A Disjointed, Disappointing Mess
Although The Force Awakens was largely disliked by fans for its lack of originality and sticking too close to the tried and tested Star Wars formula, there’s no denying it was still a structurally adept movie that felt like Star Wars. The Last Jedi defies expectations and belief during its 150+ minute run time for what can only be described as an underwhelming, disjointed disappointment. Characters have no real stakes, the plot is shaky at best and the discordant use of misplaced comedy make The Last Jedi one of the worst Star Wars films released and certainly the biggest disappointment this year.
The story picks up where it left off in the last film and opens with a chaotic space battle between the remaining fragments of the Rebellion and The First Order. Poe (Oscar Isaac) and BB-8 fly through waves of tie fighters before communicating with The First Order via intercom to buy some time for the Rebellion as they make their escape. It all feels big and epic until the first of many misplaced jokes destroys any built up tension. “Your Momma” Poe sneers before 2 minutes of awkward, contrived dialogue which is then mercilessly ended by a scene shift to Luke (Mark Hamill) and Rey (Daisy Ridley). Only, another joke hits 2 minutes later and the tension and mystery’s gone from that scene too. This constant balance between serious emotion and goofball slapstick derails the entire film and only highlights the issues inherent with the main plot and sub-plots within them.
That’s not to say humour can’t be used in serious, emotion driven films, Lord Of The Rings and even the earlier Star Wars films had their fair share of jokes but they were sparse and effectively placed. The Last Jedi’s humour is relentless and it undermines what the film is trying to achieve with its plot that should be the emotional pivot in the trilogy, crucially depicting the desperate struggle of the Rebellion. Behind the bombardment of cheesy jokes and eye-rolling one liners that rarely hit, is an interesting but largely under-developed plot involving Luke’s rejection of the force and Rey’s frustrated confusion in what her true purpose is. Its here that the story shines and when the humour takes a backseat, there’s a really gripping storyline at play. Rey and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) are much improved from the first film too and their torn, emotionally charged motives on either side of the force contrast beautifully, especially late on when these two clash.
The rest of the characters don’t really have much to work with here and their subplots are overshadowed by the remaining Jedi and their story. Despite Finn (John Boyega) being such a focal point in The Force Awakens, his arc here is pointless and aside from Poe, none of the characters really do anything meaningful to grow their personas. For all the action and crazy schemes to undermine The First Order, the result is futile and leads them back to square one by film’s end making you question what the point of it all was. That’s not the only question that’s left unresolved, The Last Jedi’s bloated run-time does little to answer crucial questions raised in the last film. Who is Snoke? Who are Rey’s parents? What conflict does Luke have with Snoke? All these questions and more yet none of these are answered in a film that lacks dramatic tension and feels like an anticlimactic end to a trilogy, not an important, middle film in a trilogy.
Its not all bad though and there are fleeting moments in The Last Jedi that feel epic and bring back that Star Wars nostalgia. The end battle across the salt plains is incredibly beautiful and well choreographed as clouds of red dust choke the sky from the bleak whiteness that paints the world. The fighting and action pieces all feel very Star Wars and are largely well done with a returning slew of familiar sound effects and an epic orchestral score accompanying them. Along with the excellent world building, there’s no denying that The Last Jedi at least takes place in the same universe as the other films. Most of the new alien races are a welcome addition too but almost all that are introduced are reduced to one form of comedy or another.
It would be easy to sit here and point out all the flaws inherent with The Last Jedi. Its certainly not the worst film to come out this year (The Emoji Movie holds that crown) but its definitely one of the most disappointing. Not since the prequel movies has a film felt so flat, emotionless and less like Star Wars. The comedy is ill placed at best and the disjointed plot has serious issues in pacing and dialogue. Pointless subplots and meaningless character arcs aside, The Last Jedi has far too many issues to ignore. Perhaps Episode IX will rectify the issues here but with Disney intent on turning all its properties into Marvel comedy clones, Star Wars no longer feels original or exciting and that’s a bitter pill to swallow.