Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review
The Force is only sort of with you in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, a schizophrenic sequel that has many things to marvel at and many things that are utter letdowns. Any hope that Episode VIII was going to propel the franchise to another level after the somewhat conservative The Force Awakens is dashed along with the remnants of the Rebel fleet.
Writer/director Rian Johnson, best known for this badass sci-fi action-thriller Looper, takes the reins and delivers a fast-paced but annoyingly chaotic Star Wars adventure that feels more committed to giving the previously introduced cast of characters something to do than advancing the story in a meaningful way. Thankfully, what it lacks in a cohesive narrative it makes up for, to some degree, with a few pretty exciting and even shocking moments you probably won’t see coming.
The movie picks up mere seconds after The Force Awakens ends, with Rey (Daisy Ridley) trying to work over a curmudgeonly Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) in what is understandably the most important and interesting plot strand of the trilogy. While there is some validity to the concerns that their exchanges would just be a rerun of Luke’s training scenes with Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back, Johnson adequately goes down a different path, at least somewhat.
Meanwhiles, the Resistance is on the run from the First Order given that the Neo-Empire blew up the Republic in The Force Awakens… which basically means that the franchise is doomed to pretty much be a retread of the original trilogy’s dynamic. This has Domhnall Gleeson, as General Hux, once again stuck shouting orders as one of the lamest characters of the entire franchise, and, more interestingly, Adam Driver, as Kylo Ren, continuing to debate whether he’s going to stay a bad guy or not so he can date Rey. Meanwhile, Oscar Isaac runs around making heroic-but-dumb decisions.
The Jedi stuff aside, The Last Jedi is essentially a chase movie, with the First Order slowly pursuing the rebel fleet (why don’t they just warp ahead by half a click and surround them?). Unfortunately, Johnson has given us a two-and-a-half-hour space epic that struggles to give the rest of his cast meaningful things to do:
- John Boyega is stuck going on a side mission to Monte Carlo-esque casino, which not only brings back not-pleasant memories of the prequel but ultimately has nothing to do with anything. Johnson could have cut 20 minutes from the movie right here and we all would have been better off.
- Instead of demonstrating why Leia is a general by showing her strategic capabilities, Carrie Fisher isn’t given much to do. To make matters worse, something bad happens that is so offensively dumb and unnecessary (even for a movie such as this) it rips you right out of the movie.
- Laura Dern is in this movie for some reason or another, but I could see a tighter, more satisfying scenario where everything she does was merged into Leia’s.
- Also, have we been introduced to a love triangle no one was asking for?
This review has been pretty critical so far, but please take this as disappointment more than hatred. Expectations were lofty and the hype was real, and The Last Jedi comes no where close to living up to the buzz. But the movie does offer some great sequences, especially in the final third where Johnson clicks some of his plot elements into place and lets loose. As should be expected, the movie looks amazing, has some good action, and some funny moments as well.
Nonetheless, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a concerning sign that Disney is unwilling to be even slightly daring with the franchise. I had hoped that The Force Awakens, which pretty much recycled the formula from Episode IV, was simply a reset and that Episode VII would kick things up several notches; instead, it feels like another space adventure where the end game doesn’t appear to be thought through. Kylo Ren is a seemingly complex figure, but his motivations seem muddled. Instead of going in a new direction, the story feels trapped and restrained to familiar territory.
And in the end, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is entertaining, but simply not good enough.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.