Sunday, December 17, 2017

Review: "The Last Jedi" generates a disturbance in The Force

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Review

I saw “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” on Friday. I was expecting to see the movie, love every moment of it, then run back home to write about it. It’s Sunday night now, so obviously that didn’t happen. Honest truth, I had no idea how to properly convey my thoughts on this difficult and divisive film. Oh yes, “backlash” is abundant already on this film. It’s sad that people are just jumping to conclusions, making excuses to why the “haters” didn’t like the movie. I am hoping if you are here now, you want to have an honest idea of where I stand on the movie.

Make no mistake, I have felt a great disturbance in The Force the last few days.

If there is one word that describes my feelings perfectly, its underwhelmed. I am deeply, deeply underwhelmed by this movie. I can’t honestly say I hated the film, because simply put, I didn’t. There is so much here that Star Wars fanatics are going to love. There are moments that are going to be etched into my mind every time I think of Star Wars. There are times when I laughed, and there were times when I felt like I was going to tear up and there were times when I wanted to jump and cheer. That’s what makes “The Last Jedi” ultimately frustrating. On one hand, there is something here that will make the “Star Wars” lover in you squeal. Then on another hand, the film made me sad. It was the revelation that this new trilogy of films will just boil down to a foiled member of the Skywalker family deciding whether or not he’s going to allow the light or dark side of The Force develop him. Did we not already see this in the old trilogy.

I will say this, and I am going to tread lightly, because I don’t plan on diving into spoilers just yet. Once we are in the New Year and you’ve all had a chance to see the movie, I will come back for a Further Inspection piece, and then I will discuss all the spoilers under the sun. But there are two stories going on in “The Last Jedi.” There is a story involving Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac) and Leia (Carrie Fisher). This story introduces DJ (Benicio Del Toro) and Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern). It also features an epic space battle that opens the film, a space battle that blissfully mixes the adventure and the emotion in one fell swoop. This was the story I liked. The second story, involves what happens once Rey (Daisy Ridley) delivers the lightsaber to Luke (Mark Hamill) and tries to get him to join The Resistance. This second story, and I can’t believe I am saying this, is the most disappointing material in the whole movie.

The second story is disappointing because it all kind of feels like “Empire Strikes Back” just with different characters. Now, I will argue that “The Last Jedi” isn’t as overtly like a remake compared to “The Force Awakens.” “The Force Awakens,” no matter what, was pretty much a damn near frame-by-frame remake of “A New Hope.” There are merely moments of “The Last Jedi,” that feel like “Empire Strikes Back.” The way Luke trains Rey in the ways of The Force. The way the final battle mimics The Battle of Hoth, (hey it’s a SALT planet this time, instead of a SNOW planet, if that’s any consolation) it all feels like more of the same. And based on how the story goes, like I stated above, it feels like they are telling the same story they already told in the old trilogy.

Here’s the kicker though. Despite “The Force Awakens” feeling like a remake, I was never bored while watching it. I wrote a manically positive review for the movie, and I still stand by that review today. I think “The Force Awakens” is still wildly entertaining, and you can tell it’s a movie that aims to please. I was bored watching chunks of “The Last Jedi.” I couldn’t believe that there are certain characters that die in such premature ways. There is also one moment involving The Force in the middle of space that is so unbearably ridiculous that it took me out of the movie for a good fifteen minutes. Come on people, I know that this is a space opera. I know that this is fantasy. But come on, how could you NOT snicker at that moment. No matter how many times I watch “The Last Jedi” I will never be able to see that moment in a serious light.

What’s funny is that not only does “The Last Jedi” remake moments of “Empire Strikes Back,” but also throws in a couple of moments from “The Return of the Jedi.” So, I am hoping that by episode nine, we see something completely original. The new characters in this trilogy, Finn and Rey and Poe and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) all have an increasingly developing story arc. Some have argued that there is no character development in this movie, and that is something I definitely disagree with. Where we found Finn, Rey, Poe and Kylo at the end of “The Force Awakens” and where we find them at the end of “The Last Jedi” are totally different places. The status quo has completely changed by the end of “The Last Jedi” and that could pay off mightly by the end of episode nine. Believe me, my fingers are crossed for that.

Overall, “The Last Jedi” is a mixed bag. It’s not terrible, its not bad. It’s just underwhelming ultimately. There is plenty I feel could have been done better and all the big moments that make me happy to be a Star Wars fan can’t get me to ignore those problems. The trilogy as a whole can still be redeemed, and if that happens in 2019, then “The Last Jedi” will end up being the Star Wars movie I watch the least for pleasure. Maybe. It’s been awhile since I took a peak at the prequels.


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