Like many, I was disappointed with Rian Johnson’s recent Star Wars film. I thought “The Force Awakens” was a great film, evoking the spirit of the original trilogy while also adding new characters and moments to the mythos. Yes, it borrowed its plot too heavily from “A New Hope”, but the core dynamics of story and character worked and, after the disaster that was the prequels, it was a great improvement.
Upon first viewing “The Last Jedi”, I found myself distracted by story inconsistencies and the pacing. Comedic scenes such as Luke tossing the lightsaber behind him or Finn walking through the command ship naked and leaking in his coma suit didn’t work for me. New characters like Holdo and DJ seemed unimportant in the grand scheme of things. Certain scenes seemed strange and grating such as ghost Yoda blowing up a tree and Leia using the Force to guide herself back to her spaceship after it is attacked. And the revelations of the mysteries posed in the previous installment were trite and uninteresting. Rey has no connection to the Skywalkers? Snoke is unimportant?
Certain moments I did enjoy. Some of the action scenes were interesting and the moral of the story, that anyone can be a hero and hope never truly dies, is solid. But the whole structure of the film felt mismanaged.
Upon rewatching the film in the comfort of my own home without the high expectations from my initial viewing, I found myself with a more positive view of the film with some of the same old qualms still.
The interaction of Luke, Rey and Kylo is the heart of the film. Every time those characters are on screen, the story sings. Fallen mentor, fallen student, new student, forbidden love. It’s the Shakespearean dynamics that Star Wars is known for. I’m okay now with Rey not being a Skywalker or a Kenobi or a Solo. I just wish her involvement with the story was more invested. Perhaps the story could tie in to the prequels a little bit (just a little) and the prophecy of bringing balance to the Force. In “Force Awakens”, Luke’s lightsaber calls out to her. She’s destined for something, but “Last Jedi” doesn’t focus on this aspect of her character. She doesn’t need to have important parents, but she does need to be important.
Some of the action scenes of the First Order fleet chasing down the Resistance are interesting and exciting, but as a whole, the subplot of the story is dramatically lacking. The plot is basically bad guys chase good guys and good guys try to escape. It’s not very interesting. The good guys should initiate action of some kind. Perhaps an assassination mission against Snoke. Perhaps a trip to a neutral world to try and recruit the natives to your side instead of the First Order’s. Perhaps a quest to decimate the First Order base by recruiting spies on the inside, someone that Finn knows. Poe, Finn, Leia and Rose need something to do other than just run away.
And perhaps the film’s biggest detriment is that it doesn’t feel like the middle chapter of a trilogy. It feels like the end. Luke is gone, the Resistance has escaped and will live on, Kylo has lost all sense of who he is. The story feels completed. The middle chapter should build on the previous’ questions and set you up for the finale, not leave you wondering what else can come from this story. There’s no intrigue with the tale anymore. Basically all we have is Kylo is evil and Rey and the Resistance must stop him. If there was a tie-in to the prophecy, that would at least promise something climactic to follow this adventure, but there’s not. If this were the final film of the saga, it would indeed end the new trilogy on a strong note thematically: anyone in the galaxy can be a hero, no matter how destitute you are., and hope will always live on The final shot of the kid using the Force to manipulate his broom and looking to the stars is how Star Wars should end. But instead we have another chapter still. Where do we go from here?
Whatever fans may feel about “Force Awakens”, JJ Abrams was able to replicate the magic of the Star Wars universe in his film more than anyone else has (even older George Lucas). Where he goes from here, no one knows but perhaps his ending to this trilogy will make “Last Jedi” more complete in the whole saga. In another two years, perhaps how I view the film will improve even more.