Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last Jedi ★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

I really, really, really wanted to love this, and I suppose on a technical level, it's a better film than The Force Awakens, although I honestly think I enjoyed J. J. Abrams' entry more than this. To be fair, there are a couple great scenes in The Last Jedi. And by "a couple," I mean two - both of which involve Adam Driver and light sabres.

John Williams' contributions to these films continues to be the best aspect. I really hope he's able to complete Episode IX.

I think my biggest complaint is that too many of the subplots are utterly inconsequential. Finn, Rose, and their secret mission could have been cut completely, and it would have made no difference to the plot. There's a lot of discussion over Poe's reckless bravada, but it's ultimately filler that wouldn't make much difference regardless of whether he was right or wrong. There's a secret plan that seems to suggest quiet acts of heroism are sometimes better than extraordinary feats, but the real point of that was to move the characters to a location for a final confrontation between two other characters.

I appreciate that the film is mostly about Rey, Kylo Ren, and Luke, but even some of the twists in that plot are disappointingly handled. After the previous film spent so much time building up the mystery of Rey's lineage with obvious connections to Luke, the resolution of that plot here is one of the most frustrating and unsatisfying revelations ever. I understand and respect the reason for that plot twist, but to turn the biggest mystery of the last film into a MacGuffin, while a bold choice, is not one I consider good storytelling in a world of epic sci-fi myth making.

I am aware that traditional notions of heroism and the mythic saga of Star Wars are being cross-examined and deconstructed, and I have nothing against that per se, but The Last Jedi seems uninterested in maintaining the epic scale of a space opera a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. As a result, the film feels like a generic action film with some serious questions thrown in.

And yes, it is possible to deconstruct a genre while beautifully and thrillingly adhering to the convention of that genre which caused people to love it in the first place. (e.g. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Into the Woods)

I'm sure fans of the film will argue that The Last Jedi does adhere to mythic beats of Star Wars, and I'm really happy for them and their love for it, and I wish I could join them.

And speaking of twists and deconstructions, there's an obvious twist that is anything but a deconstruction, and it's more or less copied from The Empire Strikes Back, but unless I missed something, there was no possible way that character could have had the information necessary for that plot twist to happen.

I know I sound negative, but I was really expecting to like, if not love, this film, and while Johnson's pacing is tight, the action scenes are riveting, and it has a few fantastically thrilling moments, The Last Jedi also has a plot that strikes me as working better the less you think about it, at least on a first viewing.

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