HENNO: Welcome to the PEDESTRIAN.TV official roundtable chat about Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, which tells the fanciful tale of a ‘war’ amongst ‘the stars’ – if you can bloody believe it! In case you haven’t heeded any of the multiple warnings, this is incredibly laden with spoilers. If you haven’t watched the film, I highly recommend you close this tab and go read a book.

I’m James Hennessy, deputy editor of PEDESTRIAN.TV. With me are PEDESTRIAN’s head of editorial Josie Rozenberg-Clarke, and news editor David Adams. First of all, the basic question: what did you guys think of the movie?

JOSIE : I was pretty blown away by it. But I actually thought the pacing was a little unusual for a movie of this scale. Like, it kicks off with some action courtesy of Poe Dameron’s maverick mission, but the first half was a little slower than I expected it to be, especially for a part two of a trilogy which are usually action-packed from start to finish. I was still totally invested, but it did spend a lot of time building up to that second half.

DAVID: It was definitely a Star Wars film. I think it’s pretty hard to ignore the effort that goes into making something of that scope and scale, and it absolutely delivered as a movie that lives up to the standards of the original trilogy. But I couldn’t escape the feeling the whole thing was kind of non-essential, merely a bridging point between the start of this new trilogy and whatever final showdown is brewing between Kylo Ren and Rey.

The inner turmoil of Kylo Ren was the most thrilling part of the movie – Admiral Holdo’s lightspeed martyrdom notwithstanding – but the fact he still anointed himself Supreme Leader of the First Order sucked what could have been a compelling new narrative right out of the saga. Sure, he did it out of a petulant need to lash back at his masters instead of some innate adherence to the dark side, but the end result is the same. The baddie remained a baddie. The goodie remained a goodie. As Luke pointed out, it’s the balance between the two that’s the most important bit.

HENNO: I think it’s by far the most interesting mainline Star Wars film to date, and I really really liked it. It basically nailed the sort of lizard-brain stuff I adore about the series, and still managed to set it on a new path radically different to what has come before. I agree with Josie about the pacing – for the first thirty to forty minutes or so I felt like it was establishing a lot of narrative threads that didn’t feel particularly Star Warsy (for want of a better word) but they eventually resolved themselves very well. The second act – centred around the casino scene – felt surprisingly bloated, but the third act is probably the best of the entire series, and pulls it all together amazingly.

As for it being ‘non-essential’, I get that feeling, but a lot of it comes from the fact that it inverts a lot of the tropes that have made Star Wars what it is for forty years. After The Force Awakens was more or less a rehash of A New Hope, this movie realigns the series as something fundamentally about inner turmoil, and moral struggle. The clear good-and-evil narrative of the other films breaks down, and it makes the stakes seem a little lower by comparison, as much of it psychological. There’s no clear narrative for the third film in the trilogy, and that’s super interesting to me.

Also, the cinematography was the best of the entire Star Wars universe. The final battle on that salt plain is unsurpassed. Do not @ me.

JOSIE: Usually these “second movies” start in the middle of the action and end in the middle of the action, where you know exactly what you’ll be in for in a year or two when it comes out. I agree with you Henno, I loved that it ended in a way that leaves me thinking “what the hell happens next?” Even Rey kind of says that to Leia at the end. Both “sides” have hope, but we don’t know what their plans are. It was an open ending, but a satisfying one. Which I think is a really difficult kind of ending to pull off for a second movie in a trilogy.

DAVID: I did appreciate the fact Rian Johnson steered it away from deep dives into the mythology of the Jedi and the Sith. The thought of midichlorians still gives me hives. Yoda being chill with burning the Jedi texts, and Rey’s parents being revealed as common scavengers, both did a solid job of making the film feel more personal.

HENNO: The reveal about Rey’s parents was so good, and sort of enhances The Force Awakens in retrospect for me. Not only does it smash through the fact that Star Wars absolutely has to be about the Skywalker family and families in general, it’s also a big middle finger to the wild fan speculation that’s been going on for the past two years. When it’s revealed, you realise how little it actually matters for Rey to be somehow connected to the existing canon. It’s been done to death.

JOSIE: Was he telling the truth though, about Rey’s parents? Something about the way Adam Driver plays this role keeps me guessing. After The Force Awakens I loved to troll him for being Emo Vader, but after seeing The Last Jedi I actually think he does Ben Solo/Kylo Ren so well. In one scene he’s a petulant brat, nek minit he’s a lost little boy, then he’s a full-on homicidal maniac. I think he’s far from the 2D villain you’d usually see in a franchise like this. I found his performance really gripping in this film, whereas in TFA I thought he was very one-note.

HENNO: I think he was telling the truth, backed up by that hall-of-mirrors scene where she asks to see her parents and only sees herself. She is her own creator, in a sense. It’s now a non-issue going forward, and that’ll leave a lot of fans in the lurch considering that’s what everything has been going on about since The Force Awakens came out.

DAVID: Speaking of one-note, I just thought I’d give a shout-out to Domhnall Gleeson’s General Hux. What could have been another stale, authoritarian baddie was given some unexpected levity by his portrayal.

JOSIE: Domnhall Gleeson is absolute perfection. He’s so delightfully uptight, it’s such a kick when someone trolls him over the phone (Poe) or throws him against a wall (Kylo). I noticed the audience was really responding to his scenes in this film. The tension and power struggle between him and Kylo now that Snoke is toast is going to unfold deliciously, I feel.

HENNO: I was so chuffed with how they dealt with Snoke, too. The Force Awakens really made it seem like we were getting a parallel story to the original trilogy, with Snoke as the shadowy power behind the throne until the final denouement. What we got instead was actually a pretty pathetic character – he’s basically a nobody, and he dies much easier than his surprisingly skilled guards. You instantly stop giving a shit about who he is and where he came from. That final shot of his head on the ground with his tongue lolling out – you’re basically like “Why did I spend two years concocting wild theories about this idiot?” I can’t imagine any ‘real’ Snoke payoff being more satisfying.

JOSIE: That scene, when Kylo Ren kills Snoke. Just…wow. When a moment like that has people standing up and cheering, you know you’ve made a good bloody movie.

DAVID: I agree about Snoke. Again, it was another element that tilted the film’s emotional axis towards the ‘little’ guys. And I like to imagine Gwendoline Christie had a chat with Johnson about her experiences on a certain other tentpole franchise, and how it deals with largely unforeseen deaths.

Okay, look, the more I think about it, the more it feels like this actually was a shake-up. Good and evil is still present, sure, but The Last Jedi makes sure it manifests itself in somewhat less grandiose ways, with actors who don’t seem to embody both ends of the spectrum quite so purely.

HENNO: It’s definitely a shakeup, but it’s also a return to first principles in many ways. This is the pulpiest / most SPACE OPERA Star Wars since A New Hope, and it was no surprise to read that Rian Johnson got his story unit to watch a shitload of samurai films for inspiration. His love for the same kinds of movies that spurred Lucas is super clear. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the fighter ships move like muscle cars – that X-Wing burnout in the first scene had me cheering.

JOSIE: I loved Laura Dern as Admiral Holdo, I loved Kelly Marie Tran as Rose. I always appreciate when a franchise introduces new characters that actually add so much to the story instead of “Uh, okay, what is the point of you?” *coughs* Marvel *coughs*

DAVID: Laura Dern is my ride-or-die.

JOSIE: The purple hair is a LOOK.

HENNO: Her character was so good! You’re repeatedly invited to change your viewpoint on her, and she actually gets you to evaluate whether the Han Solo / Poe Dameron rebel-without-a-cause type is actually someone inherently worth applauding. Not an easy character task, given the fact that we’ve been conditioned to love Dameron.

DAVID: On the comparisons between Dameron and Solo, Oscar Isaac’s delivery of “I know” was as tasteful a reference as I could imagine.

JOSIE: I definitely loved how Holdo and Leia just totally blindsided Dameron. As much as I love him (for obviously very superficial reasons, I might add), he was very ‘Woman, step aside and let the man make a plan’. Mate, they had a plan.

HENNO: I personally would be interested to know what Lucasfilm had planned for Leia and Carrie Fisher. I feel like her story didn’t get a resolution. For obvious reasons, duh – but it feels like the third episode was always going to be her shining moment, and it’s sad we won’t get to see that.

JOSIE: I know. I just have no idea how they’re even going to tackle that. I loved how much we got to see her in this film. As a child I didn’t have a lot of strong female characters to look up to and to me, Leia stands out as a groundbreaking role for a woman in a blockbuster, especially considering it was over 40 years ago. I’m sad that we won’t get to see her story play out the way it’s supposed to. But as a side note – her daughter, Billie Lourd, was the first person we saw in the opening scene. Which I really loved as a little nod to Carrie.

HENNO: On the other hand, Luke Skywalker is given a full arc which runs across the whole series now – and it’s a really sad one. His story is basically one of parallel failure and triumph, and his ultimate sacrifice was for his sister and also a group of people he barely knows, after his big life project (literally) goes down in flames. Super interesting way to wrap up one of cinema’s most iconic characters, and that shot of the twin suns at the end was probably the coolest individual frame in Star Wars, period. All that being said, knowing J.J. Abrams we’ll probably see Luke as a ghost in the next one.

JOSIE: For what it’s worth, I still found Luke to be just as annoying as he was in the original trilogy. Just like a grizzled, jaded version. But the showdown with Ren was epic and everyone in the cinema screamed.

DAVID: The Skywalker family has a family tradition of raising lightsabers against young trainees, hey? Interesting that Anakin’s massacre could echo through to Luke, all those years later.

HENNO: Murdering your students. A beloved family ritual.

DAVID: From here, how do you see things developing?

HENNO: I really don’t know. It doesn’t seem to fit neatly into a three-film structure, and there are only a few narrative beats which demand resolution. Really the only thing left hanging is Kylo Ren being the big dog in the First Order now – but what does he do with that power? The opening crawl of The Last Jedi seemed to suggest that they’ve already conquered the galaxy again, so what are the stakes? J.J. Abrams is directing and writing (with Josh Terrio) so we can probably expect something more conventional again – but what?

What it does make me excited for is Johnson’s new, totally unconnected trilogy. I reckon it’s gonna be super weird.

JOSIE: Rey-Finn-Rose love triangle as a subplot for sure. And I don’t think Kylo Ren is going to be a baddie forever.

DAVID: I don’t see Episode IX abandoning the good-and-evil split set in The Last Jedi – unless that tension between Hux and Ren escalates further. I could see Ren leave the First Order, to be honest. At least, there could be an attempt. His decision to abandon the old precepts could start him on some kind of mission to bring down both camps, out of self-loathing as much as anything else. If he can’t fit in soundly in either side, why should they exist at all? Again, he’d be a baddie, but entirely on his own nihilistic terms.

JOSIE: That would be interesting. A Ren side-hustle. Hopefully involving even higher-waisted pants than he’s currently sporting.

HENNO: I think they’re going to bring back podracing. The people want podracing.

DAVID: I expect a 45-minute flashback to the early years of Admiral Ackbar. Pour one out for our main dude.

HENNO: Welp, the verdict is in. The movie: it’s good. Now do us a massive, massive favour and don’t spoil it for everyone else in the comments.

Image: Star Wars