I Love Star Wars, BUT not this Star Wars
Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
Review Format: Cinema
Theatrical Release: 15 December 2017
Director: Rian Johnson
Starring: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac
The Review Basics
My review of Star Wars: The Last Jedi is not going to be fun. I have been a fan of Star Wars for 30 years or more. They started before I was born, and I am 36 so I will get to the point. I love Star Wars, but I hate this movie. The movie is long, too long. The acting is great, and in many ways it’s what holds the whole thing together. The visual effects are stunning, and the space battles and lightsaber battles are intense. The story has its moments of beauty, and in those moments I hope for redemption. Ultimately however I did not, and will not find it. Hopefully Rian Johnson gets his trilogy cancelled.
Would I recommend it? No. Not in the least. But I am going to go watch it a second time and hope that all of this was just a bad dream. I hope that I am wrong in writing this review, but I suspect that I am not. I saw it. It was awful, and I really kept trying to find the good in it. Just like Rey, I had hope that there was good. I saw specks of light, and still they were not enough. It made me cry from disappointment.
SPOILERS: The plot will be detailed; don’t worry, there isn’t a lot of it so this won’t take long.
The First Two Acts
The Resistance has to run. They get on their ships. Cue space battle. They try to get away, but the First Order can track them through light-speed jumps. THIS IS NEVER EXPLAINED. They just can. There is a tracker somewhere; as General Hux says “we have them on a string”. We don’t know what this means, and it is never really explained. It is just a convenience the movie allows itself. Finn mentions that it is experimental tech. So we shrug and follow along like sheep.
Thus begins the slowest car chase in movie history. The Resistance has a lead on the First Order, and they are slightly faster so they will stay just out of range for about two hours. But they will run out of gas, so we know there will be action at some point… So what is the plan for the Resistance? You want to know, and Poe wants to know, but since Leia is unconscious and Holdo isn’t telling him, he has to do something stupid, risky, and time consuming so that we can advance the Rey plot-line on “the most unfindable planet” with Luke, without worrying about the rest of the movie being stuck in a holding pattern… Oh, wait! That is exactly what the car chase is. It’s a holding pattern. And that probably explains the name of the new commander, whom we are just now meeting: Vice Admiral Holdo. She is a Holdo-ver, or a Vice Admiral Holding Pattern, meant to keep the plot in one place with a little bit of tension, so that Rey can find what she needs to find; which is to say that she finds very little, and Rian Johnson makes up a bunch of new ways to use the force; like Force-Time, the new apple invention where you just use the force for a video call. The only drawback is that you need a really strong Sith router. The upside is that the Sith Lord can connect you, even if he has no idea what you look like, or where you are.
The Third Act
Two hours later. Poe’s plan fails, which makes sense because it was just a place holder for the actual film, which could have taken about fifty minutes in total to tell. Then we get an epic battle of comedy where boots kick through the sides of crappy old fighters, and Ben Solo and General Hux put on a great version of slapstick comedy, reminiscent of Abbott and Costello:
“Do you think you got him?” – Hux
Ben Solo jerks a hand and Hux is force-thrown against a wall, and moderate laughter ensues.
Then the decent parts of the movie happen. I won’t say much about them except this: There is no explanation for the new force powers that Luke has, but they are phenomenal, strange, and make no sense.
Lastly, there is this moment where a little boy picks up a broom and uses it like a lightsaber. The camera zooms in on his face, and he smiles a perfect little smile, and you can’t help but see the advertising scroll across the screen “Experience the Magic in 2019.” That is what this movie is: a big sloppy advertisement. That is what sucks most.
These are the moments when I cringed.
1. Each and every funny animal is given far too much screen time.
We see porgs, crazy elephant seal/whale/cows, horse-rabbits who make the Chewbacca noise (seriously, they didn’t even bother with a new noise for the poor beasts), and the weird Pokemon Jolteon-Crystal creatures. All of these animals don’t seem like the interesting creatures of the old Star Wars universe. They seem like cute little merchandise gimmicks, that are cute enough that you will want to have your own little plush version, for $44.94. In this way, the movie feels like it has lost its direction.
2. Ben Solo and General Hux as Abbott and Costello
There are a few moments where the comedy is a bit too much. The one where Snoke narrates his own death is a bit much, and the worst is when Ben Solo does the equivalent to when Hulk smashed Loki in Avengers, to General Hux. Hux makes a smart remark, and Ben Solo force flings him. The jokes were forced, and it feels like something that has been happening a lot in all Disney movies. It is the same humor that we see in Marvel movies like Thor: Ragnarok, Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol.2, and Moana. I put Moana in there to make a point. That sort of comedy is childish. Which brings me to one important point. These movies are being made for adults, with scripts that read as though they were either written by, or for children.
3. Wait, let’s watch Luke do something cool!
There is no reason to watch Luke. We know he is going to do something cool, but to have Poe tell us in advance assumes that we are stupid, and/or attempts to give us a reason to be watching his cool battle. What he should have said was this: “You’re right, we need to help him.” Or this: “We should try to make an escape, while he is doing that cool thing he is doing.” But instead, Poe says something like this, “Nah man, let Luke do Luke. I wanna see this, #Lightsaberbattle.”
4. The predictability of Luke’s appearance
There was this long pause in the movie. I knew it was coming, and so did everyone else, I hope. Leia was talking, and at that moment I knew. So I looked at my wife and put five fingers in the air, slowly counting the seconds. When I reached zero, two things happened: in walked Luke, and I had successfully annoyed my wife to the absolute limit.
5. The list could go on, but I will stop here for the sake of your time and mine.
You are going to go see it. If you are reading this then, you are too invested in the franchise not to. And I hope you already have, otherwise I should apologize for all the spoilers.
I did warn you.
I was so frustrated when I walked out of the theater for so many reasons. Most of all, I was angry because I wanted The Last Jedi to be a moment to mourn Carrie Fisher, but I was so confused by the direction of the film and the choices of the writers that I couldn’t even sit and appreciate that this was her last time as Leia. I know it is self-indulgent, but I had hoped to be able to just sit and appreciate Carrie Fisher, and enjoy her acting one last time. The Last Jedi made that extremely difficult. In an effort to be fair, it should be stated that they did not know Fisher was going to pass away shortly after shooting the film. They clearly chose not to alter the film after the fact, and that should be admired, perhaps.
Finally, I will say that there was some enjoyment to be had from the film. I need to feel like I enjoyed bits of it. I hope you will enjoy it more than I did. I HOPE.