31 Days, 31 Movies 12/17: Star Wars: The Last Jedi
There won’t be any major Star Wars spoilers ahead so you can rest easy there, on the other hand if you are the kind of person that is worried about Star Wars spoilers this may not be the review for you–for other reasons. I don’t particularly like Star Wars; I think the prequels are terrible as any sane person should but in general I am rather ambivalent on the whole thing. But it is true that the world is a better place when Star Wars is good, everyone’s happier, there is a good holiday movie to go to, little kids and adults alike can run around dressed like jedis. I was rooting for this movie, let’s get that straight, I wanted this movie to be amazing. I expected it most likely to just be okay, but I always hope for the best going into Star Wars. Instead I got this.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a bad movie. I think we should rip that band-aid off right now before we get into the muck. Currently sitting at 93% with an average rating of 8.2 on Rotten Tomatoes from the critics and at 56% from the audience I have never been more confused about what a group of people saw in a film. Star Wars usually gets a bump in the rating because of nostalgia or inertia or whatever it may be, but for someone to try and convince me this is comparable in quality to The Shape of Water (95% average rating: 8.5) just seems nonsensical. All that said it killed it at the box office, raking in the second largest opening ever at $220 million and there is probably no amount of audience or critical displeasure that could stop the Star Wars vehicle at this point. So maybe all this falls on deaf ears because no matter what I say here no matter how bad I thought The Last Jedi was I’ll be back here again in two years talking about episode nine because it is the biggest brand of all time.
From the word go The Last Jedi is a mess, the opening scene is of a space aerial battle that, for all the flashing lights and the stunning backdrop of the expanse of space, is so dull to look at. Poe Dameron (Oscar Issac) zips around doing his absolute best to save this movie with his charm. After an anti-climactic end to the films opening set piece it splits off into three tangentially related storylines: Rey’s training with Luke Skywalker and her continue struggle with the dark side and the mystery of her parents, the survival of the rebel transport ship captained by Leia and home to the last of the rebel army, and side mission where Finn and Rose are trying to save the day–I think. Not one of these story lines tells a cohesive story or feels like it has any rhyme or reason in where it is going. Conflicts get introduced and then as soon as they come to a head where it feels like we’ve gotten to the point where our protagonists have to overcome or face defeat the conflicts just resolve themselves seemingly by magic. Although it does make sense because it seems like the thesis of Star Wars now is that there are no consequences. Captain Phasma returns from the dead, inexplicably (I guess they’re assuming we’ve all ready the Marvel comic, which we have not) only to be treated with about at much disdain as a character in this movie as she was in the last.
The list of complaints can go on narratively this movie is an absolute mess. Rest in peace to the great Carrie Fisher but she and Mark Hamill are hard to watch, it is hard to blame this movie for being saddled with bad actors 30 years ago but it certainly didn’t help. There are practical effects in this movie that look like they came from a fan made Star Wars film. But possibly most depressingly Rey continues to be a non-characters and even though it has become sort of a tradition for the main character in Star Wars to be the worst character (Luke is a terrible hero don’t @ me) but I had real hopes they would turn it around for Rey after her non-story in The Force Awakens. This movie desperately, desperately needs a Han Solo and it desperately needs a Darth Vader. I will say that John Boyega has earned the Gal Gadot treatment here, every think piece you write about The Last Jedi in the future needs to be titles something like “The Last Jedi Disappoints But John Boyega Shines Through The Wreckage” we must save this man from these movies.
A more in depth podcast on The Last Jedi is coming tonight so if you want more of this stay tuned. I hope that Star Wars fans love this. A more optimistic me would have said you have to express displeasure because that is how you get people to adjust and deliver the Star Wars you really like. But I don’t think that’s possible anymore. I don’t blame Rian Johnson for this, I don’t know if he has anything to do with what is bad about this movie. It is impossible to say if all the poor decisions in here are focused grouped or if they really are artistic missteps. This is probably just what you get when you put billion dollar money maker into a risk adverse movie making machine.
Littered with bad performances, a confusing comedic tone, and a sloppy narrative that feels less like a story and more like a to-do list, Star Wars: The Last Jedi could be the worst Star Wars movie to date.