Star Wars: The Last Jedi, 2017.
Written and Directed by Rian Johnson.
Starring Daisy Ridley, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Carrie Fisher, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, Laura Dern, Kelly Marie Tran, Benicio del Toro, Billie Lourd, Gwendoline Christie, Lupita Nyong’o, Jimmy Vee, Tim Rose, Warwick Davis, Hermione Corfield and Veronica Ngo.
Having taken her first steps into the Jedi world, Rey joins Luke Skywalker on an adventure that unlocks mysteries of the Force and secrets of the past.
I did not like Star Wars: The Last Jedi. No, I’m not going to say, “I didn’t like it, I loved it.” I just didn’t like it. I found the whole experience to be misguided, shallow, and lacking just about everything that makes Star Wars so great. Sure, it had some interesting, visually stunning moments, but the on the whole, the story and characters felt hollow, leaving these moments of visual greatness without a soul or a purpose.
To the film’s credit, it’s opening sequence is strong. We see Poe Dameron (Oscar Issac), alone in his X-Wing, confronting an Imperial – sorry, First Order – Dreadnaught. There is a brief back and forth between Poe and General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), in which Poe gets to show off his quick wit, even if it is at the expense of Hux’s previously built up grandiosity, and after the exchange of words comes an exchange of blaster fire, as a huge space battle gets underway. So far, so good.
After the battle, the rebel fleet flee but are followed by the First Order. From here on out, I shall no longer speak in specifics about the film, as doing so would verge on spoiler territory. However, I will say that it is at this point that a key rule of storytelling gets broken for the first, but most certainly not the last time.
The rule in question is a simple one: for characters’ actions to be impactful, they must change the dynamic of the story or reveal something new about a character. In other words, don’t make characters’ actions inconsequential without very good reason. This is why the “It was all a dream” type endings are so universally reviled. They steal away the consequence and meaning from the scenes that came before them. Unfortunately, The Last Jedi breaks this rule at least three times, by my count, the first of which I shall run through now in a spoiler free fashion.
After catching up with the rebel fleet, the First Order send out an attack squad, led by Significant Character One. At some point during the attack, One has the opportunity to kill Significant Character Two, but chooses not to because of reasons that are totally justified by their character development up to that point – i.e. their decision does nothing to further their character development. However, Two ends up being blown up anyway due to circumstance. Had the sequence stopped there, there would have caused a significant change in the dynamic of the story. But it doesn’t, and Two survives by using powers they have never been shown to have before. This show of power undercuts a powerful moment and replaces it with a far less interesting one. I say less interesting because this newfound power has no effect on the story or the character as it is never used again, despite the fact that there are plenty of occasions when it could have been.
This is a major storytelling faux pas, but hey, at least it only happens in three scenes. For a movie that’s two-and-a-half hours long, that’s not too bad, right? I guess, but the problems don’t stop there, as the entire film has a serious issue with tone.
I remember watching Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 some months ago and finding the overall experience pretty good. However, I thought that the constant repetition of dropping one liners at the end of scenes – even serious one – got a little tiresome. Nevertheless, I let it slide, as the universe presented in the first Guardians movie was already goofy, and I knew that I was in for a film that was supposed to be a comedy before a sci-fi.
The Star Wars universe is not supposed to be goofy, and though they are mostly light-hearted, none of the eight films that came before The Last Jedi are considered comedies. Why then did The Last Jedi try to be one? The odd, snappy quip from a character like Poe or Solo is totally understandable, but The Last Jedi went full Guardians and had just about every character making one liners, even when the scenes that came before them were dramatic.
The effect of this abundance of comedy has two dire consequences for the film. Firstly, haphazardly crowbarring jokes into dramatic scenes undercuts the emotional weight of them, for obvious reasons. Secondly, by turning characters into walking pun machines, the film divorces itself from the less comedic tone set by the previous films, making it feel more like a lesser MCU instalment than it does episode eight of Star Wars.
If inconsequential scenes and an inconsistent tone weren’t enough to send this film into prequel-quality hell, its belief that audiences are stupid will. The number of times the film shows something, only to have a character literally describe what is being show, is frankly maddening. There is even a scene in which one character goes outside to face another, quite clearly mano-a-mano, and someone in the base says, “He’s going out to face him alone”. Seriously? I’ve read Dan Brown books with more finesse than The Last Jedi.
Despite a promising start and some truly excellent visuals, The Last Jedi fails thematically, tonally, and does nothing to progress the saga. If you’re a fan of the Machete Order, this is another film to cut. Don’t fret; you shan’t miss much.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
James Turner is a writer and musician based in Sheffield. You can follow him on Twitter @JTAuthor