Todd Gaines’s review published on Letterboxd:
Tonal and pacing issues plague the opening act of Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi. One minute there’s off-balance humor, the next, there’s serious seriousness. Potential breakout characters are frantically introduced, only to see their story arc, obliterated in the mist of chaotic chaos. I’m not going to lie; the opening act is a hot mess, but thankfully, for the most part, the pace and tone improves as the film progresses.
We have three stories going on at once, and they’re all competing for our full attention, which is why, there’s such a bloated runtime.
Story One: The triangle between Luke, Rey and Ren. Kylo Ren is one of the most improved characters from the previous film. He’s less emo and Adam Driver brings his A game to the acting table. Rey is left in limbo for most of the movie, only to finally see the light towards the end. I can’t say any more about Daisy Ridley, because I feel like it would spoil the movie for those who haven’t seen it. Luke’s journey and destiny are probably the factors most viewers are conflicted with. I can see both sides, and I’m leaning towards disappointment in the way Luke’s story takes its course. Also, it can be debated that we have Mark Hamill playing Mark Hamill and not Mark Hamill acting as Luke Skywalker. Luke’s character at times is a parody of what he once was. But, we must remember, it has been over 40 years since Luke first found the force.
Story Two: The Rebel Resistance with Leia and Poe. It’s bittersweet watching Ms Fisher. We can debate she’s the glue that holds this film and franchise together. If Leia’s story isn’t finished, there will be problems with the advancement of the overall story. Carrie Fisher was a very strong woman, and Leia Organa is an impossible character to replace. Poe, once again is a hothead. But, I’m not ready to crown him the next Han, like I thought I was after The Force Awakens. He’s a character whom would benefit from a side project Solo movie. What we can conclude about Poe after TLJ is he’s really close to BB-8. The rest of his mindset is still a mystery.
Story Three: Finn once again going on some wild adventure, but this time, it is with TLJ’s breakout star, Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose Tico. Rose is a breath of fresh light in the Star Wars Cinematic Universe. She steals every scene she’s in, has a relatable backstory, and if she survives this episode, might be the HOPE we all need in times of great distress. Her positive attitude, and her outlook on life, are examples we should all follow and admire. I do believe John Boyega is continuing to grow into Finn’s shoes, and he’s improving enough, that I believe we have yet to see the best of Finn. Another aspect that helps the story of Rose and Finn is the introduction of a certain DJ played by another scene stealer, Benicio Del Toro. DJ might be my favorite character from the film.
TLJ does bring to the table a lot of action scenes. With some more organized than others. I do believe the die hard fans will be excited about some of the Sci-fi excitement, only to be majorly disappointed in a couple of critical action events. Fans should enjoy seeing new planets, worlds, creatures we haven’t seen before, and maybe just maybe, a surprise or two for the lifelong Jedi at heart. Rian Johnson gives a valiant effort, but I do prefer Gareth Edwards’ tone of Episode 3.5, Rogue One over TLJ. However, I do believe Rian will learn from his errors, and when he directs the new Star Wars Trilogy, can perhaps, direct something truly special.
Full review on YouTube at:
Todd Gaines Talks Film