Review of 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi'

the_last_jedi.jpg I am getting a bit old now for a late night premiere of a film nowadays but, heck, a new Star Wars is always of interest to me so I plunked down the cash for a double-feature of The Force Awakens starting at 9 pm then “The Last Jedi” first showing at midnight. Well, it turns out that it was at about 12:15 but we won't be too picky about it.

So, was it worth it with having only 3 hours of sleep and working that day? Well, yes but perhaps mostly no.

The film picks up from immediately where the previous ends with Rey (Daisy Ridley) finally finding Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamil) on a rocky island in an ocean on a remote planet. Handing over the lightsaber we now see what happens next - Luke chucks it over his shoulder over the edge of the cliff. He is not interested in returning to be the saviour of the rebellion and for much of the movie Rey seeks to convince him to help eventually managing to get Luke to train her in the use of the force. Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) is testing the patience of the rebel leadership as he recklessly attacks overwhelming First Order forces to achieve victory at great cost of rebel equipment and lives. Finn (John Boyega), the former storm-trouper, has recovered from his injuries in the previous film but is caught by a technician, Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) when he attempts to flee what he see is the certain annihilation of the rebel forces. It seems the First Order is able to do the impossible: Track the fleet through hyperspace. Rose figures this could only be possible using some new technology and with Finn's help the three hatch a scheme to break into a First Order ship to disable the tracking device so travel to a leisure planet populated by high-living arms merchants to find someone with the ability to get them through the First Order defences, a “Master Codebreaker”. Meanwhile Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is seeking to recruit Rey into the First Order with the help of Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), tracing her to the distant planet where she now trains with Skywalker…

Yeah, there is a lot going on and just when you think the film has ended with a suitable climax at just after almost two hours there is a whole new battle to be fought. There is a lot of fighting going on here mostly ending up with the rebels being decimated down to a ridiculously small number with even a small case of mutiny to boot. Triumph against overwhelming odds indeed. There is a tremendous amount of things going on in this movie and it is often quite tiring just trying to keep up. Though, to be fair, a lot of it is repeated over and over again: Ok, we get the point: Poe is a loose-cannon, we don't need to be told 20 times; Yeah, yeah, Luke doesn't want to be drawn into the rebellion but do we really need to show Rey following him day after day after day in the hope he will change his mind?

Unusually there is a lot of blatant humour throughout which is slightly jarring but in general the dialogue is quite lose here, much more so than the other movies making it feel, perhaps, a bit lighter. But this comes at a risk of trivializing the characters and story that many have grown to know and love. There are some of the “cute creatures” on display here but thankfully they are not as blatant as Jar Jar Binks or the Ewoks and kept relatively in the background (there is an amusing sequence where Chewbacca is roasting a bird over a fire with several of the very cute (live) birds a short distance away watching him with sorrowful eyes…he gives up eating and walks away in disgust).

There are other issues here though. For example, a number of scenes appear to be directly ripped out of previous movies and even the dialogue. The obvious example is of Kylo Ren (Darth Vader) bringing Ren (Luke Skywalker) to the Supreme Leader Snoke (Emperor) to turn her to the dark side. It was almost laughable as the words they spoke were exactly what were spoken in Return of the Jedi. Another example: Luke is not even a shadow of his former self, he is a completely different character, weak, insecure and prone to significantly bad judgement. This not the Luke that brought down the Empire.

The battles, as always, are amazing and, if anything, easier to follow here (given the very few rebel ships that survive). Thankfully I did not see this in 3D as I would suspect it would give me a bit of a headache. The effects are generally what you would expect though there are some glaring exceptions: Some of the giant space cruisers LOOK like models; The cute birds on the island look cartoonish; etc.

Daisy Ridley is still a compelling presence as Rey and here Adam Driver adds a bit of flesh to the initial simplicity of his character as Kylo Ren (we learn there is more here than perhaps meets the eye). Hamill is a bit of a ham as Skywalker as is the somewhat plastic Carrie Fisher (may she rest in peace) as General Leia. This film is dominated by the young blood whose characters dominate the screen.

In summary, this film is printing money for the studios: It has the Star Wars name on it so people will come. I think there will be a large number of disappointed fans much like I feel. It does not have the grandeur, polish and finesse of previous outings (ignoring Chapters 1 through 3), particularly J.J. Abrams promising first part of this new trilogy. The others seem to have much more of a sense of being a part of so much more, here it seems almost like a bit of an episode of sitcom with silly humour with flashes of huge space battles to keep the viewer awake. Even the serious spirituality of the Jedi is even treated very lightly here with aspects of it thrown away or trivialized at every turn…

Still, I will probably be in the queue for the next Star Wars film when it comes out. With any luck it will improve on the bar set here.

Rating: “Average, but who wants to be average?”

Review Date: 2017-12-14

Directed by: Rian Johnson

Studio: Lucasfilm

Year: 2017

Length: 152 minutes

Genre: Science Fiction

Other reviewed films by Rian Johnson: