The Last Jedi Gives Us What We Want to See, But Not What We Need to See.
For the first time in what feels like forever, I needed to sleep on how I felt about a movie. After a long night tossing and turning, I’ve come to my conclusion about Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The reason I was initially so torn about it was that I desperately wanted it to continue the incredible trend that The Force Awakens and Rogue One seemed to have started. All good things must come to an end though, and while The Last Jedi isn’t necessarily a bad movie and might work as a sequel, it is found wanting on a number of different levels.
The Last Jedi picks up mere moments after The Force Awakens, and yet it feels like a very different movie. It’s easy to tell how excited writer/director Rian Johnson was to be working on a Star Wars movie because he is not subtle about it at all. The Last Jedi seems to take everything that fans normally would be excited about and focuses primarily on those things. That means there are plenty of exotic locations, lightsaber sequences, space battles, and exciting new aliens. However, with everything that Johnson tries to shove into this movie, it begins to feel like a little too much.
To be blunt, The Last Jedi is hamfisted. I’m not knocking its aspirations to be a truly great Star Wars movie, but it lacks clarity and focus. Instead, it feels very much like an overexcited child is telling the story, eagerly rushing from one epic sequence to the next. Don’t get me wrong, The Last Jedi probably has the most memorable sequences of any Star Wars film to date, but a guy can only take so many before it feels like an infinite loop of third act climaxes. Especially because the film is incredibly long, clocking in at 2 ½ hours. In fact, I specifically remember feeling like the film had reached a satisfying conclusion only to realize there was still an hour left before the credits rolled.
If it sounds like I’m being unusually hard on The Last Jedi, it’s because I expect better from one of the most brilliant science fiction franchises of all time, especially since it’s had time to really sit and think about what it did with the prequels that made us all so mad. As I said before, it’s not a bad movie. Those numerous epic sequences are absolutely dazzling, it’s what happens in between them that lacks the same care and attention. The most memorable aspect is that so many jokes land flat in The Last Jedi. It’s not that they are terrible jokes (though none of them are especially great), it’s that their delivery is so… miserable. As though their only purpose is to formulaically break up the pacing.
That being said, Star Wars continues to lead when it comes to diversity in film. The Force Awakens saw a strong female protagonist in Ray (Daisy Ridley), a black hero in Finn (John Boyega), and a latino hero in Poe (Oscar Issac). Rogue One saw several Asian leads as well in Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang, and Riz Ahmed. Luckily, The Last Jedi continues that trend with Kelly Marie Tran as new hero Rose (yeah, real futuristic and space-age name). While she is a great new addition to the lore, it’s hard not to question why she’s there exactly. Her character almost feels superfluous at times as though she was just meant to be an emotional crutch for the story rather than progress it. Still, I like the wide-eyed optimism she brings to a wear and war-ravaged rebellion.
Of course, the biggest thing to note about The Last Jedi is that Mark Hamill actually has lines in it! We see the return of Luke Skywalker in this film, but he’s very different from the man we once knew. This Skywalker is a crusty old hermit who feels like he should be shouting at Ray, “get off my lawn!” It turns out that he’s lost his way as a Jedi and turned his back on the force, which doesn’t make him the most effective teacher. In fact, the one thing that The Last Jedi is really lacking is a Rocky training montage. Instead, the two share a few key moments together and then Ray is off to try to save the universe on her own. Oddly enough though, she seems to be a fully in control of her powers making her a surprisingly fast learner compared to what Luke and his father went through. But hey, who needs that when you can have more lightsaber fights instead!
Honestly, I did like The Last Jedi. It’s fun. It’s spectacular. It’s what we love to SEE in a Star Wars movie. It’s not jaw dropping though. In other words, it’s a movie that is big on the popcorn, but not so much the stars. As I’ve said several times already, it’s not a bad movie, but when it comes to this franchise “pretty good” is not great. Don’t let my words scare you off from it though, because I would honestly recommend this movie, especially for those awesome moments it gets so right. But you’re going to want to turn your brain off for this one because there are definitely a few plot holes big enough to drive a truck through. I’m just hoping that this isn’t the beginning of a slow descent for the franchise. With so many superhero movies out there now, we really don’t need to start suffering from Star Wars fatigue.
Oh, and it’s pretty clear that The Last Jedi is pushing the merchandise side of the industry with the addition of the almost too adorable Porgs and “crystal critters.” I’m sure every kid’s going to want one this Holiday season.