn’t like “The Last Jedi.” Everyone should be free to either like or dislike a movie, based on their own personal preference. I’ve just heard a lot of conversations about this movie from die-hard Star Wars fans, and I thought it would be interesting to hear from someone who’s not necessarily a part of the fandom. And even though Aaron liked many of the same things about this film that I did, he had some criticisms I didn’t share.
Interestingly, Aaron said his most favorite part of the film was what he and I jokingly call “Grumpy Luke.” “I liked that he didn’t do what the Star Wars film formula dictated that he should do, which is train the new Jedi, see them on their way, etc.,” my husband told me. “He did things that made sense with his character. I liked his sass. I liked the character.” Aaron said he particularly enjoyed Luke’s final appearance trolling Kylo and the First Order, appearing via Force projection versus in person. And, of course, that epic shoulder brush.
For the other characters, he liked that the film gave Rey some flaws and darkness. He thought Rey was too powerful in “The Force Awakens”; I personally don’t agree with that take, as I really liked Rey from the beginning and her character makes a lot of sense to me. But he said enjoyed this take on the character more.
He liked Kylo tricking Snoke in the famous throne room scene. He said he didn’t mind it that Snoke died abruptly; he thought it was a clever twist in the story. He also liked the Kylo and Hux power struggle, and he liked Hux as a character.
Aaron appreciated that Poe was taken to task for his reckless decision-making and insubordination and then learned from the experience. The “hotshot flyboy” archetype in films (i.e. the “Top Gun” Maverick type) usually gets away with reckless behavior with a wink and nod, but “The Last Jedi” taught Poe an important lesson about humility. Aaron liked Vice Admiral Holdo, which I thought was really interesting. I’m a fan of Holdo as well, but she is one of the characters I see the most complaints about from fans. He didn’t like her as much at first, but then he said he enjoyed her character more as he realized she had a plan and cared more about doing the right thing than just protecting her own reputation.
Aaron did have some things he would like to change about the film. He didn’t like the animation on the Porgs (which hurts to hear, as I love everything about the Porgs). 😉 He also thought that Finn and Rose surviving the explosion in Snoke’s flagship was a little unrealistic (he likes to point out “plot armor” in films a lot more than I do). 😛 He would have cut out the casino scene, which is another common complaint about the movie. He also would have liked to see even more flaws built into Rey’s character, and he thought Leia’s character should have either died in space or not gotten sucked out into the vacuum in the first place. I don’t share all of those criticisms, but I think it’s always important to share alternate takes!
So after Aaron watched the film and enjoyed it overall, I asked him why he thought the film had proved to be so controversial. He felt Luke’s portrayal was probably a deal-breaker for some fans, especially if they were expecting something closer to his portrayal in the old Expanded Universe. He also thought maybe some fans would have preferred a more traditional master/padawan relationship between Rey and Luke.
“I’m honestly a little surprised that it provoked as much controversy as it did,” he said of the movie. “It’s kind of a departure from the tone of the previous movies, but it’s not that much of a departure. It’s still Star Wars.”
The humor, the lack of a time jump, and Snoke’s lack of backstory were some other complaints that I have seen from fans, but Aaron didn’t bring those up. None of those three things bothered me, so maybe I’ve just indoctrinated him at this point. 😉
So again, if you didn’t enjoy “The Last Jedi,” I definitely respect that, and I don’t want anyone to feel that I’m trying to pressure everyone into having the same opinion as I do. But it’s always interesting to me to hear from more casual fans who don’t have the same stake in these franchises as I do. I don’t think I’ve convinced Aaron to come watch Episode IX with me on opening night, but he said he’d watch it later if I thought he’d like it, so that’s something, at least!
If you have family members or friends who aren’t die-hard Star Wars fans, I’d love to hear what they thought of “The Last Jedi” as well! I’d like to keep the conversation going. At least to me, it’s more fun when we don’t all agree but can share our different opinions in a safe space. May the Force be with you all!