The release of a new Star Wars film has always been a huge event. It has become something that is hyped about up to a year before it’s release usually around Christmas time. So Santa can make sure to bring all the good little Jedi boys and girls the latest action figures and cute stuffed toys (whether they be Jar Jar Binks, BB8 or Porgs). Star Wars has become something that has transcended “geekdom”. And this may or may not be a good thing. It has become socially acceptable to enjoy Star Wars and now you’re considered a ‘weirdo’ for not seeing at least one Star Wars film.
The current trilogy of Star Wars films are playing it safe, by virtually remaking the same films from the original trilogy, which seems like a cop out. Although The Last Jedi has tried to take a different approach and inject some comedy it the film’s universe. The only thing is, it has somewhat backfired and the most dedicated hardcore fans haven’t responded well. Reddit has blown up with fans venting their annoyance about how The Last Jedi has become almost like a Marvel movie. With the studio forcing a longer run time and drawing out action sequences with little character or narrative development.
Certainly whilst I watching the film (struggling to stay awake as it was a midnight showing) I was beginning to tire of the endless space battles, the endless lightsaber battles and the dumb side quests which seemed pointless and went nowhere. The film felt bloated, it’s long run time of two hours and forty two minutes is just unbelievable. There were so many great moments where they could have ended the film on a cliffhanger leaving the audience geared up for the next film. Instead it becomes a joyless SFX bombardment of action, explosions, funny little jokes which seem to go against certain character’s personalities. More explosions, more action, followed by some teasing of “will they won’t they?” and which character is about to kick the bucket.
The film picks off from the end of The Force Awakens, with Rey (Daisy Ridley still delivering her bad ass super girl routine) meeting Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). He is a bit reluctant to teach her the ways of the force because he’s suffering from PTSD from what happened with his last student, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Meanwhile, Kylo Ren and General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) are leading First Order in an all-out assault against Leia (the late, wonderful Carrie Fisher) and the Resistance for supremacy of the galaxy. Hot headed Poe (Oscar Isaac) is trying to fight a losing battle for command of the resistance against newcomer Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo (Laura Dern). While Finn (John Boyega) is running around on random planets with new girl Rose (Kelly Marie Tran). And yes there is a rather forced love story that emerges between them, which seems rather far-fetched.
The film barely stops to catch its breath, with one big action scene taking place after another. And honestly it really feels like it’s beginning to crumble under its own weight. Who is this film for, the fan or the studio? New characters are introduced, and paired off with other pre-existing characters, but their backstories are hardly developed. There’s this big push to have the film all about strong women, but it seems rather pretentious and pandering to the #metoo movement. And please don’t think I don’t want strong female characters in our films, but I want them to have their flaws. Rey, Rose, Leia, Amilyn all seem too perfect, too noble and too virtuous. Another issue I have is where are all the strong female characters working for the First Order? Or are only men allowed to embrace their dark side?
My first initial response to The Last Jedi was one of praise. But as I reflect on the epic I had to endure whilst struggling to remain enthusiastic about another space battle (ooh look explosions) knowing that our main characters will be saved at the very last second like they usually are. I realise that The Last Jedi is a beast of a movie. Just because a film is longer, doesn’t mean it’s any better. Director and writer Rian Johnson should have made the decision to cut out at least forty minutes from the run time. And Johnson should have played against our expectations and delivered us a killing blow. The Last Jedi is too soft, too predictable and just part of the on-going Disney machine that keeps churning out films to sell gifts at Christmas. There’s no disturbance in the force here, and this is not the film we’re looking for.