The Phantom Menace should be very happy right now. After 18 years, it has finally lost the (dis)honor of being the most disappointing Star Wars movie. Now, before all the Star Wars fans light their torches and grab their pitchforks, let me give a quick explanation. Star Wars: The Last Jedi is by no means a bad movie – in fact it’s actually pretty good. The issue is that it’s such a noticeable drop in quality from the previous two films that I can’t help but be let down by it. I’ll try and avoid spoilers as much as possible when describing the problems, but be prepared just in case.
Even though The Force Awakens was considered by many to be a retread of A New Hope, it was still a great movie and did a wonderful job of mixing new and old characters in order to pass the torch to a new generation of actors. Best of all, it introduced some questions that had people talking for nearly the full two year break between movies. Who are Rey’s parents? Who is Snoke? Will Kylo Ren fully embrace the dark side or is his conflict sincere? These questions, and many others, have been in forefront of fans minds since Episode VII launched. Well, we now have answers to most of those questions, but I don’t think many will like the results.
It seems like director Rian Johnson deliberately went out of his way to toss aside all the important plot points from TFA and start things over on his own terms. If this was the start of a new trilogy (like his just announced movies) or a new spinoff set in the Star Wars universe, this would be understandable. But when the movie in question is the bridge between the first and last chapter, dropping many of the important points that kept people interested was a grave error. This was massive error in judgement, but sadly it’s not the only problem with the movie. There were other questionable choices made throughout the production, and though none of them are as important as the one above, they are all noticeable and detract from what could have otherwise been a fantastic movie.
A big problem that seems to have upset quite a few fans is that after popping up in a wordless scene at the end of TFA, it was expected that core character Luke Skywalker was going to be an important part of The Last Jedi. For some reason, he was handled extremely poorly this time out. For a newer or minor character it would be fine as we’re still getting to know them, but for such an established focal point of the series to experience such a shift in tone – well, it’s a bit off putting. To be blunt, Luke is just a dick in this movie. Instead of the the heroic, kind young man we grew to love in the original trilogy, we get a cranky, bitter old man. I know there’s reasons for the change in his persona, but the new Luke seems a bit too nasty for my liking. The character deserves better, and I just don’t like the way he was handled.
Another minor quibble I have is that considering Carrie Fisher‘s passing this time last year, I would have expected her to get a proper send off. Unless they had were going to use CGI to insert her into Episode IX, which they have apparently decided against, there was no way for Leia to appear in the next movie. The original plan was supposedly for her to be the main original character in the final part of the new trilogy, but as that cannot happen she should have been given a nice sendoff. Instead, she will just be absent from the movie with a poor explanation that won’t do her character justice.
A few final complaints before I go into what does work. A few characters, both new and old, are brought in for what are nothing more than cameo appearances. I wish they had more prominent roles. The movie is way too long, and entire sequences could have been removed without altering the plot. Finally, there’s a sequence involving Leia that I cannot describe without spoiling things, but let’s just say it is honestly the biggest WTF?? moments in a movie with plenty of WTF?? moments.
As much as it seems I didn’t care for the movie, there is plenty of enjoyable moments as well. One of the best parts of The Force Awakens were the moments between heroine Rey and villain Kylo Ren. This is expanded on in this film, and becomes one of the most important plot points of the movie. The dynamic between these characters can be contributed to the acting talents of Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver. Watching the two of them together is a treat. and watching their relationship develop further in the next movie has me excited.
The new cast additions are also pretty impressive. I wasn’t sure about heavyweights such as Laura Dern and Benicio Del Toro joining an already large and established cast, but they did fantastic work. Del Toro’s role is somewhat minor, but he brought his trademark quirkiness to it and hopefully he will appear in the next film (though I’m not sure about why the character has a stutter). Dern’s role is far more substantial, and her role is quite important to the plot. Of all the newcomers in this chapter, she impresses the most. Equally important is Kelly Marie Tran as resistance fighter Rose Tico. Her scenes with Finn are fun, and I look forward to getting to see more of the character in future sequels.
A Star Wars movie wouldn’t be a Star Wars movie without epic space battles and awesome light saber fights, and The Last Jedi definitely delivers on both fronts. There may not be as many of either as there was in all previous movies, but the few we do get are incredible to witness. There is an intense saber fight in the movie that ranks among one of the best single scenes in the entire nine movie series to date.
So as I said, I did not hate the movie – far from it actually. I was just let down considering what came before it. It’s still better than any of the prequel trilogy, which is probably the most important thing. I just hope that the final movie in this trilogy delivers some good solutions to the issues created with this movie. I have faith that things will end on a high note, and that this was just a minor misstep.
FINAL GRADE: B-