Star Wars: The Last Jedi falls way below expectation. Clunky storytelling, unfinished sets and a whole heap of unfulfilled potential.
With the Star Wars saga in its fortieth year, the story which began in 1977 continues this December with director Rian Johnson at the helm of an eighth big-screen instalment.
Star Wars has endured. With little expectation of success ‘A New Hope’, as it’s now known, captured the world’s imagination and made stars of it’s leading actors. Two further sequels grew the science fiction saga further.
In the late nineties and early aughts, George Lucas breathed new life into the franchise with three, generally less well received prequels. Heavy in his use of CGI and with criticism rightly levelled at sub-standard dialogue many fans choose to forget.
Regardless of personal opinion, the prequels opened up the the wonder of Star Wars to a new, younger audience. Disney saw the potential for greater scope and, by acquiring Lucasfilm, the entertainment giants secured the future of the franchise with a further three instalments.
The first of the new trilogy was ‘The Force Awakens‘. Under the directorship of J.J. Abrams the film began to build a bridge between the much loved characters of George Lucas’ original trilogy, and a new, younger cast of unknown, yet loveable and relatable lead actors.
Whilst the film wasn’t immune to criticism, especially for it’s obvious similarities to plot points in ‘A New Hope’ – and another Death Star! – it was well received on the whole and made for an action packed family adventure that reignited the spark of excitement that Star Wars I felt as a child.
We rediscovered the Force through the differing fortunes of Rey and Kylo Ren. We bid farewell to favourite characters and yearned for the return of others. ‘The Force Awakens’ upheld the sinister undertones of the original trilogy whilst carefully tempering the edge with comic relief, a lovable droid and moments of endearment and humour. Most importantly we were left with a (literal and metaphorical) cliffhanger as Rey finally came face to face with Luke Skywalker.
After two years, Rey finally gets to put the Lightsaber down
In the two years since ‘The Force Awakens’ hit cinema screens, our appetites for Star Wars was satiated by the outstanding ‘Rogue One‘. A grittier, more adult oriented Star Wars film. The success of Disney’s foray into a galaxy far, far away must have been a daunting prospect to follow. It’s understandable, perhaps, that with ‘The Last Jedi‘ director, Rian Johnson, felt the need to move things in a different direction.
Whilst it may seem unfair to draw comparisons to ‘The Force Awakens’, it would in fact be remiss not to. It is the film that set the tone for the new trilogy. It introduced us to Rey, Finn, Kylo Ren and Poe Dameron. It gave a new gravitas to the meaning of the Force. It created, magic, belief, struggle and conflict. Satisfied our nostalgia and left us craving more with a pivotal closing scene.
I didn’t hold the same feelings when I left the cinema late on Thursday evening having watched ‘The Last Jedi’. In fact I was terribly dissapointed by the film.
Initially I couldn’t accurately articulate what had bothered me so much about ‘The Last Jedi’. After all, there’s a lot to enjoy. Epic space battles, the glorious visual feast that is the salt planet of Crait and fantastic new creatures -for the record, my ambivalence to Porgs knows no bounds.
Rey and Kylo Ren’s almost symbiotic wider understanding of the Force and their respective journeys between the light and dark sides was compelling. And then there were the laughs. There’s never been a Star Wars film filled with so many, well timed and unexpected one liners.
So what detracts from these great elements? Like Kylo Ren’s scar, ‘The Last Jedi’ shifts everything slightly sideways.
The Last Jedi’s director, Rian Johnson, chose to move Kylo Ren’s scar for the sequel.
Clunky storytelling and brutal cuts between character close-ups are hard to take. The awful delivery of dialogue from characters who had been so relatable in the previous instalment left me bemused. The incredible laziness of the undressed sound stage that passed as Supreme Leader Snoke’s chambers? Baffling. Chewbacca may just as well not be in the film at all, Maz Kanata too.
All of these factors contributed to diminish my enjoyment of a film I’d been hyped to see, but at the crux of it, the film’s biggest failing lies, for me, in the treatment of its characters.
At almost every beat a significant protagonist or antagonist has their character diminished. Luke, Rey, Kylo Ren, Poe Dameron, Finn, Snoke, General Hux, Captain Phasma. There’s barely a positive to be taken from a film that undoes the fantastic character building that took place in ‘The Force Awakens’ with such lack of finesse.
The only exception? The wonderful Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa. And sadly, we know that she won’t be returning.
‘The Last Jedi’ leaves the viewer with no sense of anticipation. No light on the horizon, no cliffhanger and no satisfying conclusion. One can only pray that the ninth instalment provides viewers with a new hope.