One of the fun things about being a Star Wars fan is enjoying a fascinating Star Wars marathon. The movies, by themselves, are enjoyable but when you watch the films back to back to back it gives an entirely different perspective on the movies’ stories and character developments and that’s what happened for me yesterday. The marathon started with A New Hope (I barely watch the prequels anymore) and I watched all of the following episodes through The Last Jedi and I have to say, it was a remarkable experience. Seeing the stories of Luke and Leia, Han and Chewbacca, and the other iconic characters of the original trilogy transcend decades and continue on in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi was just simply incredible. But after watching The Force Awakens which I highly enjoyed and then The Last Jedi immediately afterwards it was a jarring realization in how different the two movies really are.
The Empire Strikes Back was, of course, much different than A New Hope. It was a darker film, the situations were more complex, and all in all it was just a much more serious film than its predecessor but The Last Jedi is different than any Star Wars film ever made. The Force Awakens truly feels like a Star Wars movie. It feels like it belongs in the universe, whereas The Last Jedi is not what I’ve come to expect in a Star Wars film in the slightest. Yes, there are space battles and lightsabers, the Force and blasters, but the overall feeling of The Last Jedi is wildly unique compared to its predecessors, which isn’t exactly a bad thing. It’s just something I’m still getting used to. And so after watching Episode VII and Episode VIII back to back I just knew I had to write a post comparing the two films and which movie I feel is better and I hope you enjoy. 🙂
The Character’s Stories:
Rey went through a lot in both movies. In The Force Awakens she was a humble scavenger living day by day, hoping that her parents would one day return and whisk her off the planet away from her not-so-great life. And then she met BB-8 and Finn and everything changed for her. She began on a frightening path that led her to the Force, Kylo Ren, Luke Skywalker, the devastating truth about her parents, and her eventual destiny as the new mantel for the title of Last Jedi.
Rey’s story only grew and became more interesting throughout both her films and now that the sole topic of her story, the identity of her parentage, is supposedly resolved and out of the way, she can focus on honing her power with the Force and becoming that hero the Resistance so desperately needs. (Can’t wait to see her return in Episode IX. :))
Oh my gosh, Finn changed so much, for the better, in The Last Jedi. In The Force Awakens he was always a second away from having a conniption it seemed. He was very panicky, very uncertain of himself, and his stabilizer was Rey. She was the only thing that kept from totally freaking out for a majority of the movie. But as the movie progressed he did become more and more heroic and his final duel with Kylo Ren was pretty epic!
Fast forward to The Last Jedi and the panicky Finn is gone replaced by a much more grounded and serious Finn who I happen to really like. I used to like Finn, I mean how can you not like Finn, but now Finn has truly become one of my favorite characters in Star Wars. One of my favorite parts of his is when he gives a short speech to the Resistance in the Crait rebel base as they hide within its walls afraid of the First Order outside. Everyone is standing around wide-eyed and legitimately frightened and there he stood, like a leader, telling them that everything was going to be fine but that in order for them to survive they’re going to have to face the First Order and take out the cannon threatening their safety. It’s a really inspiring scene and always makes me really happy. Go Finn!
Kylo Ren was awesome in The Force Awakens and he was even more awesome in The Last Jedi. In The Force Awakens he was more of an assassin than anything else, searching for the map containing the location of Luke Skywalker and killing anything in his path. And then there was his, of course, obstacle of Han Solo who he had to kill in order to fully convert to the dark side of the Force. Kylo Ren, in his first movie, was much more intimidating and scary in a way because he was zero on everything.
In The Last Jedi he was written not as a terribly evil, one-note villain but rather as a character who had as much back story and complexity as the heroes which made his development in the film so stunning to watch. When you first see him you hate him. I mean, the last time us Star Wars viewers saw him he had killed Han Solo, nearly killed Finn! and had tried to hurt Rey! But by the midpoint of this new film it’s as if he’s an entirely different person. He’s honestly relatable and it’s kind of baffling and awesome at the same time. His arc throughout The Last Jedi is beautiful to watch and in an upcoming post (Kylo Ren Is A Tragedy) I’ll delve a little more into that arc and what it could mean for Episode IX.
Oh, poor Poe, what has happened to you? I loved Poe in The Force Awakens. He was funny, charming, and a ridiculously awesome pilot who made me happy every time he was in a cockpit.
Then you have him in The Last Jedi and he just feels a little…off. Poe had a significant but minor role in Episode VII and then to see him have such a HUGE role in The Last Jedi was exciting but kind of annoying at the same time. I understand that Rian Johnson wanted to make Poe a leader by the end of the film but it just felt like Poe thought he was special throughout the entire movie and even when he supposedly expressed humility I still didn’t feel that humility. Especially when Leia didn’t continue to keep his ego in check and let him lead the Resistance like he was the new general or something even though he had just participated in a mutiny! (Ugh.) I like Poe but he’s got to dial back on the whole leader thing if he’s going to get back to the awesome status that he once resided at.
Leia didn’t have as large a role as I might’ve liked to see in The Last Jedi but her arc throughout the two newest Star Wars films that she has graced has been enjoyable and memorable.
Luke Skywalker had a rough ride in The Last Jedi. He came into the movie as a grumpy hermit who had lost all faith in the Jedi and what their symbol could bring to the galaxy and ended up becoming the legend that he truly was as he faced Kylo Ren, saved the Resistance, and then became one with the Force. It feels kind of unfair that he was gone so quickly after just becoming a Jedi again but thankfully he can return as a ghost if he wants to. *shrug*
This movie took these characters that I have grown to love and accentuated their involvement in this new trilogy while also keeping them true to who they are. Rey, Finn, and Kylo Ren truly got better in The Last Jedi. Poe was better in The Force Awakens and Luke, I can’t exactly say. Who knows what J.J Abrams vision of Luke’s story in The Last Jedi would’ve been so he doesn’t provide a point. And Leia was kind of the same in both movies, she had just a little more screen time this time around. And remember, The Force Awakens also had the luxury of the wonderful, charismatic Han Solo which only made the movie better. I’d say this category is tied. The Force Awakens: 1 p. The Last Jedi: 1 pt.
The New Characters:
The Force Awakens helped introduce new, exciting characters to the Star Wars universe and succeeded greatly as they brought Rey, Kylo Ren, Finn, Poe, and BB-8 to the world. Those characters made Star Wars truly worth loving again and helped spark a new generation of Star Wars fans.
The Last Jedi also introduced three new characters in Rose, Admiral Holdo and DJ and while they are vital to the story and to the developmental arcs of our other new heroes they simply can’t reach that height of awesomeness these new heroes managed to spark. This is an easy category to score. The Force Awakens: 2 pts. The Last Jedi: 1 pt.
Both stories for these movies are drastically different and yet they’re both powerful in their own special ways. The Force Awakens is simple and easy to follow. It feels like every magical moment that has ever been felt in Star Wars was crammed into The Force Awakens and that is why it is so ridiculously enjoyable. There’s not a scene that doesn’t play out right, not a moment that doesn’t work perfectly for the film, and it was literally the perfect way to bring Star Wars blazing back into society.
The Last Jedi was not meant to please the masses at all. It wasn’t an adventure movie with tidbits of more complex intricacies woven throughout it but rather an extremely intense and quiet film focused solely on character development, nothing more. The Last Jedi is not an action movie, you can tell that by its two and a half hour run time, and while that’s one of the joys for me of The Last Jedi it can also be a drag as well. Both movies have some flaws, both movies have some blaring perfections, and so this category comes to a tie. The Force Awakens: 3 pts. The Last Jedi: 1 pt.
This is an extremely difficult category for me to decipher. The Force Awakens had such a marvelous score that it not only won a Grammy but it also won my heart. The music still continues to take me to a whole other place where the Force exists and Rey sits in the sands of Jakku staring at the sky wistfully. And The Last Jedi‘s score is just as powerful. The music is subtle and dramatic, somber and hopeful, and everything else in between. At times the music might not be as uproarious as the music in The Force Awakens but it still holds an importance as impactful as the louder scenes. I guess, if it really comes down to it though, the music for The Force Awakens will always have a special place in my heart and so it’ll win this round. The Force Awakens: 4 pts. The Last Jedi: 1 pt.
Oh my goodness, oh my goodness, and oh my goodness. The action in The Force Awakens is just out of this world exciting. It’s a huge part of the reason why I went to see the movie five times back in 2015 when it came out in theaters. The movie was not only enjoyable because of the characters, young and old, and their stories but the action scenes were just perfect, and there wasn’t a shortage of them either. From the battle in the Jakku village at the beginning to the Rey/Kylo Ren duel within the snowy forests of Starkiller Base the movie is packed full of action-packed sequences that’ll bring goosebumps to your goosebumps every time.
And The Last Jedi has great action sequences as well but the movie isn’t really designed around that aspect of the film. The Praetorian Guard fight is, of course, one of the greatest action scenes that I have ever witnessed in Star Wars but it is also kind of unfortunately short and that’s kind of the story of most of the action scenes in The Last Jedi. Take the Finn/Phasma fight for example. It was so hyped up throughout the last few months of last year and then when we actually got to see the highly anticipated duel it was so short that it was kind of a shock. It could’ve been so much more epic and while it is one of my favorite scenes of the movie it’s sometimes painstakingly menial to watch. The categories have another clear winner. The Force Awakens: 5 pts. The Last Jedi: 2 pts.
The Force Awakens was a beautiful movie, there’s no doubt about that, with some exciting visuals and some interesting settings but The Last Jedi takes the cake easily. There were so many fascinating shots from the beginning of the movie to the very end that it’s kind of unfortunate how bland The Force Awakens is in comparison. But I still love The Force Awakens though. 🙂 The Force Awakens: 5 pts. The Last Jedi: 3 pts.
So the winner is…The Force Awakens
I am in utter shock. I figured that this would be a much tighter race than it ended up being but…I guess not. I mean The Last Jedi is a truly great film but it’s really centered around the characters. If the characters’ stories aren’t composed correctly the movie ultimately fails. So yeah, The Force Awakens is just a better movie, all around. I still love The Last Jedi and the character development is superb but it’s just lacking in some other areas where The Force Awakens isn’t.
I thank you for reading and I hope you have a glorious day. May the Force be with you.