Film Review: Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Spoiler Free (Walt Disney)

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Chewbacca and a Porg – two of the best things about The Last Jedi

Mark Hamill reprises his role as Luke Skywalker in the latest Star Wars film, The Last Jedi

Yesterday I saw the Chicago critics’ screening of the new Star Wars film, The Last Jedi. I’m a HUGE Star Wars fan. These films mean the world to me. I don’t even dislike the prequel trilogy (well, Attack of the Clones is pretty forgettable, but still, it’s Star Wars). And, before you start assuming where this is going, I didn’t hate The Last Jedi. But I am incredibly, deeply disappointed by it. Especially considering I still watch The Force Awakens and marvel at how amazing it is. Help us, J.J. Abrams, you’re our only hope!

As the title suggests, this is a spoiler free review of the film. I’m going to post a spoiler-centric review on Friday to discuss specific likes/dislikes in more detail. But for now, I’ll give the broad strokes.

Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) in a scene from The Last Jedi

First of all, I thought that Rian Johnson was the absolutely perfect choice to make a Star Wars film. In fact, when Disney announced that Colin Trevorrow (director of the rancid and stupid Jurassic World) was not going to direct the third film in the new trilogy, I pushed for Johnson to be the director on social media. That’s how much I believed in what was forthcoming. Instead, and to my satisfaction now, J.J. Abrams, who directed the first film in the new trilogy, The Force Awakens, will close it out. After seeing The Last Jedi, I’m greatly relieved, because Johnson was a terrible choice to direct a Star Wars film it turns out.

Things start out really well. The Resistance forces are fleeing their base after the destruction of the First Order’s star killer base in the previous film and the First Order are hot on their tail. This leads to an incredibly well done space battle involving new “bomber” ships. Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) is the headstrong leader of the battle and comes into conflict with General Leia Organa (the late Carrie Fisher).  This is great – good solid conflict to start things off with. I love it.

The action shifts to Rey (the amazing Daisy Ridley) and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) with Rey desperately making her plea for Luke to come out of hiding and help lead the Resistance. Chewbacca and R2-D2 hang back on the Millennium Falcon. Porgs are introduced…they are freaking adorable. There’s a lot of really funny moments with Chewbacca and the Porgs (separately and together). I wish there had been more of Chewbacca and the Porgs, quite frankly. Every movie could use more Chewbacca, though.

Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), Rose (Kelly Marie Tran)

To further separate the heroes, Finn (John Boyega) and mechanic Rose, along with the always fun BB-8, are dispatched to the casino world of Canto Bight to find a code breaker.

On the First Order side, Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) shows impatience with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and General Huxx (Domhnall Gleeson). He wants all signs of the Resistance wiped out as soon as possible to obtain domination over the entire galaxy. Who Snoke is, what his motivations are, how the First Order got started, etc. – these are things that apparently will never be answered, because they aren’t answered here. Which severely undercuts their menace.

Porg. Porgy porg porg porg. Porg.

So those are the broad strokes. Now for the spoiler free criticisms.

I’ve never once thought, nor spoken out loud the words “Oh for fuck’s sake” during a Star Wars film. Not for Jar Jar Binks. Not for midichlorians. Not for springy, fighting monkey Yoda. Not for Hayden Christensen. But I exclaimed it at one point near the end of The Last Jedi. I rolled my eyes more than once during the film, too.

The biggest aggravating point of the film centers around everything to do with Canto Bight. I won’t go into specifics, but I’ll just say that, in the end, the entire subplot was a total waste of time. Nothing important comes from it. Nothing.

The world of Canto Bight.

And this is the part of the film that lost me. Johnson goes full on George Lucas prequel trilogy cheeseball visual effects here. Overdoing the CGI to such a ridiculous point as to be laughable. I cannot stress enough how much I wanted to love the Canto Bight sequence as the idea of it and the initial shots were amazing. But this sequence brings up a major problem with Johnson’s script and direction.

Johnson manages to both hurry through moments that need more space and care throughout The Last Jedi and also lets other moments go on and on and on without the right payoff. His tone is off for most of the film. He takes three amazing characters (Poe, Finn and Kylo Ren) created for the new trilogy and does his best to ruin them. Only Ridley as Rey stands strong and comes out as secure as she went in. But Johnson forgets that she’s the lead of the trilogy and doesn’t give her a proper ending in the film.

Finn (John Boyega) battles with Captain Phasma (Gwendolyn Christie) in The Last Jeid

A lot of the characters in The Last Jedi, are, to put it mildly, a lot dumber and/or dumbed down than they were in The Force Awakens. Poe Dameron’s character was smart, cunning and sly in the first film. Here, he’s Tom Cruise in Top Gun. Finn had this amazing arc in the first film. Here, he’s relegated to propping up the poorly written, utterly pointless new character Rose. Kylo Ren is meant to be the next Darth Vader, but his story is never built on to make him ascend anywhere close to the level of menace of Vader.

The dramatic arc of this film never kicks in. Even at the end when we should be feeling this HUGE feeling about something happening, how it happens is so inconceivable that it undercuts all of the drama from the moment. Boy do I wish that Lawrence Kasdan had written this script.

There’s also a moment so stupefyingly stupid where a character, for all intents and purposes, SHOULD HAVE DIED and somehow becomes Superman and lives. I won’t get into how or why that’s specifically stupid until Friday.

There are really good moments to be found in The Last Jedi. The aforementioned Chewbacca, Porgs, BB-8, Rey and Luke are all positives. There are a lot of funny moments in the film. There are some great action pieces, including one in Supreme Leader Snoke’s chambers that rocked. It looks really great visually, at least most of the time. There’s the appearance of an old fan favorite which I will not reveal, but this appearance is an absolute thrill while it lasts.

But my God did Rian Johnson drop the bowling ball on his foot on this one. After seeing it, I can’t believe they handed him the reins for the next Star Wars trilogy (which will have nothing to do with the Skywalker saga). I truly believe that he’s the exact wrong person for the job. I eagerly await J.J. Abrams‘ follow-up to hopefully put things back on track. Maybe they should have asked Abrams to do the next trilogy. He’s the one that managed to get the spirit and feel of the first films right in The Force Awakens.

That said, I’m contractually obligated to go see The Last Jedi one more time. I bought tickets in advance to take my family to see it this weekend. Maybe it will improve. I highly doubt it, though. I thought the same thing of Attack of the Clones and that still hasn’t happened.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

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