I’ve never experienced disappointment coming out of a Star Wars film. I was too young to hate the prequels when they launched, too focused on the amazing visuals to even hear the idiocy of statements such as “only a Sith deals in absolutes.” It was all cool, wow, shiny, choreographed. When I was a kid, I always skipped Empire Strikes Back — now it’s the only Star Wars movie I truly appreciate. Times change. Expectations change. What worked for 12 year old me, doesn’t work for 25 year old me. And unfortunately, despite my best attempts to like the movie, The Last Jedi did not work for me. For a few moments, I wondered “was this what Star Wars fans felt like when watching The Phantom Menace?”
When Rian Johnson was announced to be the writer/director of the Last Jedi, I was excited. I loved Looper, despite its flaws, Ozymandias is my favourite episode of any TV show ever. As the first showing came closer, I was ready for Johnson to blow my mind.
The beginning was great. Teasing callbacks to the original, amazing visuals, laugh out loud moments to break the building tension. And then, as the movie dragged on, the stakes became absurd, the story became disjointed, the tone shifted from scene to scene. At one point the dialogue reached Tommy Wiseau levels of subtlety — the characters describing exactly what they’re doing and thinking, leaving nothing to the audience. Suddenly, the finely crafted masterpiece became a mess that I would expect from Star Trek fanfiction directors. I still wanted to enjoy this movie, but for about 40 straight minutes, I was left shaking my head. It didn’t help, that many of the scenes looked as if George Lucas snuck into the editing room and added some of his trademark random background CGI, adding nothing to the movie, except for merchandise potential. In Force Awakens, I felt like despite the plot, Disney understood the aesthetic and feel that made Star Wars so great. Yet, at a point halfway through The Last Jedi, I felt as if I just got transported into a Harry Potter movie for one long scene.
This was the moment where I was almost done giving the movie props, was ready to call it the Batman v Superman of Star Wars movies… when it suddenly recovered. The characters came back to solid dialogues, a few twists and turns made this feel like a proper Star Wars movie. The damage was done in my head, but the movie did everything in its power to convince me that it’s a good one. Sadly, I cannot say that it truly did.
While some characters (particularly Kylo and Poe) have received some much needed development and growth, others seemed absolutely lost in the fold, or even worse, totally pointless. Despite Mark Hamill’s amazing portrayal, the new and improved Luke seemed like an effect of a tug of war between two different concepts, leaving him as a character who could’ve, and should’ve been even better than he already was. The issues with Luke seemed to follow Rey as well. While her moments of absolute naivete were great callbacks to Luke’s naive start, at certain points, they became annoying and the shaky writing made Daisy Ridley’s performance seem much worse than it was.
All this unfortunately has lead me to think that the movie was lost. Lost as to what it wanted to become. Lost as to what story it was trying to tell. Lost as to what it wanted to do with the ever-growing cast of characters. It’s not horrible. It’s not unwatchable. A lot is redeemed by the amazing audiovisual element. The movie is beautifully shot and has some real “wow” moments that make it stand out. Your mileage may vary here, but for me, those positives weren’t enough to look past the narrative mess.
In the end, if you have high expectations coming into the movie, you will probably be disappointed, perhaps even angry. If you’re willing to look past its flaws, the movie still has a lot to offer. Just make sure that you don’t come in expecting a clean run.