It’s been five days since I watched The Last Jedi. Part of me wanted to love it. Part of me wanted to hate it. It may have received one of the most divisive reactions to a Star Wars movie ever. But my mind is still divided against itself over The Last Jedi. I’ll probably come up with a rating by the end of this review. But that could change after a second viewing. I reckon a second viewing might be necessary to absorb everything portrayed in The Last Jedi. It was bloated, poorly paced and plodding at times. Some character plot lines were questionable at best. The core story wasn’t very interesting at all. But The Last Jedi tried its best to shock us by throwing everything including the kitchen sink at us. And that’s why I still can’t make up my mind about it.
I’ll withhold most plot details here. Instead I’ll talk very vaguely about the film to avoid spoilers. Of course, here’s what we all know: Luke Skywalker teaches Rey the ways of the Force. That’s the description on the Odeon website, so I’ll keep it like that. All of the characters from The Force Awakens are back, plus a few new faces in the guise of Vice Admiral Holdo (played by Laura Dern) and mechanic Rose Tico, who endures a silly sub-plot with Finn. Old and new, the film is packed to the rafters with characters, a problem that plagued Rogue One and affects The Last Jedi as well.
“This is not going to go the way you think!”
There’s a lot going on, presumably to distract us from the simple plot The Last Jedi is trying to tell. But with new characters to introduce and old characters to give something to do, there’s a lot to take in. Too much, in fact. It’s not as if the new characters are particularly memorable, either. Holdo appears out of nowhere as a vital character in the Resistance, but her role could easily have been fulfilled by Princess Leia. Rose Tico takes up a lot of film time, but didn’t leave an impression on me. She was just…there.
However, she’s a major part of one of the themes of The Last Jedi: that you don’t have to be someone special to save the galaxy. You can be anyone. It’s a noble theme, one that’s emphasised in a sub-plot involving Rose and Finn. But it’s rubbed in our face too much (especially in the epilogue). It also muddies the waters of the overall plot. The film takes too many diversions, bursting at the seams with subplots. Rey’s training doesn’t receive the attention it should, so the payoff isn’t quite as powerful as it should be. That’s the case for much of the film.
The Last Jedi tries so hard to shock and deliver a distinctly different Star Wars film that it falls over itself whilst doing it. Not only that, but it’s not as shocking as it thinks. It shows us very similar situations to what we’ve seen in Star Wars before, but amends the ending of said situations somewhat. You can only pull the rug out from under someone’s feet so many times until they don’t stand on the rug anymore. You feel exhausted by the end of the films with the twists and turns, some of which feel illogical and/or unnecessary. At one point, I felt like laughing at a supposedly serious turn of affairs. My eyes rolled more than a few times.
“Every word of what you just said was wrong”
I did complain that the film tries too hard to upend your expectations, but at the same time it’s commendable. Rian Johnson must have some big cahonas to toy with fans as extreme and loyal as Star Wars fans. I’ll admit, on the whole it didn’t work for me. But I doff my cap to him. Yes, Star Wars needed a new direction after The Force Awakens gave us a familiar hope. I don’t agree with this new direction. But at least Johnson tried something different. A major problem is that he’s tried something so different that the film feels like the final part of a trilogy, rather than the middle part. Where do they go from here? And why should we care?
But he also gave us a bloated film that could have been cut by half an hour. A few subplots could have been cut out. He could have focused on the two major storylines without deviation. Even in his attempt to try something different, he steals from the past to alter it. You’ll be very familiar with some of the situations (if not with the ending). There are things to like about The Last Jedi, from the beautiful visuals to the often very good acting. But I just felt like I’d been bludgeoned over the head with a baseball bat after my trip to the cinema. No one likes a try hard. Maybe on a rewatch I’ll appreciate the new direction Johnson took Star Wars. But for now, after talking about it, I’ve made up my mind (I think…).
VERDICT: 4/10. The Last Jedi upends our expections by giving us something familiar yet strikingly different. But it’s a direction that takes too many diversions and loses sight of its messages. It’s attempts to shock and toy with the audience become tiresome and frustrating.
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