Liam Underwood’s review published on Letterboxd:
I recently rewatched Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) for the first time since seeing it twice at the cinema two years ago, and was pleased at how well it held up and how fun it was. Unfortunately, I can't see me saying that about Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Okay so I understand the criticism that Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a bit derivative, but I felt it ushered us back into a long neglected galaxy in a way that worked well for both fans and newcomers to the series. And, very importantly, a lot of it felt weighty and grounded thanks to practical effects.
It feels to me that Star Wars: The Last Jedi took more inspiration from the prequel trilogy than it did from the original trilogy, and this is most noticeable by the obvious over-reliance of CGI, from dodgy green screen to pretty poor computer generated effects in a couple of sequences. The film also didn't seem like it really knew what to do with the characters. It feels like instead of continuing the story from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, director Rian Johnson was desperate to make his mark and tell his own story and had to just awkwardly insert and modify the characters that had already been established. It felt very much like trying to push a square peg into a round hole. Somehow, major characters who I cared about in the previous film now feel like an afterthought.
In fact, the writing of this film is easily one of its weakest points. First, there were the obvious (and often ill-fitting) attempts at quippy humour. Then, we had some awkward exposition. But worst of all, and most frustratingly for me, is the simple fact that this film had zero faith in its audience. There is one plan that is explained about four times in quite a short space of time. It really isn't that complex of a plan, and basically only exists to provide a key character with something to do. I understand that there is a certain desire to appeal to the younger crowd, but this was honestly insulting to the average intelligence. Allow me to use an actual example of what I mean (and this won't be 100% accurate, but you'll get the gist): A character will go "the plans show there are no other exits to this location" and then, JUST IN CASE that wasn't clear enough, it will be clarified "that means that door is the only way in or out!" Pretty much everything is painfully spelled out throughout the film. There is no room for ambiguity in this galaxy.
At one point there is also a strange diversion to a wealthy city that was horrendous. I was constantly reminded of the prequel trilogy, and that is something I did not want from Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Perhaps worst of all, besides the lack of fun and not really knowing what to do with key characters and some wonky special effects and pretty poor dialogue and way too much unnecessary exposition, worse than all that is the fact that there were moments in this film where I was bored. I was so excited before the film began, and so quickly I realised that Rian Johnson had pretty much zero respect or appreciation for Star Wars: The Force Awakens or for the audience. It was obvious from the opening scene where BB-8 no longer felt like a tangible object, but just pixels bouncing around with a flappy head that seems inspired by South Park's (1997-) depiction of Canadians.
Thankfully, it isn't quite all bad. Daisy Ridley is still great as Rey and Adam Driver is obviously phenomenal. It is with these two characters where the film works best, and at one point does seem to be going in a genuinely inspired and interesting direction. Admittedly we do have to slog through some more awkward exposition and unfortunately this is ultimately undone in order to provide a less complicated tale of good vs evil, but there was a moment where it seemed like something deeper could have happened.
Oscar Isaac is also good, and Kelly Marie Tran is an unexpected but welcome addition. And of course it's a kick to see Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker once more. I wasn't entirely convinced with what was done with Carrie Fisher as Leia Organa - and there is one scene in particular which is just awful and reminded me of a scene from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016). But anyway, I'm sorry, this is supposed to be the positive part of the review and I got distracted by yet another gripe. My apologies, back to the positivity: the Porgs weren't as fucking annoying as they could have been.
I really wish I'd enjoyed Star Wars: The Last Jedi more. But I just don't see what all the rave reviews are talking about. I came out crushingly disappointed by the fact that there was some bits I liked, some bits I hated, and most I just found to be underwhelmingly average. Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a triumphant return, but this next entry is an embarrassing follow-up. After a cursory glance at the musings on letterboxd, it seems there are some mixed feelings about this film but most lean favourably. And I do understand that the critics perhaps liked how this film defied expectations and quite slavishly stuck to Kylo Ren's message of "Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to." But for me? I found it bordering on disrespectful of the work J.J. Abrams did setting up this new trilogy, and unfortunate that now I won't get to see what was shaping up to be a promising tale. Rian Johnson had to flop his dick out on the table and show us all what a big boy he is by doing his own thing, and honestly, if that was his intention, why not just give him one of these Star Wars story spin-offs to work on?
Whatever. I'm done writing about Star Wars: The Last Jedi for now. If you liked it I'm pleased for you and slightly envious. I'll just be sat over here with my disappointment, hoping that the next film provides some much needed course correction.
This should have been better than average.