Kraig Taylor-Bryant avoids too many spoilers and takes a look at the characters of Star Wars: The Last Jedi...
Well I’ve seen Star Wars The Last Jedi twice now and, I have to be honest, I was pleasantly surprised so I’ll try to keep this film review as spoiler free as possible by describing each character and how I see their significance to the plot. What you have to keep in mind before watching the film is that, despite all events that occur in this part of the trilogy, the purpose of this film is to develop the main characters and have Disney make its Star Wars films stand out from the other ones, and it deserves credit for that, regardless of your take on the film.
The first character that I would like to talk about is Leia and the fact that none of her scenes were cut out of the film. In certain scenes, too, it would have been easy to just kill her off but, to my surprise, this didn’t happen, which I think is one of the best decisions they could have made as, the more we see of her in the films, the more we get to dig deeper into the original Leia's life (meaning the non CGI Leia or younger actress for stand alones) before we will no longer see her portrayal on screen in a new film. I think that Rian Johnson’s direction of the character was unique to say the least and in terms of bringing the character back to life, Rian did a terrific job of making Leia truly feel like a General that really cares about helping as many people as she can. And when she interacts with Luke, Rian really gets it right in the sense that the first thing they are going to think about is Han as they were all very good friends to begin with and, to Leia, it was also like she had lost a friend as well as a husband, and it is a friend, as well as her brother, who comes to comfort her in this moment. I also thing that the strongest thing about her character in this film is that she stays strong through all the darkness of the film, as well as losing her husband, which is exactly how I would have described the Leia from the original trilogy. This makes it a nice throwback to way back then before the film ends and it’s a nice touch to see the mention of ‘in loving memory of Carrie Fisher’ in the opening credits.
We also need to look at Poe Dameron and the connection we see between him and Leia in this film. It has, in a way, got the kind of tension in their relationship that Leia had with Han for a lot of Empire Strikes Back and that’s perfect for me to see on screen because, after reading the comics, in a fair few ways, Poe is like a Han Solo character, except for the fact that Poe might be a little more patriotic, but they both have the same confidence and daring personalities about them. What we also see in Poe is distrust among his superiors which really brings out the fact that this is simply a resistance of people, not an organised military, so there should be distrust between them. This is what I feel was missing in the rebellion in the original trilogy. We also see Poe develop as a character through the lessons their experiences teach him, among other characters in the film.
One of the other characters that grows from his experiences in this film is Finn. He learns to be a more caring person towards others, not just towards Rey as he clearly has a strong connection with her as a friend from The Force Awakens. We also see Finn’s realisation in this film that it’s not all about survival and keeping those that he cares about safe, it’s about protecting all life forms. Through fighting through all of the suffering and not giving up, he learns to care for many life forms as well as those he gets close to, thanks to Rose, who I thought was terrifically linked to the story.
Speaking of Rose, her character was significant in other ways too, to the whole story as well as just this film. In her own way she is developed to become this character that, to start with, wants to protect the resistance by hurting those that try to avoid fighting, but she starts to learn that the best way to win is by helping people instead of hurting them through Finn’s experiences as well as her own.
Now if we go back to the island, where episode 7 ended, with Rey passing on the lightsaber to Luke, this among other things in the film, does not go the way you think. Her story takes twists and turns, taking her to many locations and revealing her emotions about certain events, revealing truths about both Luke and Kylo, as well as herself. We really see darkness in all three of these characters, the struggle between light and dark between them and how this has shaped them throughout the film. However, the one issue I had with Rey is that she wasn’t as developed as you would expect the potentially “last of the Jedi” to be as, of course, we would want to know more about what is so special about her that she can do all these amazing things with so little training. What is really interesting about her though is that we are given more questions in this film than answers since we discover a strong connection between Rey and Kylo Ren.
On the topic of Kylo Ren, we see conflict within him, as we saw in the trailer in which he chooses not to kill his mother, and we see Kylo's attempts to sway Rey in a different way to how Vader tried to sway his son in Empire Strikes Back, thereby symbolising Kylo's separation from his faith in Vader’s methods. I think what is most enjoyable about Kylo in this film as that we don’t see him being as much of a stroppy teenager as we saw him in The Force Awakens. And Kylo in his own way is very surprising in this film, in the way that he feels towards Snoke.
Snoke himself as a character is definitely intriguing. In the short screen time we see him, he is developed in such a way that some may consider him the most pointless villain whilst others might argue that he is the most unique and in a way has evolved from the mistakes of Darth Sidious (Emperor of the Empire) and has learned to not be so overconfident. The fact that he shows such little restraint really shows the true side of a Sith, which we didn’t see much of in the Emperor in the original trilogy. The fact that Snoke is so powerful could also make for a weakness in his overconfidence, but through a lot of the film this seems unlikely. And the way that Snoke treats both Kylo and Hux shows that he does not respect those below him and that, in this sense, he has no desire to let anyone overthrow him as he is so determined to make sure that everyone knows their place. At one point in the film, Hux is uncertain of who he can trust, and that’s what I find interesting about him.
Hux, this time, was definitely more than the yelling, Nazi-like guy that we saw in The Force Awakens. In fact we see him as more of a strategist and we see how he guides people such as Kylo Ren whilst also conveying his undying respect for Supreme Leader Snoke (which does get annoying after a while). And, in many ways, Hux is a victim throughout this film. His character was very good, but I feel as if he started to feel unnecessary towards the final act so, unless he defects or JJ can bring out a new side of him, I doubt I will really care about Hux in episode 9.
Phasma? Well, for me, Phasma was definitely the most overhyped character. With her character being all over the Star Wars interviews and social media, it really makes you think of her as almost a vital role to the film leading up to it. Mind you, if you think about it, we thought that with The Force Awakens, and maybe that’s why we were almost certain she would be more important in this film but, as with many unexpected events in this film, we were wrong. I’m not saying that everything unexpected in this film is bad, far from it, but this is definitely one of those bad things. I will say though, she does reveal her true face in more than one way in this film, so that’s always a positive.
So back to the island, in which Luke brings across his own dark side that we see through many characters in this film. And the fact that we get a good look at what created Kylo Ren just makes me want Rian Johnson to direct a trilogy on Ben Solo (even though we know it won’t happen). What I find most interesting about Luke is that he is a completely different character to the original trilogy, which I loved as, of course, spending so much time on an island is going to change him. The fact that he went to an island that we see no one else on, at the end of The Force Awakens, shows that he clearly didn’t want to be found, which says something else about his personality and makes you wonder why it is that he feels “so responsible,” as Han Solo mentions in the Force Awakens. I think that in terms of seeing what he does on the island, he is very interesting in the sense that he has learned how to live his life in this place and the connection between the island and the force is certainly intriguing.
We should also talk about the much rumoured Benecio Del Toro character from this film, DJ, the roguish character of the film. He seems a lot like a Lando type character in my opinion, in the sense that he goes with what he cares about, whilst also showing some compassion for others. In a way he is different because it’s a lot harder to trust DJ, since he definitely seems shady from the start, and I hope he shows up in the next film to give us a little more about his character. And much like the film itself, he is very divisive over his allegiance and I think the fan base of Star Wars will either like this character or hate him, which I love in terms of being a recurring theme among Disney Star Wars.
Thinking about DJ, we also need to look at his link with BB8, it definitely seems like there is some connection with the two as they are both in a sense, troublemakers. Whilst their paths are sort of leading in different directions they still seem to be similar in a few ways and seem to work well together. And I think that can be said with pretty much all the characters that BB8 shows up with in the films and I think that’s what’s amazing about him. It’s what I think R2D2 was missing as a character, as it always seemed as if it was always ‘R2 and Anakin, and everyone else’ or ‘R2 and Luke and everyone else’, whereas with BB8, I think he seems to have a special connection with everyone and, whilst he’s a little overpowered in this film, he brings across a strong and lovable personality for all fans.
So whilst talking about BB8, and comparing him to R2D2, lets talk about the use of R2 and C3P0 in this film. I honestly felt that 3POs character was little more than a cameo to throw in a few jokes with, which is a little disappointing, but you have to consider that there are a lot of main characters in this film that have to be fitted into the already considerable time slot. R2 however, his interaction with Luke was brilliant, and the fact that we see a Luke that can really understand R2 now when, in the original trilogy, he only seemed to understand Luke through the translation programmes on his ship. And R2 seems to have a key role in swaying Luke to make the right decisions throughout the narrative.
And of course, we can’t forget the best sidekick of the Falcon, Chewbacca. I feel as if he was a little underused but the scenes that he is in really takes you back to Empire and, even through John Williams’ music, we reimagine the asteroid film scene whilst Chewie and Han are piloting the Falcon, which is another great reminder to the characters that their memories of Han are still there. And the comedic aspects of Chewie and the porgs was just brilliant. It wasn’t overused but the scenes that you do see them in are great and you kind of want to see more of them but at the same time, you don’t, if you see what I mean. It was good to be left wanting more.
So overall I really do think that the film is worth watching as it explores not only the new characters of this trilogy but also the ones we already know and, even if we don’t appreciate what Rian Johnson has done, we can at least respect the work he’s done to try and give us a new angle on familiar characters and giving us a new way to explore the galaxy far far away in a new and unexpected way.
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Images - Lucasfilm Ltd