Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Ultimate Disappointment That Is Star Wars: The Last Jedi

The Good: The animals, The final third is watchable
The Bad: Direction/Editing, Painfully forced humor, Problematic time aspect, Whiny Luke Skywalker, Evil is stupid, Ridiculous set-up, Plot contrivances
The Basics: Star Wars: The Last Jedi might well be the worst of the Star Wars films.

Like most Alpha Geeks, tonight I rushed right out to the first possible showing of Star Wars: The Last Jedi that I could find. The best possible way I can describe how truly disappointing Star Wars: The Last Jedi was is by saying this; on the drive home, I prioritized what I was excited about doing upon returning home and the list came out: 1. See my wife, 2. Reheat the nachos from last night, 3. Clean out the cats' litter boxes, and 4. Consider and review The Last Jedi. Without any spoilers, the simplest explanation for my antipathy toward Star Wars: The Last Jedi would be summarized with the idea that it took an hour and a half into the two and a half hour film for there to be a scene that was exciting and watchable. I know this because the local theater I went to has glowing clocks near the exits near the screen and as I waited for something good to happen in The Last Jedi, my eyes frequently drifted there.

Right now, it seems impolitic to criticize Star Wars: The Last Jedi, but I feel like I am on pretty solid ground with this one (outside just how I feel). Remember how people's initial reaction to Attack Of The Clones (reviewed here!) was overwhelmingly positive at the time? Have you ever gone back to A New Hope (reviewed here!) and caught just how whiny and annoying Luke Skywalker actually is in the film? Remember the feeling you had at the end of The Empire Strikes Back (reviewed here!) where it seemed like there were a ton of compelling directions in which the franchise could go? Have you ever watched a Star Wars trailer and just gotten excited by how it presented information? Well, The Last Jedi is getting praise that is likely to collapse when people actually let the hype fade and consider the actual work, Luke Skywalker reverts to his pathetic and whiny adolescent-sounding self, the film concludes at a place that is almost entirely impossible to create a compelling continuation to the franchise, and director Rian Johnson and editor Bob Ducsay created a film that spends its first hour and a half (at least) cutting as if it were one long trailer. The comparatively quick cuts - especially for reaction shots - feel more like a commercial or a trailer than it does a cohesive film.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi begins with an absolutely ridiculous premise and it sets up a film that has such a muddied view of time that it is almost impossible to take the film seriously. Following the destruction of the Starkiller Base in The Force Awakens (reviewed here!), the First Order has become more powerful and consolidated its power throughout the galaxy in such a way that the Resistance is on the verge of utter destruction. All this in the time it took for Rey to get to Luke Skywalker's planet where he has been hiding for the past thirty years. And, much like George Lucas beat to death the "there's always a bigger fish" idea in The Phantom Menace, Johnson is obsessed with illustrating "there's always a bigger ship." I can completely get why Supreme Leader Snoke would not bring his massive ship into the field with any frequency, but when the Rebel base is being bombarded, it is by a dreadnaught and Poe Dameron notes that it is not the only one. So, one has to wonder why the hell the First Order didn't have a dreadnaught near the vastly less-mobile Starkiller base to prevent their super weapon from being menaced.

So, the First Order is on the verge of wiping out the Resistance and Poe Dameron makes a daring, unauthorized, attack on the First Order dreadnaught that has come to finish off the rebelling force. Dameron is able to cut down the heavy weapons on the dreadnaught, but the Resistance bombers are effectively attacked. While a daring sacrifice allows the Resistance to take out the dreadnaught, the Resistance fleet is all but wiped out and when it comes out of hyperspace, the leaders are horrified that the First Order fleet - including Supreme Leader Snoke's massive command ship - are right behind them, picking off their vessels and harassing their final remaining command ship. Finn comes out of his coma and immediately asks after Rey. Rey, of course, is with Luke Skywalker, who refuses to teach the young woman the ways of the Force.

With Leia wounded, Poe Dameron demoted, Rey watching Luke wander through his days, and the last three Resistance ships running out of fuel and unable to make the jump to hyperspace because the command ship can track them, Finn and the Resistance engineer Rose go on a mission to find a codebreaker who can get them onto the command ship to disable the First Order tracking device. And Rey and Kylo Ren suddenly find they have a psychic connection and communicate and they debate with one another the nature of the Force.

Much like Thor: Ragnarok (reviewed here!), where the plot set-up is that the end of an entire world is imminent, but the film throws out joke after joke after joke, Star Wars: The Last Jedi belabors the humor and most of the characters - save Poe Dameron - sound nothing like they did in prior installments of the Star Wars franchise because they are joking so much. So, the Resistance in the galaxy is almost wiped out, but people sure are taking it with an amazing sense of humor. Except Luke Skywalker. Skywalker has become introspective, sad, a liar, and whiny . . . so whiny.

And while the first major joke of Star Wars: The Last Jedi lands, it completely recharacterizes the First Order as a bunch of idiotic buffoons. Evil is seriously stupid in The Last Jedi. Every major villain in The Last Jedi is tragically wrong at key moments of the film and it guts their credibility; how they have created an empire based upon dominance and slavery is beyond the suspension of disbelief.

And the time aspect of The Last Jedi is painful. With only hours of fuel left in their capital ship and the Resistance on the verge of utter collapse, Rey spends days and nights training, leaves a planet so remote that Skywalker successfully hid there for years, boards Supreme Leader Snoke's ship, gets captured and has a climactic battle with Kylo Ren; how the hell does that work?! And, on the subject of Rey, Daisy Ridley plays Rey as angry in almost every scene, so it's hard to believe she would not be an agent of the Dark Side.

What works in The Last Jedi are the themes. While Rose is abruptly saddled with a ridiculous romantic subplot, she is given a decent amount of character. She loathes the rich who profit off weapons sales and she has a real love of animals. The Last Jedi takes a nice divergence to illustrate that cruelty toward people and animal cruelty are directly analogous.

But for most of Star Wars: The Last Jedi the film oscillates between being painfully boring and an utter mess. One character speaks normal until his last scene where he suddenly develops a stutter, Leia does an impressive impression of Mary Poppins, and the physics of how Paige gets the control pad needed to activate the bomber's doors are troubling. How the Resistance gets trapped in a building with only one exit and entrance and, after they are sealed in, manage to get an entire force of soldiers out into the trenches in front of that door is a mystery.

Ultimately, The Last Jedi is a film that even the appearance of new, super-armored AT-ATs cannot save.

For other works in the Star Wars franchise, please check out my reviews of:
Star Wars - Episode I: The Phantom Menace
The Clone Wars
Star Wars: The Clone Wars Volume 1
Star Wars: The Clone Wars Volume 2
Star Wars - Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith
Rogue One
Star Wars - Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi
Caravan Of Courage - An Ewok Adventure


For other movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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