It was a long wait for this one. Star Wars Episode 7 The Force Awakens left us all on a literal cliffhanger two years ago, and I’ve been dying to see the continuation of the saga. The “fear” for lack of a better word, was that this would be remake/reboot of The Empire Strikes Back. I can assure whoever is reading this that It is not. Now, having seen Rian Johnson´s Star Wars The Last Jedi , I almost wish it had been.
Going into this I had steered clear of spoilers, but the trailers I saw multiple times. And they gave me great hopes. The early reviews seemed overwhelmingly positive. Across the board here in Norway they gave it a 5 out of 6.
“The best new Star Wars we’re likely to get” one headline read. I usually don´t pay much attention to the earliest reactions/reviews. More often than not they are people who swear , under pain of losing their next free early viewing, to love the film regardless. I loved The Force Awakens. I still do. I thought the new characters the film introduced were great. Most of all Rey and Kylo Ren. Finn was alright, but the comic relief bits he is saddled with was one of my very few dislikes about TFA. Some of it worked , some of it did not
The Force Awakens ended of course with that very literal cliffhanger of Rey presenting Luke Skywalker with his lost lightsabre. Two years on we get to see how he reacts, and I swear it’s something I would have expected to see in a gag reel.
But before I expand on that I have to do a quick account of what the film actually opens with. There is the crawl of course, which is followed by, a quite stunning at times, battle in space. There was a projection issue here in the cinema I was in, so I’m not quite sure if the planet in question was Yavin IV? The movie actually stopped for what seemed like an eternity. Then the image was moving around the screen, and when it started back up it out of focus for about 10 seconds. Anyway, moving on.
Assuming that it was Yavin IV , the Resistance is in a big hurry to evacuate their base, and we soon figure out why. Immediately there is an attack by the MASSIVE First Order Fleet, and besides it being at times cool to look at, that is when the 3-D glasses isn’t making it impossible to watch, the first thing that struck me was the inconsistency in timeline, plot, and tone.
Tonally, I refer to the attempts at comedy where there really shouldn’t be any. There are some attempts at humor via Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron here that just fell flat for me. And even though some people laughed at it, I just felt it was misplaced. Especially since what followed was set up to be dire straits for the good guys.
Imagine before those hatches open on the amphibious vehicles getting ready to storm Normandy in Saving Private Ryan, that there were some slapstick Monty Python-esque jokes thrown in. That’s what it felt like to me. A throwback to Poe’s first meeting with Kylo Ren in TFA perhaps, but here it did not work well.
Another thing with this whole opening part in the movie was the massive strategic errors by both The First Order and the Resistance. It was like watching two sides playing chess, only both sides were clueless. The inconsistency of the plot I mention is because of the timeline.
The Starkiller Base just blew up a few hours earlier. Maybe a day has passed. How The First Order regrouped, and how they even knew where to find the Resistance is never explained. Nor is it explained why the Resistance was in a hurry to escape Yavin IV. They just knew the First Order was coming, I guess?
And the timeline is just that, because from this battle we cut to Rey walking up to Luke Skywalker presenting him with the sabre.
The way Luke was handled in this film is perhaps my biggest gripe. The old “I have a bad feeling about this” line came to mind more than once. There are some interesting things going on in these scenes between Rey and Luke, but overall it just left me cold.
Through the dialog you get a sense of why Luke wants the Jedi order to end, but it’s the way he went about it that just seems wrong to me. And I would have liked to have seen more of backstory, not just hear him speak about it in passing. And there are zero details given. Just a little bit of information about Snoke would have great.
It’s not so much the way Mark Hamill plays Luke , but more about what he got to work with. The reason he exiled himself to the island is beyond my understanding. I just don´t know why they went that route. It’s almost worse than the Yoda going into exile deal from episode 3. Failed once, so never try again? Hey, the whole “there is no try” line kinda makes more sense now 🙂 Its the Jedi way.
I understand Hamill´s comments about not liking the direction Rian Johnson choose to take with Luke. The character deserved better. There is also a cameo that felt so wrong, on so many levels, but I can’t get into that now. And no, it’s not the two princes one.
The Porgs suck btw. And I won’t mention them ever again.
Before this turns into a rant i need to focus on something positive. Laura Dern plays Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo, a close friend of Leia who is obviously a mentor type to her. Holdo is also a foil to the Poe Dameron character for much of the film, and for some reason she has purple hair. Its Star Wars, so why not. I would have liked to have seen her role expanded much more, but what we get is pretty damn good. As for Leia, I would have liked to have seen a lot less of her actually. I get the feeling that after Carrie Fisher´s untimely death the filmmakers choose to put a lot of stuff in this film which otherwise should have been left on the cutting room floor.
Benicio Del Toros character DJ was alright. Introduced on a side mission by Finn and another new character named Rose, Benicio seems to channel his part in the Usual Suspects but without going full retard. The Rose character by Kelly Marie Tran was to me a complete waste of time. When she first meets Finn she is so excited to meet the LEGEND that is Finn, who did all that stuff just hours earlier , then was in a coma, but now isn’t, and again The Force Awakens just happened so what the hell is this Legend of Finn nonsense?
The best character by far is Kylo Ren who is still trying to figure out who and what he is. What he wants etc. That seems to be the major theme in the whole film. Finding one’s true self, and purpose. Adam Driver does a brilliant job playing the conflicted former Jedi apprentice turned Vader-wannabe. His scenes with Daisy Ridley are the best thing this movie has to offer, much like it was in Episode 7. Daisy Ridley again does a great job playing Rey. I would have loved for this movie to have been 90+ min of Luke and Rey on one side, with Kylo and Snoke on the other side.
The 152 minute runtime is instead bloated with all these other subplots and side missions which, although I mentioned Laura Dern and Del Toro do more than fine, it still really just amounted to a needless waste of time IMO.
As for “supreme leader” Snoke, the less said the better. The cgi looks like something that wouldn’t be accepted on The Walking Dead. It worked as a hologram, but in the flesh it seemed a bit hokey. Loads of speculation has been had about who this guy is, and where he came from. It’s better to just leave it for people to see the film, and not go any further about it here. Non-spoiler and all that.
And if anyone is wondering why I haven’t mentioned Gwendoline Christie’s character, well it’s because she doesn’t have a character.
I’m sure I’ll see this film again when it comes out on digital formats. But I am in no hurry to see it again. I watched TFA twice on its release day because I genuinely enjoyed it. The Last Jedi however was a disappointment on many many levels. It has some brilliant moments, but they are far and few between. Its not prequel bad, far from it, but I do now have serious concerns about not only Episode 9, but about this new Star Wars trilogy that Rian Johnson is setting up afterwards.
When I first wrote up this review on December 14th I was really upset with the film. But since then I have seen enough reviews to know that I wasn’t wrong in my criticism of the film. It has been the most fan savaged Star Wars film ever. And I stand steadfast by my review.
Final verdict :2 out of 6