Star Wars: The Last Jedi Staggers But Manages to Keep Its Feet

I posted about my general disappointment in the Star Wars franchise recently. I said that if I didn’t enjoy this latest instalment of the the Star Wars film universe I’d probably stop spending money at the cinema in order to see them. It looks like there was enough material in the The Last Jedi to keep me coming back. Just.

I’ve been working a lot of hours of late and my due to certain unfortunate events I was forced to forego my personal Star Wars Day to see the new film on the opening day. Instead I was force to wait seven days to see it. In those seven days, it was impossible not to hear, cursorily, the thoughts of some people who had seen it. The reviews were mixed to say the least.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi cinema poster (c) 2017 Lucasfilm
Star Wars: The Last Jedi cinema poster (c) 2017 Lucasfilm

Even so, I hadn’t heard anything about the story itself, so I would be able to judge for myself whether The Last Jedi would bring something new to the table. After the obligatory adverts and previews (twenty-five bloody minutes of them!) the lights dimmed and the so familiar theme and scrawl took me and the sparsely filled cinema back to that galaxy far, far away.

I will say this, if the entire film had been as bad as the opening ten minutes I don’t think I would have stayed to finish it. The opening dialogue and sequence were stupendous drivel. How it made it through the editing sequence is beyond me. But I managed to control my eye rolling and made it past this drek.

Once the story got on track some things started to make a certain amount of sense. There was some sort of internal cohesion going on, but it was tenuous and thin. At least it was trying to give a consistent story. Something that is becoming rarer in this age of shock and awe CGI film.

The Last Jedi was at its best when we finally started dealing with the Jedi themselves. As children, especially those of us who were there at the beginning, almost everyone wanted to be a Jedi. That’s why on so many national census’ people write in ‘Jedi’ as their religion. When the focus was on the Jedi The Last Jedi was good. When The Last Jedi shifted focus back to the ‘Resistance’, the story was weaker.

In one case in particular, the storyline veered into a sort of side-quest story that, while somewhat relevant to the overall plot, was more of a ‘look how cool we can be breaking the rules’ sort of thing. Rather than making a real plan with the help of more experienced people, a few young hotheads decide to ‘do it their way’. A way that costs a lot of lives.

When I was watching the film, especially the Resistance portions, I couldn’t help but see gross similarities between The Last Jedi and The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi. It was clearly aping some of the themes and imagery from the earlier films. And I don’t want to say that the film makers were in anyway lazy or plagiarists, but there was one sequence with the Millennium Falcon that looked as if it had been lifted, in its entirety, from The Return of the Jedi. That’s not the case I’m sure, but the similarities were striking.

While there are a number of problems with The Last Jedi there were also a few standout performances as well. Namely Laura Dern as Vice Admiral Holdo. I have been a fan of Laura Dern’s for a long time and she brought some serious skill to her role in The Last Jedi. I could have watched an entire film just with her.

Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker and Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia in Star Wars: The Last Jedi (c) 2017 Lucasfilm
Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker and Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia in Star Wars: The Last Jedi (c) 2017 Lucasfilm

Of course, the late Carrie Fisher was superb as Princess Leia (she’ll always be a princess to me), and Mark Hamill returning as Luke Skywalker gave us a brilliant rendition of a boy that had grown in to a man that had seen too many terrible things, yet still managed to maintain a touch of humour.

I wasn’t terribly impressed with Adam Driver in The Force Awakens, but his portrayal of Kylo Ren has improved and he’s taken more care with the role this time. Daisy Ridley as Rey has also improved greatly as well. She was a little warmer and more vulnerable this time.

The Last Jedi is a film that should have been more heavily focused on the Jedi portion of the story and less about the Resistance. I understand Rian Johnson was trying to achieve some sort of balance between the two, but he failed to achieve that balance. If he had cut about thirty minutes of Resistance story, he would have had a much tighter and exciting Resistance story that would have paired perfectly with the Jedi portions of the film.

The Last Jedi didn’t make me want to run back in and see it again, but it did manage to hold my interest in enough places to make me want to continue to give Star Wars my interest and time. I am still hopeful that, one day, Disney will be able to give us a film that can fill us with that same wonder and awe felt by a seven year-old boy, sitting in the dark in 1977, that Star Wars did. In the end that’s all Star Wars was ever about. Hope.

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