Is ‘The Last Jedi’ a stellar sequel or a worthless washout?
After the events of 2015’s ‘The Force Awakens’, Rey (Daisy Ridley) is coming to terms with her powers and seeking the help and training of Master Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). Meanwhile, the Resistance, led by Princess Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), are trying to escape the evil clutches of the oppressive First Order, in search of hope in the dark times.
I’m a big Star Wars fan. A really big Star Wars fan. So I had high hopes going into ‘The Last Jedi’. Was I disappointed? Unfortunately, at least somewhat, yes….
I’ll start with the good parts of this film — the visuals are absolutely spectacular. The mixture of both practical and CGI is seamless, and the film completely immerses you as you watch it. Some scenes shown in the trailer look especially amazing on the big screen, especially the action sequences.
Then, of course, there’s the score — arguably one of the most powerful in movie history, the classic Star Wars melody, mixed with yet more stunning pieces from John Williams, to really drive the narrative forward. In key moments the score succeeds in doing one thing that the plot itself could not — build some drama!
Yes, in my opinion, ‘The Last Jedi’ is a lot of build up culminating in not really much. I don’t want to give too much away (this section is spoiler-free) but there’s a few different sub-plots going on in the narrative and some of them do feel rather unnecessary, especially when they have no pay off at all. There’s also one scene that sticks in my head, that’s a good fifteen minutes or so long, that really had no use at all in the plot. In fact, the entire sub-plot it was within could’ve been removed. Suffice to say, then, that the Star Wars record-holding two-and-a-half-hour run-time could easily have been cut.
WARNING! THE BELOW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR ‘STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI’. CONTINUE AT READERS’ DISCRETION
Right, here I can really get into it.
There’s a lot of small things in this film that I felt were so poorly executed they were almost on par with the let-down that was the plot. For instance, when Leia is blown out of her ship at the beginning, and then she uses the force to take herself back to her ship. I can live with that, in fact I like that idea, but what I don’t like is what, essentially, looks like Carrie Fisher pulled on a zip-wire across a starry-night background with her hand outstretched. The movement felt wrong, especially where the rest of the visuals are stunning. Also, the film is so packed full of terrible jokes and gags that it does at some points feel like a parody which, seen as ‘The Last Jedi’ is supposed to “rhyme” (George Lucas’ words) with ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, one of the darkest Star Wars films, didn’t sit right with me.
Then there’s the matter of the lightsaber fights which — and people can ramble on about character arcs and emotional plots all they want — is the real draw of the Star Wars films — and there isn’t even one. Not a proper one, anyway. There’s a fight-scen where Rey and Kylo-Ren team up to take down some of Supreme Leader Snoke’s (Andy Serkis) guards after he dies (that’s right — that ominous, all-powerful, mysterious being from ‘The Force Awakens’ is killed in this sequel, and we are none the wiser to who he was, what his motivations were etc.) and that’s not too bad — it’s probably the best scene in this film! — as it has some really excellent choreography and enjoyable combat, but that isn’t the classic, Jedi vs. Sith duel I was hoping for.
Then there’s the matter of Rey’s parentage, which we were promised in ‘The Last Jedi’ when it was first announced. And this is one thing I did like and is perhaps the only decision in the plot of this film that I fully agree with and was a real shock (I know this is the spoiler section, but I can’t tell you everything!).
I think the best way to sum up this film is with the reported words of Mark Hamill, who plays Luke Skywalker: “I at one point had to say to Rian [Rian Johnson, director], ‘I pretty much fundamentally disagree with every choice you’ve made for this character [Luke]. Now, having said that, I have gotten it off my chest, and my job now is to take what you’ve created and do my best to realize your vision.’”
You did your best, Mark, but even that wasn’t good enough for this film to earn more than a six-out-of-ten.