The Last Jedi has finally arrived. The highly anticipated sequel to The Force Awakens was helmed by Rian Johnson, and promised to be something different from the usual ‘Saga’ stories and it didn’t disappoint. The film gave us brand new characters, new worlds, new creatures and entirely new character dynamics. But it also brought Luke Skywalker back to us. After that cliffhanger at the end of The Force Awakens, we were dying to know what would happen now that he had been found in his self-exile.
How would he react to meeting Rey for the first time? Would a familial tie be revealed between them? Would he train her to become a Jedi? Unfortunately, not all of our questions were answered, it didn’t seem like the two were related. And that’s where The Last Jedi does stumble. The audience goes in with pre-conceived questions and ideas of what the film is going to be like, but Rian Johnson had other ideas. There are some parts of the film that don’t work at all, like plot moments that seem clunky and forced. But some of the interactions between characters are beautiful. Here are eight reasons why The Last Jedi is better than The Force Awakens (and seven why it’s worse).
Major spoilers for The Last Jedi ahead!
15 BETTER: KYLO AND REY'S RELATIONSHIP
When we were first introduced to Kylo Ren and Rey, they were both on very separate paths with the Force. Kylo was embracing the Dark Side, whilst Rey was only just discovering her powers and the extent of what she could do. We never thought that they’d be put on a journey paralleling each other.
Once their connection is made through the Force and they have an open dialogue with each other, they strike up something of a partnership. Especially when it came to defeating Snoke. They were both disenchanted with their lot in life, and suddenly the other side of the Force becomes more forgiving than their own. And although they don’t swap sides, there is that moment where it seems feasible that they could. It’s a fascinating relationship.
14 WORSE: CAPTAIN PHASMA
Oh, Captain Phasma. When The Force Awakens came out, she was another character that was billed as incredibly important character in the First Order. It was almost like Disney and Lucasfilm were trying to give us another ‘Boba Fett’ style character; a masked character with a cool costume who goes up against the heroes. She had two or three scenes and that was all.
Well it doesn’t get any better for Gwendoline Christie during The Last Jedi either. She’s introduced towards the end when Rose and Finn get captured. She’s orders their execution before Holdo annihilated the ship. Sure, she and Finn had a cool fight, but after she’s thrown into the fire of Snoke’s ship, it’s unlikely we’ll see her again. It’s a shame that Gwendoline Christie wasn’t given more to play with given her talent as an actress.
13 BETTER: GENERAL LEIA ORGANA
Even though she spends part of the time incapacitated by the attack from the First Order, General Leia Organa’s character is given some more touching character moments across the film. The one that leaves the biggest impression is her brief reunion with Luke as a force-projection. Seeing how far the two of them have come since the original Star Wars film is incredible.
Say what you like about the moment where she floats through space, it shows that her powers in the Force aren’t as dormant as some might think in the films. We’ve seen it in the extended universe before, so it’s great to see them properly acknowledge that onscreen. Plus, to say this was Carrie Fisher’s final film before her death, it most certainly does her justice. RIP.
12 WORSE: HUX
Domhnall Gleeson is quickly becoming one of the most recognized actors working Hollywood who is guaranteed to give a fantastic performance. His role in Ex_Machina for example, was highly praised. But in Star Wars, his role as General Armitage Hux just really fails to land. He gave an incredibly cheesy speech during The Force Awakens, and it only gets worse in The Last Jedi.
His dialogue seems to get cheesier throughout the new film. Most of the time he has a sneer scrawled across his face, and occasionally gets choked out by Kylo Ren. It’s not exactly an Oscar worthy performance. He doesn’t get to do a whole lot in terms of developing his character either. He’s basically a stereotypical bad guy, with no actual personality to him. Shame.
11 BETTER: SUPREME LEADER SNOKE
So we don’t get any answers about who Snoke is. Yes, it’s mildly annoying, but the film isn’t constrained by it. Instead, Andy Serkis gives a menacing performance as the Leader of the First Order. The way he tortures Rey and tests Kylo is truly maniacal. And as much as we all theorize over who he is, it doesn’t matter. What matters is how his actions twist Rey and Kylo to breaking point.
There’s a brief moment where they could have worked together in a ‘Gray Jedi’ outcome, but because Rey has seen the horrors that Kylo and the First Order has inflicted, she pushes him away. Snoke is the catalyst of their development as characters and the dynamic between them. He’s a lot better than the initial introduction we had in The Force Awakens.
10 WORSE: THE PLOT
Yes, The Force Awakens was riffing off A New Hope, bringing a new positive sense to the galaxy as a new potential Jedi is welcomed from a desert planet. But it was a tried and tested method, the giant super weapon, the lovable rogue and even the same lightsaber.
What does The Last Jedi have? A prolonged chase through Space, no answers regarding Snoke or even Rey’s parentage really. The First Order could have jumped through lightspeed ahead of the Resistance’s fleet and cut them off before they could escape. But instead they slowly chased them, occasionally picking off each transport. The plot didn’t grip us as much as seeing these characters again did (although we did still really enjoy it, honest).
9 BETTER: FINN
FN-2187, or Finn, as Poe Dameron christened him became a stand out star after The Force Awakens. He showed us a brand new perspective we’ve never seen before in live action, a reformed Stormtrooper. But it would be stupid to think that his interactions would just be limited to Rey and Poe Dameron going forward.
Becoming friends with Rose, and even developing something of a relationship with her seemed to push his character in a new direction, to the point where he’s willing to sacrifice himself to stop the First Order’s weapon threatening the Rebel hideout on Crait. The self-sacrifice shows how far he’s come in a short space of time, because this is almost immediately after The Force Awakens. We can’t wait to see what’s next for him.
8 WORSE: REY’S POWERS
As intriguing and compelling as Rey’s character is, there’s no denying that The Force Awakens needed a level of commitment from the audience when it came to her powers. We simply just had to believe that her Jedi Mind Trick was a natural evolution, as was her connection to the Force.
But since The Last Jedi is set almost immediately after The Force Awakens, her powers grow incredibly quickly even more. By the end of the latest film, Rey is able to lift all the large boulders away from the mines on Crait so that the Resistance can escape. She’s also able to maintain a mental Force-link with Kylo for a prolonged period of time. It’s almost like she has no weaknesses at all. The writers shouldn’t make her overpowered, otherwise that undercuts any dramatic tension going forward.
7 BETTER: NEW CHARACTERS
Even though The Force Awakens gave us a brand new trio of heroes to care about, The Last Jedi expanded their worlds further to drive everybody forward. Our favorite of the newcomers was definitely Rose Tico, played by Kelly Marie Tran. The engineer was mourning the death of her sister in the opening scene, but learnt to overcome her grief for the greater cause. Her dynamic with Finn was great to see as it developed.
But even outlying characters that affected the plot like Benicio Del Toro as D.J. proved to be entertaining. Del Toro played a double crossing codebreaker that Rose and Finn get help from to sabotage the First Order. But even non speaking roles like Snoke’s vicious Praetorian Guard managed to make an impression.
6 WORSE: KYLO REN
Kylo Ren murdered Han Solo. He killed one of the most beloved characters in Star Wars history. That was his final step over to the Dark Side, he very much embraced the cause. Even his duel with Rey at the end of the film cemented him as a villain, trying to pull her over to his side.
But in The Last Jedi, it flips him back to the confused mess that he started out as. He fights back against Snoke, and once again attempts to connect with Rey. And even though that’s an interesting storyline, it seemed strange to develop his character in TFA to just scrap his villainous journey. But to then twist it back around in the final act of The Last Jedi where he’s a screaming, rage filled force of evil again felt odd. It’s as if they couldn’t decide on a definitive tone for Kylo.
5 BETTER: CREATURES
Don’t worry, we’re not going to just talk about Porgs the entire time. They provided some comical moments, but they didn’t overthrow the First Order in an Ewok style. No, the real intriguing creatures were those like the Fathiers on Canto Bight. They were used in gambling races, but face harsh cruelty from the track keepers. They clearly had a level of intelligence as Rose and Finn soon found out when they needed help.
And then there’s the crystal fox/dog creatures on Crait, the Vulptex. They were both cute and visually incredible. They also led the way for the Resistance to escape through the mines on Crait. We also saw the fish-like caretakers on Ach-To as well as the green milk giving creatures that Luke used in comical fashion.
4 WORSE: POE DAMERON
When we were first introduced to Poe Dameron at the beginning of The Force Awakens, he’s a cool hot shot pilot in the Resistance helping in the search for Luke Skywalker. He seemed to have his head on straight, taking smart calculated risks that would benefit the Resistance. And all of that gets thrown out of the window during The Last Jedi.
He leads a mutiny against Vice Admiral Holdo, not believing in her secret plan. She keeps it to herself because she’s obviously worried about First Order spies in such a desperate time. Instead, Dameron takes matters into his own hands and decides that he knows better. It almost becomes egotistical. Sure, we know he’s reckless -- but this seemed a bit stupid. He’s not the most well-developed of characters in The Last Jedi, which is a shame because he’s one of the best new characters in Star Wars.
3 BETTER: THE RESISTANCE
Poe Dameron, BB-8 and General Organa. These were the key members of the resistance that we were introduced to during The Force Awakens. There were supporting cast members too, but the focus was mainly on these three. But The Last Jedi expanded the roster considerably.
Vice-Admiral Holdo became the de-facto leader after Leia is injured after a brutal attack from the First Order. The development of her character as Poe was unsure about her intentions was extremely well written. There was a subtle passive aggressiveness whenever she butted heads with Dameron about the plans to survive. She clearly knew what she was doing and had the best intentions. The mutiny provided a look at the wider politics of the Resistance and how desperation can force allies to turn on each other.
2 WORSE: SUPREME LEADER SNOKE (AGAIN)
Whilst finally getting to see Snoke in the (scarred) flesh was quite intimidating and captivating during the film, he’s actually not given much to do except be a stereotypical Star Wars villain. He sits in a chair, laughs maniacally at younger force users and generally talks about ruling the galaxy and killing everyone.
During The Force Awakens, there was a mystique surrounding Snoke. We didn’t know who he was or what he wanted… yet. We were led to believe that we’d discover his intentions further down the line. Unfortunately, we didn’t get that because Kylo dispatched Snoke very quickly once Rey was in the room. It felt like a disservice to what could have been a truly legendary villain. We definitely don’t think he’s Darth Plagueis anymore, he wouldn’t have been killed so easily.
1 BETTER: LUKE SKYWALKER
To say that the entire plot of The Force Awakens revolved around finding Luke Skywalker, we got very little Luke Skywalker. It was unbelievably annoying when his contribution to the film was simply to turn around and glare at Rey as she held out the lightsaber to him. It was a bizarre moment.
Luckily, they develop Luke a lot further across the film, even if he never really leaves Ahch-To. We understand the pain that he’s gone through losing his Jedi Academy and the students that may have all been massacred (but what about any survivors?), as well as his self-imposed exile. It’s a huge delve into the mind of someone completely disillusioned by the force, the Jedi and everything in between. Plus, seeing Mark Hamill back in the role was fantastic.