The Last Jedi has been one of the most divisive films in geekdom in a long time: the fans have offered up high praise on the film, saying it's a breath of fresh air to a withering franchise and manages to make it feel re-energized - while the naysayers are crying that the franchise is dead, the groundwork from the previous film wasted, and classic characters have been ruined. And as the weeks go by, I've seen more and more of the naysayers' criticisms taking root online - trying to cement the perception that the film was a misfire and a step in the wrong direction.

Let me just say: I humbly disagree. The Last Jedi whips ass. 

1. It took care of all the necessary Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi parallels


One of the most spot-on complaints about The Force Awakens is that it is largely a beat-for-beat remake of the original Star Wars (or, as absolutely no one calls it, "A New Hope") - orphan hanging out on a desert planet, dreaming of better things; gets swept into a grand adventure with a scrappy group of rebels fighting against a big, scary militaristic force; loses their elderly mentor; helps destroy a planet-eradicating superweapon, etc. The Force Awakens was fun and did a good job establishing the new trilogy's characters and their relationships, but it certainly didn't break any new ground as far as storytelling goes.

And, to some degree, the same can be said of The Last Jedi - but with a twist. Yes, the majority of the action parallels Empire in a lot of ways: no superweapon, rebels on the run from the Empire, last ditch retreat from AT-ATs on a white powder-covered planet, new ally who becomes a traitor, and the main character separating from the rest to go train on an isolated planet with weird, grumpy older mentor, etc. But it does something a little surprising towards the end - Rey confronts Kylo and tries to turn him towards the Light Side, and her torture at the hands of his master (and leader of the bad guys) causes Kylo to break and kill his master. That's straight up the ending of Return of the Jedi (in a nutshell), which takes care of the major parallels from the Original Trilogy - leaving Episode IX plenty of freedom to try out some new things.

The Last Jedi presented us with something totally new AND took care of all the pesky story beats it had to deal with - that's DAMN impressive.

2. Kylo Ren sets the bar for villains higher than his stupidly high pants


Speaking of the parallels, it's right after that ROTJ mirror moment that the movie really starts setting itself - and its villain - apart. Kylo turns on Snoke, but doesn't turn to the Light Side. He's done with "sides" - he wants to be himself, without labels...but mostly, he wants Rey to join him. Kylo is deeply, deeply insecure, angry all the time, and frightened. He doesn't know what to do with this power inside of him - and he's spent the last several years simply lashing out at everything and anything that reminds him of what he was supposed to be. He figures Rey could be a balancing force in his life - here's someone ELSE who has the same power within them, who also is deeply unsure of what lies in their future...maybe they could help each other?

That's a huge departure from any aspect of the original trilogy - Vader never truly showed any real hesitation or weakness until the final moments of watching his son being tortured by his boss. But Kylo Ren does - he's a raw nerve, and every move he makes has an air of unpredictability around it. For a series that has become all too predictable, we need more characters like Kylo Ren to keep things fresh.


And, uh, take off their shirts to show off their hot bods.

3. Troll Yoda returned to set things right


One of the joys of Yoda's initial appearance in Empire is how WEIRD and UNEXPECTED it is. For many of us, the movie is so familiar that we forget that Yoda's introduction is a major twist - all we've heard is that Dagobah is home to an ancient, wise Jedi Master who can train Luke in the ways of the Force. Up until this point, the only Jedi we've ever seen is Obi-Wan Kenobi (and, sorta, Darth Vader) - we're expecting another bearded, well-spoken human...and we get a goofy dyslexic goblin muppet.

It's that first part - "goofy" - that is really so key to Yoda's impact. He doesn't behave the way we expect a "Jedi Master" to - he's giggling all the time, he's crawling around looking for snacks, he's making fun of Luke, etc. He's being WEIRD AS HELL - which is what makes Yoda so great. He's a weirdo who also just so happens to be extremely wise and intelligent. This aspect was lost somewhat in the prequels, where he was the Yoda we were expecting before we actually met Yoda - filled with gravitas and deathly serious at all times. And, man, it was boring.

But The Last Jedi sees the return of Force Ghost Yoda, and he's retained his goofy trollish nature - he laughs at Luke's seriousness and delights in burning down the most sacred Jedi monument in existence, because who cares? If you don't have a sense of humor about yourself, you might end up going crazy and exiling yourself to a crummy island planet with a bunch of lizard nuns!

Oh right.

4. Porgs are good as hell and I will fight anyone who says otherwise

Porgs are good as hell - complaints that they're cutesy forced additions akin to Ewoks are totally misguided and wrong. The key difference is that Ewoks figured hugely into the plot of Return of the Jedi, while Porgs are just pleasant window dressing. They never influence or affect the plot in any meaningful way, but they give Chewbacca some fun business to deal with in the midst of Rey's more serious training sessions and Kylo Ren Mind-Skype calls. They have a few funny bits with a lightsaber and during the Battle of Crait, but the film never pushes them too far or gives them any goofy action setpieces (honestly expected them to get involved in some major antics, like the Droid Factory sequence from Attack of the Clones).

No, Porgs are essentially just some fun window dressing who also give Chewbacca something to do in-between acting as Rey's intergalactic chaffeur - on top of being a fun bit of trivia regarding the behind-the-scenes production involving an island overrun with puffins. What's not to like?!

5. No more Snoke!!!


One of the more contentious choices amongst the fandom of Star Wars was the killing of Supreme Leader Snope in The Last Jedi - many felt Snoke's story still felt incomplete, and his death meant the abandonment of some potentially rich lore that was set up in The Force Awakens. Was Snoke actually Darth Plagueis? What was he up to during the prequel trilogy? How was such a powerful Force-user hidden during the original adventures of Luke, Leia, et al? The answer: WHO CARES?

Snoke was the most egregious example of copy+pasting from the OT - a semi-deformed elderly evil master who has a big throne room and acts all ominous towards his subordinate. And like the original trilogy, it didn't matter where he came from or what his story was - no one REALLY cared where Emperor Palpatine emerged from or anything, because he was such a stereotypical stock bad guy that it didn't invite any indication of nuance or rich backstory. The same goes for Snoke - he's a goddamn cartoon character, even in the world of Star Wars. But the nice thing is that his death opened up a WORLD of possibilities.

6. Captain Phasma continues to be the most trolled character in Star Wars history


I'll be honest - I was a little perturbed by the role Captain Phasma played in The Force Awakens. After being built up in the marketing materials as a formidable character and antagonist to the main crew, Phasma (played by Gwendoline Christie) wound up with only a few minutes of screentime, during which she did absolutely nothing cool or badass and was only there to get completely owned. It was the Boba Fett joke taken to the extreme (reminder that Boba Fett doesn't actually ever do anything interesting or badass in the OT, and during his one opportunity, he fucks up and gets bumped into a Sarlacc Pit by a blind guy). At least Boba Fett had the decency to wait until his second big screen appearance to get turned into a joke - Phasma did it in her first outing.

And despite being shoved into a trash compactor and left for dead on an exploding starbase, Phasma returned in The Last Jedi...for, like, mayyyybe 2 minutes. And during those 2 minutes, all she accomplished was losing all of her stormtroopers, getting bashed in the face, and falling into an exploding pit of debris. At least there was a tiny shred of dignity in her fate in TFA - we didn't actually SEE her get shoved into the trash compactor. Here, the film allows the mockery of Phasma to be complete, as we see Finn kick her ass and send her to her death, without having done anything cool or interesting.

7. The Force is weird and unexpected and cool again


The Force was originally beyond simple explanation - only able to be summarized in broad, vague, philosophical terms. Things it allowed individuals to do were always surprising and weird and cool - it let Obi-Wan mislead the minds of Stormtroopers, it allowed his physical form to vanish in an instant, it let Vader choke subordinates from afar, and it allowed Obi-Wan to communicate with Luke, even after death. As Obi-Wan described it:

The Force is an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together.

But after Empire, the Force became...mundane. After Force-Ghosts were introduced (and even that just seemed like a bit of an extension of Obi-Wan's Force-Voice from the end of A New Hope), the Force didn't really seem to have any other tricks up its sleeve. And the Prequels took things in the opposite direction, literally explaining exactly what the Force was, and removing any sense of awe or mystery from it.

The Last Jedi, on the other hand, allows the Force to do some weird stuff - the mental connection between Kylo and Rey is amongst the film's best moments, and Luke's life-draining astral projection is something I genuinely did not see coming. And the best part is that - while each of these elements were unexpected and weird - they were totally fitting with the idea of an energy field that surrounds and penetrates it. The Force isn't just moving rocks - it's about the connections between all life, no matter the physical distance between them.

Also, now we know Force-Ghosts can shoot lightning at stuff, which opens up some SERIOUS questions about why Ghost Obi-Wan was just hanging out on Dagobah so much instead of blasting lightning back at Palpatine.

8. Poe + BB-8 ship is going strong


Let's get down to the TRULY important part of Star Wars in the 21st century - SHIPPING CHARACTERS. The Force Awakens had folks shipping Poe and Finn pretty hard, along with some mild Rey and Kylo. And while the Rey and Kylo shipping stuff becomes pretty explicit in TLJ, Poe and Finn don't exactly sizzle - largely because Finn has a new love interest in Rose, but also because the two are separated for a good chunk of the film.

And also, because TLJ reveals the most important ship of this trilogy is Poe and BB-8.

Looking back at TFA, it seems so obvious - Poe is constantly so concerned and attached to little BB-8, and his emotional reactions to the little ball droid are so much more intense. And in TLJ, upon Finn's return to the Resistance, Poe's first reaction is the safety of BB-8. In the initial battle against the dreadnaught - who's got Poe's back? Who's there to jam their heads into a bunch of complex machinery? BB-8 gives Poe the best head he possibly could.

So you can all keep your Reylo ships and your Huxlo ships - I'm shipping BB-Poe.



Listen, logically, this is all baffling - Holdo's lightspeed kamikaze attack into Snoke's mega-ship is a moment riddled with questions:

  • If this kind of pinpoint attack were possible, why hadn't the rebels been pulling this shit since the original Death Star? And the Death Star Mk. II? And Starkiller Base?
  • How is ONE PERSON able to steer the ship so effectively? Why would they even need a bridge crew to navigate?
  • Why wasn't this Leia's big finale? Surely knowing she wouldn't be back for Episode IX, the team could have used some editing tricks and a few special effects to make this Leia's grand finale - sacrificing herself to save the rebellion - instead of giving it to Holdo and then having Leia die off-screen between films.

Despite this, the moment is AMAZING. When the audience and Hux both realize - oh shit, this is ACTUALLY GOING TO HAPPEN, HUH? - and then it does and there's just dead silence? It's INCREDIBLE. People in the theater started clapping! And especially in this film, when we had repeatedly been seeing our heroes fail over and over, it was nice to have a straight-up moment of badass victory.


Again - there really isn't a blueprint for where to go with Episode IX. The confrontation in front of the evil master and the attempt at redemption for the bad guy have already happened - so the door is wide open for Episode IX to do some weird, unexpected things with the plots and the characters. but there's one big thing I've always wanted to see that might actually be possible now:

Force Ghost Luke haunting Kylo Ren. The last thing Luke (or, Luke's Force Projection) said to Kylo was that if he attempted to strike him down, he would be with him forever (just like his father). Kylo DID try to strike him down...but failed, since it was just a projection...but also kiiinda succeeded, because that projection sucked up all of Luke's lifeforce and killed him. The long and short of it is that it seems VERY likely that Luke will return as a Force Ghost in the next film - and we might see something completely new: a Force Ghost haunting someone who doesn't want them there. The common wisdom would have Luke hanging around Rey and continuing to mentor her - but what if Luke's ghost hangs around erstwhile Ben Solo - taunting him, prodding him, and trying to bring him back to the Light Side? After all - there would be absolutely nothing ol' Kylo would be able to do about a ghost haunting him, safe from all forms of physical danger. Hell, we even made a video about how this should have happened back in Empire:

A wiser, more confident Luke haunting Kylo Ren and trying to bring back Ben Solo is all I could dream of from this trilogy. It seemed likely that the one to bring Kylo back from the brink of darkness would have been Leia - but with the death of Carrie Fisher, there would be no way to complete that arc without resorting to some nightmarish CGI and awkward voice-acting. But this solution could be even better - fully complete Luke's arc by having his ghost work to correct his gravest failure, all while showing us something truly new and interesting (especially now that Kylo is without a mentor, he needs SOMEONE to run up against, and General Hux is too clearly subservient to create any meaningful tension with him).

Basically, Star Wars HAS to turn a Dorkly Bit into the final, canonical major plotline for Luke Skywalker. That rocks.

Also: the acting is stellar across the board, Mark Hamill's journey as an embittered and lost Luke is so genuinely interesting and cool BECAUSE no one saw this coming, Daisy Ridley is giving us a new wide-eyed hero to root for (and really selling the 'need for connection' angle that made me seriously think she might be willing to join Kylo - creating a tension that was never really there with Luke/Vader), Kelly Marie Tran's Rose is such an emotionally raw and complex character that I want to see her interactions with EVERYONE now, John Boyega's Finn is so unbelievingly lovable and endearing and I want to see him and Rey being Best Buds again so badly, and Carrie Fisher's final bow as Leia gave us everything we could have hoped for (except resolution to her story, but oh well).

The point is - this movie whips ass. For the first time in a long time, I'm excited for the possibilities Star Wars holds. New things! More Porgs! Poe falling further in love with BB-8! Finn and Rey having a nice platonic friendship! Finn and Rose f***ing hardcore, 24/7! And Force-Ghost Luke haunting Kylo Ren, wearing those stupid enormous pants he was wearing.