In STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI, writer/director Rian Johnson has taken some mighty daring leaps with Star Wars mythology and has shown us bold possibilities and stunning imagery.
Unfortunately, it’s all for nothing.
Before we even get into this, please understand that I view the Star Wars sequel trilogy as really slick fanfiction. I can take it or leave it. However, after sitting through the ridiculously, unnecessarily long ‘TLJ’, I can safely say that STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS feels much more like a true continuation of the Original Trilogy than TLJ does.
I want to commend Johnson for taking bold leaps with the overall mythology, but I want to kick him in the nuts for not taking the Skywalker story anywhere.
If nothing else, JJ Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan set up a massive amount of potential for gripping drama between Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), and for the first couple of what seems like a six hour movie, Johnson delivers on that potential. This is mostly due to some nifty ideas about the Force, and Adam Driver again turning in such an excellent performance that he elevates the entire movie. Kathleen Kennedy says that TLJ is Luke’s movie, but that’s just her way of blowing sunshine up fanboy’s assholes. This is Kylo Ren’s movie. Everything revolves around him and rightly so. Driver is more than up to the task of delivering on his aforementioned potential.
Unfortunately, this is where Johnson drops the ball. His finale leaves the character of Kylo Ren in a stupidly predictable place (after spending the whole damn movie making it seem like something astounding was going to happen) while in effect just backtracking over the last fifteen minutes of ‘Awakens’ in terms of character development.
I think we can all agree that JJ Abrams is a hack movie maker, so in my mind, Lawrence Kasdan is the writer who most likely gave life to Kylo’s character. And what an excellent character! Disney should’ve given Kasdan whatever he asked to get him back to giving a voice and a purpose to Kylo. Again, Adam Driver is excellent, but he’s working with a script that is failing him. Disney had better get their shit together and get Kasdan back, otherwise Kylo is screwed for Episode IX.
Speaking of the performances, everyone, and I mean everyone, seems truly invested. The entire seven hour running time is packed with some very engaging performances. Other than Driver, Daisy Ridley has some genuinely heartfelt moments. Oscar Isaac is heroically annoying. Laura Dern is captivating and commanding of attention, even if wardrobe let her down. She looks like a Hunger Games reject. Carrie Fisher is passable but still..she’s got a lotta spirit. Domnhall Gleeson is hilarious and John Boyega again looks like he graduated at the top of his class in acting for television. Kelly Marie Tran is very, very good, and what else needs to be said about Benicio del Toro? I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him turn in a poor performance. Mark Hamill is great and brings so much heartbreaking emotion through his eyes.
As I’ve mentioned, the visuals are stunning and the score from the Maestro, while tired, is still rousing.
Spoilers ahead, for those yet to see this farce.
This movie hits some very lofty highs and some very deep lows, but I suppose that’s the burden of fanfiction. Also, in the vein of fanfiction, much of this movie’s eight hour running time is just filler. The entire Canto Bight casino planet sequence could be excised and not make a damn bit of difference. I laugh when I recall early production rumors that this planet was Corellia and the sequence being shot was a funeral procession for Han Solo. Heh. As it turns out, it’s a funeral for Star Wars and Han will be buried in May of 2018.
Let’s go ahead and get to the heart of the movie and how Kennedy and Johnson ruined it. Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). Never have I been happier to look at these movies as fanfiction and nothing more. The climactic face off between Kylo and Force-projection Luke is ridiculously staged, horribly choreographed, and exists for the worst story reason possible. Of all the ridiculousness in this movie, this scene had me cringing. Luke didn’t do anything except stall for time and goad Kylo Ren into a soul-torturing trap. Also, why the hell did they make Luke look like Chuck Norris? The sunset on Ahch-To as Luke loses the last of his strength is a beautiful scene, and when he fades away into the Force, I can’t lie: I teared up. Then the movie went on for another 45 minutes and I forgot all about Luke. For shame, Johnson. For shame, Kathy.
Yoda’s scene: the effects were so good that I wasn’t sure if it was a puppet or CGI. Yoda’s dialogue is incredibly well-written (I suspect Lawrence Kasdan and possibly even Frank Oz had some input here) and I was elated to see Yoda again.
So…Broom Boy. Pardon me, but fuck this stupid scene. Little slave kids in a stable on Canto Bight, telling each other tales of Luke Skywalker. One little kid goes to sweep up and his broom floats six inches from the wall into his outstretched hand. He starts sweeping and then stops to stare out into the night sky, where he sees a ship jump into hyperspace. He stands, defiant and bold, holding his broom as he would a lightsaber. Fuck this pointless scene. Hey Rian: “We know that there are Force sensitive people in that galaxy. Fucking DUH.” This scene is akin to the little xenomorph that births from the Engineer corpse at the end of Prometheus. Rrrrgggghhh…
It hurts me to say this, but TLJ is a Redbox rental at best, and I now have zero goosebumps for Episode IX.
[That was my reaction after my opening night viewing. Since then, my feelings have gelled and I feel like I can safely add this to my review: “Fuck this stupid movie. Long live the OT.”]
Adiós, amigos y amiguitas!
May the Original Trilogy Force be with you!