The words "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" over a background of stars
via StarWars.com

***This review is spoiler-free until the last paragraph***

*Cue theme song*

Like many nerds, I was a big Star Wars fan growing up. However, my love of Star Wars faded as I got older, because I noticed how little of the story involved women.

*Cue the reboot*

With women and other underrepresented groups taking up more screen time, I was ready to jump back into the series. I was hopeful when I saw the female leads of Rey in The Force Awakens and Jyn Erso in Rogue One. Unfortunately, both of these films were a compromise. Neither film had other major female characters, neither heroine brought anything uniquely female to their place in the universe. While I enjoyed the movies, I did not love them.

Luckily, all I had to do was wait for The Last Jedi. Here’s my review:

Not offensive to women = 1/1 pt
Features a woman as the main protagonist and/or supporting character = 2/2 pts

Take your pick of female characters! There’s Rey, gifted with a hugely powerful connection to the Force; GENERAL Organa, getting more/better screen time than in The Force Awakens; Rose, mechanic extraordinaire; Captain Phasma, villainess; and my personal favorite, Vice Admiral Holdo. The diversity of women characters, their motivations, their personalities, their skills was simply awesome.

Still of Laura Dern as Vice Admiral Holdo from The Last Jedi
Vice Admiral Holdo. Photo credit: David James/AP

Passes the Bechdel-Wallace test = 3/3 pts

Arguably the first Star Wars film to do so. Certainly the first one to do so in any substantive way.

A movie poster with a large image of Luke Skywalker, and smaller pictures of Leia Organa, Rey, and Kylo Ren from The Last Jedi
via StarWars.com

Artistic and/or Entertaining = 4/4 pts

Were there plot holes? Yes, it wouldn’t be a Star Wars movie without them. Many a review has been written about the logic of the plot and the unanswered questions about the nature of the Force.

I’m not worried about any of that. While I would’ve been on board if more risks had been taken, the plot hung together well enough for me. Beyond that, the action scenes were thrilling and the cinematography was bold. The fight scene between John Boyega and Brienne of Tarth gave me life! Every minute was fun and I didn’t have to spend any time at all thinking, “Ugh, if only there were more women….”

Check out our review of Wonder Woman here.

Above and Beyond General Media = 5/5 pts

…And an easy pass in this category as well. The Last Jedi surpasses its predecessors, and others in its genre, in its diversity of cast and nuance of  character portrayal. The story centered on a woman, Rey, and her growth and struggles. This is heartening in itself, but not the reason the movie scores Above and Beyond.

***Light spoilers ahead***

My favorite part of the movie was not Rey’s storyline, but that of the few remaining soldiers of the rebel Alliance, trapped aboard a slow-moving ship. When General Leia is out of commission, Vice Admiral Holdo is put in command. Unhappy with Holdo’s management style, hothead Poe tries to put his own plan into place. That’s when the film flips the script.

Holdo is a feminine-presenting (but not sexualized) woman character. Her flat dismissal of Poe, our hero up until now, is read as a negative by the audience. It’s not until he tries to commandeer the ship and is stopped by General Leia herself that we realize Holdo has a clever plan to outwit their First Order pursuers. This plan did not involve fighting, imprudent when the Alliance’s resources are so low. Poe, and the audience, learn not to underestimate Holdo again, and we witness the film’s most powerful feminist scene: when Leia wishes Holdo goodbye. Two highly-ranked female military officers caught in a noble battle for the good of their galaxy sharing a moment of understanding…it was the best thing I’ve watched all year.

***End of spoilers***

Her Story Arc Scale of Inclusivity image, a yellow number 15 inside of a pink Venus symbol

Overall: 15/15 points.

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2 thoughts on “Star Wars The Last Jedi: A Feminist Movie Review

  1. Can I ask though about your views of Captain Phasma? Yes she’s a female character, but you can reasonably argue that she is a throw away character. We know nothing about her. To me, she almost doesn’t count as a female character because she never really gets her time to shine.

    1. As a standalone character I would agree with you, there’s nothing about her being a woman that’s significant to her character. However, in the movie she was one of many female characters, and I liked that some were good or bad or human or well-developed or background characters. I think it’s an important part of representation that all possibilities are shown. If she were the only female character in the movie, I’d judge it differently for sure.

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