Warning: Spoilers ahead.
I hold the rather unpopular viewpoint that Revenge of the Sith is the best Star Wars film.
I know, I know, some of you have probably already closed this review down in disgust, but the reason I like it the most is that it’s the one where most happens. Everything we’ve seen set up in Episodes One and Two has to be resolved to tie in with the start of A New Hope, and so what we get is death, character development, excitement and a plot that has a certain amount of pace to it. Yes, there’s some poor acting and yes, the decision to kill of Padmé with a broken heart was daft, but those negatives are far outweighed by the positives.
So if you take those reasons as an indicator of what I like in a movie – Star Wars or otherwise – then it won’t come as a huge shock that I was quite disappointed by Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
It wasn’t that it was a bad movie, nor that it dragged – indeed for a not inconsiderable 152 minutes it went by quite quickly – but rather that I came away from it feeling like the story hadn’t moved on.
And it’s funny, because if you read other people’s opinions on it, some appear to be saying the exact opposite.
To me though it felt like a movie that safely knew its place in a series that will go on and on, and so didn’t want to make any drastic changes. It finished like it started, with the rebels on the run having managed to escape from their pursuers yet again. It’s almost like an episode of something like Blake’s Seven. By the end of an episode of that, the Federation are still chasing them, but Blake’s group have managed to survive another week. In The Last Jedi, the gang go off to find a lockpick, fail and it doesn’t matter. Meanwhile, some people get killed but no-one that would have a significant impact on the story.
And yes, you can say to me “But Stuart, they killed off Luke Skywalker and Snoke; surely those are significant developments?”, but I would disagree. There’s no way Luke Skywalker won’t appear in Episode IX, so whether he’s a ghost or alive it makes no difference. Snoke meanwhile was an empty character who – by design or not – was abandoned without the viewer understanding his back story, motivation or purpose, so he’s hardly a loss.
Beyond the lack of development, there were other aspects that I felt let it down.
The comedy for example…
Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. In Thor Ragnarok it worked but in The Last Jedi it really didn’t.
If you’re going to do comedy then either play the whole thing in a light-hearted way, or employ an actor who is able to bring out the comedy in a serious situation.
Star Wars films are pretty serious in their design, but Harrison Ford was able to bring out some humour with a combination of his own ability as an actor and the way Han Solo was written. I don’t think there’s anyone in The Last Jedi who has that charm that Ford brought and I’m afraid the writing just wasn’t good enough to make the comedy seem anything other than forced. Put it this way; nobody laughed in the screening I was at.
Meanwhile, the acting wasn’t great. Yes fine, heap all the criticism in the world on Hayden Christiensen; he wasn’t the best actor and you presumably don’t have any kind of emotional attachment to him, but I’m sorry; whether you are fond of her or not, and whether you feel duty bound not to say anything harsh against her because she sadly passed away in real life, Carrie Fisher was awful. I’m not going to mock her for fear of fan boy retribution, but it is safe to say that had this been the first Star Wars movie she’d appeared in, she’d have been panned by all.
Mark Hammil wasn’t really much better either, if we’re honest.
And not to heap more criticism on the movie than I already have but there was a little bit too much in the way of convenience. What are the chances of Finn and Rose being locked in a cell with a guy with the very skills they were looking for? Or for only them and Captain Phasma to survive when the rebel ship ploughed into the destroyer? Or even for the escape vessel with all the main characters on it to be one of the tiny few not to have been shot down on the way to the rebel planet?
It’s stuff like that – as well as Kylo Ren’s weird about-turn after killing Snoke or the rather shameless addition of Porgs for the sole purpose of selling merchandise – that are worth questioning when you are reviewing a movie like this.
And lastly, I also felt like The Last Jedi failed to explore the usually vast and rich universe it’s set in – beyond the trip to the casino planet – and stayed with the rather dull space environment.
But it’s not like I hated it, it’s just that it disappointed me.
Hopefully the next movie will be slightly better, and that Nein Nunb will get some lines of dialogue.
And you can bet Luke Skywalker will be in it.
And much like this movie, so will Yoda (and by the way, his inclusion was pretty cool, as was the way he was brought back as a puppet rather than as CGI).
But the late Admiral Akbar won’t be, and that’s the most upsetting travesty of them all.