The overwhelmingly positive response to Star Wars: The Last Jedi has a massively underwhelmed Chris Smith questioning his place in the galaxy far, far away and wondering if he’s the only one who thought it kind of sucked. Spoilers await, so you’ve been warned and, yes, we will be touching on THAT ending!
I didn’t enjoy Star Wars: The Last Jedi. It didn’t resonate with me on an emotional level, it didn’t make me laugh and it wasn’t the white-knuckle adrenaline rush I’d anticipated. I left the midnight showing this week feeling nothing. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t like it. It didn’t suck, but nor did it inspire. Am I dead inside?
Given the gushing reviews and audience response I read after my screening, I know I’m in the minority. I’m really not trying to be contrary either; I adored The Force Awakens and Rogue One and I’m just really bummed out about this. I’ve searched my feelings; I know it to be true. Surely I’m not alone on this deserted island?
Perhaps a few of you can lead me towards the light? Here are six things I’m struggling with right now.
FINAL WARNING: Major spoilers lie ahead! Stop here if you haven’t seen the movie. Please and thank you.
1) Twitter trolls are worse than Snoke
While we’re on the subject of spoiling Star Wars, allow me to share with you the most egregious, despicable spoiler I’ve ever encountered.
Minutes before my midnight screening I tweeted a photo of a friend and I looking excited in the second row, along with the hashtag #TheLastJedi. Being the good citizen I am, I turned my phone off immediately thereafter.
Switching it on following the credits I discovered, just seconds after my post, some unspeakable cretin posted the following in reply:
“Smoke [sic] Dies, Rey has normal parents and Yoda comes back.”
I’m not going to give the Twitter troll undue credence by naming them, but they corrected the typo with a second tweet: “*Snoke”
The life lesson? Grammatically pedantic trolls are even worse than normal trolls. Sort of.
This is why #TwitterMustDie.
Now, on to the film itself…
2) Pulling the rug (and the plug?)
For a Star Wars movie, there was a lot of rug pulling. Luke and Rey’s saber exchange, which provided such an epic cliffhanger in The Force Awakens, was deliberately jarring and it set a tone for the rest of the film.
The mysteries surrounding Rey’s parentage and Snoke’s backstory provided theories Star Wars fans have been obsessing over for around 730 days. All three of those themes were apparently resolved — quite literally in one case – with a nonchalant toss over the shoulder.
Who even was Not-So-Supreme Leader Snoke? How did he come to power following the fall of the Empire? Do we know him from Star Wars lore? How did he get his claws into Kylo Ren? None of that was addressed.
“We’ll learn exactly as much about Snoke as we need to,” Rian Johnson said in the lead up to the release. So, precisely nothing then? OK. Well, you guys had us invest in the character and he turned out to be the most non-formidable, inconsequential Star Wars villain ever, so thanks for that.
Indeed, so many of the questions we had heading into the movie were handled in a way that showed a lack of reverence for The Force Awakens. Was there a dramatic change of plan? Perhaps I’m wrong, but I struggle to believe the idea all along was for Rey’s parents to be “no-one.” At least they avoided going with the super obvious – for which I’m grateful.
3) Cleaning the slate
Overall, it feels like Rian Johnson, Disney and Lucasfilm or a (combination of all three) have decided to clean the slate.
The ending wrapped things up quite neatly, which is strange for a middle film in any trilogy. Unlike The Empire Strikes Back, there was no epic cliffhanger. The juxtaposed questions of parental lineage couldn’t have been handled in more contrasting ways. Meanwhile, Han is gone, now Luke is gone (as a physical presence at least) and Leia won’t appear for obvious, tragic reasons.
The other carry-overs like R2-D2, C-3PO and, most egregiously, Chewbacca (Ben Solo killed Chewy’s best friend. Why wasn’t he part of a mission for vengeance instead of being guilt-tripped out of a tasty-looking BBQ?) were marginalised into practical irrelevance during The Last Jedi.
As a result Episode IX can go absolutely anywhere it wants, with few ties to what came before. I’ve been grappling with what the makers were trying to achieve with The Last Jedi and I think this is it. Presumably there’ll be a time leap and we’ll pick up the action a few years from now?
4) The entire middle of the film
There were some all-time great moments in this film. The jump to light speed to take out the Star Destroyer? Absolutely brilliant. Kylo Ren, after some ropey moments in The Force Awakens, has become a brilliant, complex, wonderfully-acted character. Alongside him, Rey is growing into the heroine who is truly worthy of carrying Leia’s legacy. The future feels in safe hands with those two.
You could have cut an entire sub plot from this film without consequence and to its overall benefit. Finn and Rose’s trip to the casino planet reeked of the prequels (as did much of the acting, Oscar Isaac and the brilliant Adam Driver aside), while Benicio Del Toro’s ‘Lando Lite’ rivals Jar Jar Binks among the worst characters in Star Wars history.
Also, this film was long. Overly so. There was an unintended irony in the slow crawl through space with the First Order waiting for The Resistance cruiser to run out of fuel while picking off the stragglers.
The on-ship mutiny was unnecessarily convoluted and seemingly there to give Poe – the best character in TFA in my view – something to occupy his time while everyone else was away on an adventure.
And the less said about Leia’s space swim the better? A lot of reviews I’ve read said this film provided “a fitting tribute” to the dearly departed Carrie Fisher. I’m far less sure of that.
5) Where’s Luke?
By the time of Luke’s eventual sacrifice (if you can call it that, he got his wish to die in exile without really ever having to face the music) he’d become such an — and this is contrary — unlikable figure that his becoming-one-with-the-force didn’t really do a lot for me. Quite frankly, I didn’t care.
To be honest, I’ve never liked Luke that much. I’ve never had much tolerance for his whining and complaining and I never liked the arrogant Return of the Jedi Luke either. It bugged me that he just up and left when things got rough before The Force Awakens. In The Last Jedi, it bugged me even more that he’d shirked his responsibilities, left Rey to pick up the pieces, while suddenly gaining a witty, dry sense of humour in this old age.
Was it a true hero’s ending? I don’t think so. Sure, within the narrative structure it gave The Resistance more time for an escape, but sending a mirage was a cop-out from a man who once stubbornly insisted upon facing Darth Vader.
6) The humour (or lack thereof)
I have no problem with Star Wars movies being funny. All of the films have had their moments. My problem was the attempts to make it “Marvel funny” as a former editor of mine put it. There were SO many gags and a lot of them very early in the film.
I didn’t feel like many the jokes landed (maybe Luke’s jibe at Jakku aside) and there were no hints of uproarious laughter in the jam-packed screening I attended with the midnight die hards.
Poe’s early interaction with General Hux was so far removed from the Star Wars parlance, the First Order might as well have been aboard the Starship Enterprise. I understand the desire to somewhat reinvent and modernise the franchise, but Rey’s jibe that she’s seen Luke’s “schedule” was very… Avengers.
It also felt like the humour was unnecessarily deployed to diffuse the big emotional moments. Luke and Leia’s reunion (well, sort of reunion, it was more of an intergalactic FaceTime call) felt like it deserved more than a throwaway call back to hairstyles. What’s wrong, Disney? Don’t you think we can handle the poignance? Anyway, it was a very nudge, nudge, wink, wink descent into self parody that is the calling card of the Marvel Comics Universe.
Is Chris just plain wrong about The Last Jedi? Share your response by tweeting Chris @ByChrisSmith or contacting us @TrustedReviews on Twitter.