For two years, fans have been left guessing about what will come next in the Star Wars universe. There were so many questions left after The Force Awakens, that fans couldn’t help but speculate about the important questions that carry so much weight. Theories about who Snoke is and Rey’s parentage set the internet ablaze…
The Last Jedi answers these questions and more. Though, it’s the “more” that I want to discuss. Apparently the biggest lingering question about Force Awakens is how Luke stayed alive on his tiny island – What did he eat? What did he milk? Did he have a race of slaves to take care of him while he moped around on a cold mountain? These are the real questions that more thought was put into than the supposedly trivial ones that people care(d) about.
It’s been a day (probably) since the events in The Force Awakens. Rey is seeking the tutelage of newly-found hermit, Luke. On the other end of the galaxy, a vengeful First Order seeks to destroy the last remaining rebel fleet, composed of Leia, Finn and Poe.
Rian Johnson (Looper, Brick), who has been announced as the showrunner behind a new upcoming trilogy, takes the reins from JJ Abrams who introduced the new characters in The Force Awakens. All pressure has been on him to deliver the equivalent of Empire Strikes Back in this current trilogy.
Being the next Empire is a nearly impossible goal to accomplish, so it’s not entirely heartbreaking that he doesn’t achieve that level of quality. What he does instead, is achieve the heights of a really good episode of the recent run of Battlestar Galactica… but with Marvel-type humor.
That is not a complete slight to TLJ. There’s some solid character building and mythology in BSG. And that’s what this movie feels dedicated to – building character. Sadly, it’s done with such haphazard subplots, that it’s all there is.
The two standouts here are not surprising. Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver are better than ever as they grow into their characters. With the light side and dark side tempting them both, we are able to see the actual temptation that would come with people that hold great power. The franchise rests heavily on these two and it’s no worse for it. I had my issues with Driver in TFA, but he has won me over…to the dark side. (Sorry)
A new character, Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), joins Finn (John Boyega) on what may be a full 45-minute adventure that ultimately holds the replay value of the Star Wars Holiday Special. Schedule your bathroom breaks around this. You won’t miss a thing.
The true question of what will make audiences shout with glee is the Star Wars magic that we’ve come to expect. I’m happy to say that magic is found here in a half-decent amount. The opening dogfight (outside of a really tacky joke) is a spectacle. Adding to that, the final 45 minutes makes you happy to be a fan. Even with particular character direction and twists, there are some fantastic money shots that’ll stay with you after the movie ends.
Some of the same magic is lost in the score. John Williams, along with Danny Elfman (who was responsible for the mediocre Justice League score) is 20 years past innovation. There are scenes in TLJ that could have been some of the greatest SW moments, but are less than because of the efficient but uninspired score surrounding them.
Credit must be given to writer/director Rian Johnson for not playing it safe, which is the general criticism for Force Awakens. He takes several risks throughout the movie. While they aren’t ultimately satisfying, they’re still risks that make the future of the franchise exciting and unpredictable.
Yet, I’d blame him for the execution of this movie as well. He spent so much time trying to create cool scenes that there’s little in the way of connective tissue. The Last Jedi feels like a glorified clip show. It tries to hard to be a cool Star Wars movie that it forgets to be a good movie.
Much consideration of this new trilogy will be given according to how it treats the legacy characters of Han, Leia and Luke. Carrie Fisher gets plenty of screen time that makes you wonder how far they would have taken the character if she hadn’t passed away before filming Episode 9. Luke, is an old curmudgeon in the majority of his time here. His reluctance is ever-present, but it’s a complete shift from anything resembling Luke and what was established before.
The Last Jedi is the type of movie that will bore you before it mildly excites you. You’ll walk out with a smile, and I advise you to not think too deeply about what you just saw in order to salvage that smile. You may forget that it’s basically the least essential chapter in the entire Star Wars movie canon. If this was called “Sci Fi Slow Chase Movie” it may have fared better, but it does nothing to advance the story much more than TFA did. Sadly, this is a tier 3 Star Wars movie. D+