How about this, readers? Just in time for the holidays, a post about why a Disney film from 2018 got me so fired up. Let’s hash out the reasons why Star Wars The Last Jedi sucks. And then, we’ll predict whether J.J. Abrams can revitalize the flailing saga with December’s Star Wars The Rise of Skywalker. From what I’ve heard, I’m already incredibly skeptical.
The punchline is this: I thought this movie stunk as soon as the closing credits rolled. I have had a lot of time to rethink that original feeling and even watched the film twice more just to be sure. You know what? The Last Jedi still stinks. Let us Star Wars fans light a candle for that this rebooted saga can be miraculously pulled out of the galactic trash compactor with Episode 9…
Why The Last Jedi Is a Royal Disney Blunder (Maybe…)
Cinematically, George Lucas had a knack for making his special effects pop on the screen. With the first trilogy, he took his time showcasing new and innovative filmmaking. Combine amazing special effects with a thundering score and an escapist fable? It works! Unless you put Rian Johnson in charge.
Lucas had the help of a top-notch director in Irving Kirschner to bring The Empire Strikes Back to life. As an 8-year-old, I’ll never forget seeing this film in the theater for the first time. The excitement and dread of that Star Destroyer / Imperial March sequence. The Empire Strikes Back will never be topped.
Consider the first time we see a big brown rusty Sandcrawler ambling across dunes in A New Hope. By today’s standards, that kind of scene would be considered boring. To me, that scene is pure Star Wars. Sadly, we don’t get anything approaching “magical” in The Last Jedi. Instead, Rian Johnson gives us Luke Skywalker milking the teet of some bizarre walrus creature. Oy.
The Last Jedi settles for the now-standard ADHD film experience. The only sequences that come close to “slowly drawing you in” are the overdone board-of-tourism drone vistas of the island of Ach-to (Skellig Michael). Snore.
I could’ve slept through the Canto Bight sequences too if it weren’t for the alien horses stampeding through that latest Wynn casino. The action scenes with Finn and Rose felt like pure filler. The casino setting itself didn’t present anything new or interesting to the Star Wars universe.
Another dagger was the scene with Princess Leia pulling an outer space Lazarus, using her force powers to fly back to her ship after being exposed in space long enough to check your latest Facebook posts. Crazy sh*t. I think it’s cool that she has force powers, but seeing her fly around like Mary Poppins was incredibly cheesy.
Could We Please Leave the Politics and Social Statements Out?
The film tries to make a not-so-subtle political point about the haves and have-nots. The one-percenters are the arms dealers supplying the First Order and the Resistance alike. And those mean arms dealers sure like to party, gamble, and enslave animals and small children.
I get it. They’re bad guys. But we don’t need a societal lesson on wealth inequality in a Star Wars movie. Give me a gangsta Hutt and some vile bounty hunters. You know, popcorn entertainment? Remember that?
It’s a reach for a space fantasy. Better to check the politics at the door so we can escape the bullsh*t reality for a few hours. And let’s not forget that Princess Leia is an elite daughter of a wealthy monarchist. Sure, her planet was blown up, but I bet her family had a few alien horse stables just like Queen Mommy did on Naboo?
These little political digs distract from the Star Wars ethos that is intended to just give us some fun escapism. Give us “Space Nazis vs. The Good Guys (and gals!)” and we’ll get closer to the matinee fun we’ve forgotten.
The Last Jedi Attempts at Humor Fell Flat
Okay, okay… I let out a chuckle when Luke offered his green milk to Rey (after milking that aforementioned walrus teet.) I laughed when Rey unintentionally demolished the Ach-to caretaker’s cart. Man, she’s clumsy. Chewbacca roasting Porgs was cute.
But then there’s the opening sequence of Dameron Poe playing a “your mama” bit on General Hux. That was over the top dumb. Making Hux the punching bag of the movie seemed like a cruel devolution of his character from The Force Awakens. Whatever happened to sinister types like Grand Moff Tarkin?
The First Order’s steam iron descending on a helpless uniform would’ve been better suited for Dark Helmet in a Mel Brooks’ screenplay. Finn walking around with tubes of leaking saline? Droid, please!
Benicio Del Toro’s character “DJ” was tiring and cliche. ’Nuff said.
The Bad Guys Don’t Scare Me Anymore
I mean, is there anyone in the First Order we should be afraid of? Are there any bad-asses besides maybe a whiny and unstable Kylo Ren? Captain Phasma ended her run in the series with a thud. I guess she’s the new Bob Fett – looks cool, but otherwise completely inept. (More inept than Fett since she never got Finn into carbonite.)
So you’re going to kill off Snoke that easily? Okay. How about giving us some nugget about his origins? Or, should we expect another prequel trilogy to lay it out for us? I know a lot of people thought the hologram Snoke in The Force Awakens was cheap. But I thought it made him menacing.
What is his agenda? Is there something about him we need to care about for the next episode? I guess we’ll never find out. Imagine if Dracula got killed by some punk apprentice in the classic Vincent Price era or horror films. Jesus.
Maybe I’m just projecting too much original Star Wars on this dud. Maybe Rian Johnson deserves some credit for short-circuiting our preconceived notions of how we think the plot should work. Still, killing off the most powerful dude in the neighborhood that early in the second act took whatever wind was left right out of the movie’s sails.
I remember Darth Vader and the Empire as an incredibly scary organization. Even though stormtroopers never scored a hit, they at least dressed the part.
Rian Johnson made a fierce but flawed enterprise of bad guys into a bunch of keystone cops. They’ve got all the toys to wipe out the good guys and don’t know how to use them. How they managed to grind the Resistance into a band that now fits into one Millennium Falcon by the end of the film is only due to the ineptitude of the Resistance.
The final battle scene with the new, impressively huge walkers could’ve been conceived a helluva better even if it was completely and lazily stolen from Empire. This was yet another wasted opportunity. Nothing was menacing about these new walkers.
We didn’t get to see what would’ve been a fascinating scene of how they landed the beasts from the big ships orbiting above. Nope. They just show up magically. Then they just sort of stand there and do nothing except fire a bunch of lasers at Luke Skywalker’s force hologram.
The comical part was how the Resistance figured some cheap old pod-racers on skids stood an iota of a chance against those oversized walkers. Why not spend that time looking for the backdoor exit, when the odds are not in your favor?
I was hoping Finn would complete his sacrifice by flying his little melting pod into the First Order’s giant laser cannon. That would’ve added an iota of much-needed gravitas to this sad middle chapter. But in a very cliche way and impossible way, he’s saved by Rose. (Somehow he manages to drag her unconscious ass miles back to the base without getting blasted by the FO.)
Throughout the movie, Johnson is asking Star Wars fans to admire his dreadful setup: “Look here! I’ve pitted two rivals led by complete idiots against one another. We’ll needlessly sacrifice half our fleet to take out one of the FO’s thousands of big ships. Later, let’s see if the First Order can launch more than THREE tie fighters at those good guys to start this space chase (nope). And oooh, I know! I know! Let’s put most of the surviving resistance fighters outside of the protection of the mountain base, to shoot their pea-guns at gigantic snow-walkers. Wee!!!”
F*cking idiot. Oh, what a mess.
The 1% I Liked About the Film
Okay, so it’s only 99% terrible. There are a few aspects of the film I could appreciate. Unlike Kevin Smith, who loves anything Star Wars and would gush if Ewoks took over for stormtroopers, I’ve got a more discerning lens.
First off, there’s an appearance by Yoda. And to boot, it’s the puppet Yoda from the original trilogy. Score one for hand-crafted film-making over lazy digital effects. Better still, Yoda LAUGHED. I think we got one little giggle out of him in the overly dour prequel trilogy.
Second, I enjoyed the bombing run sequence on the First Order’s dreadnought in the opening sequence. That was somewhat new territory for Star Wars. Lo and behold, cluster bombs a la World War II work in space! As a total Star Wars geek, I was happy to see a new and interesting way for spaceships to get blown to smithereens. (Still, the sequence made Po Dameron look like a complete sadistic idiot – great character development, Rian Johnson.)
Third, I thought it was effective how Kylo Ren’s character continued to develop in unexpected ways. He’s perhaps smarter than the hothead fool we met in Episode 7. The guy knows how to manipulate people to achieve his goals. That ability to coerce, plus a crazy-cool red lightning lightsaber is a recipe for leading a galactic empire. I guess.
Fourth, although the backbone of the plot was made up of a boring and uninspired space chase that made no sense (seriously, the Resistance cruisers are “lighter and faster”??) there were some palatable moments. Rian Johnson may have trashed Luke’s character, but Luke eventually embraced his failures to get his sh*t back together at the end. The Resistance will have to learn from its trouncing in this film if they’re to make any progress in Episode 9.
J.J. might have to steal some garbage from the Matrix to repair the situation. Oh yeah, and that climactic scene with Luke pulling off a new Jedi trick – the “across the universe telepresence”? Not bad.
In Conclusion, The Last Jedi Sucks
Ultimately this is a film that falls incredibly short when stacked up against the previous films in the series. Even Attack of the Clones felt like Star Wars and had some sweet Jango Fett sequences to fall back on. The Last Jedi had few, if any, clever or memorable sequences. The movie score didn’t even stand out. Maybe John Williams struggled to put music to this turd and kept it low-key.
Should you see it for yourself? Yes. Take in all the sh*tty plot, huge leaps of character non-development, lack of dread, and demise of the matinee escape. Will you want to see it again? No.
I admit I felt a little better about it after seeing it a second time. My rotten tomato meter went from 5% to 25%. Still rotten, but at least I got to see Yoda again. I’m such a geek that I’ve been known to go three or four times to see a Star Wars movie in the theater. This one doesn’t elicit anywhere near the same level of magic.
Since Disney acquired the franchise, we’re in for an overdose of Star Wars. Now that they’ve seriously f*cked up the new saga, we’ll have to rely on the Mandalorian to save the day. The problem is, you make bad films and you make them often, fatigue will settle in.
I had to watch Rogue One A Star Wars Story after my first viewing of “Last Jedi”, just to cleanse my mental palet from this Rian Johnson disaster. Time to hunker down on more personal finance until the next installment in December 2019.
Please share in the comments if you agree that The Last Jedi sucks, stinks, or is just downright awful. If you don’t agree with me, you are undoubtedly a Russian bot. (Or Rian Johnson’s mom. – Love Gen. Hux.) I’m off now to work on a new Star Wars LEGO creation from the original trilogy. Gotta take my mind off this chapter and revel in the good ole days…
This movie fell flat for me based on its merits, and I’m a progressive supporter of the diversity in casting that Star Wars has finally brought to the screen. The problem wasn’t the actors, it was the unimaginative script, the shocking lack of mystery and wonder, and terrible logic behind the plot lines. This film deserves a full-on retcon.
After sitting through the final installment, J.J. Abram’s Episode 9 The Rise of Skywalker, I went back and watched The Last Jedi again. Although I’m still very disappointed in the storyline decisions Rian Johnson made, I’ve come to appreciate this film on different merits.
So here we go, with a sigh of humility… The Last Jedi is beautifully shot, well-paced, edited with craft, with solid acting and solid dialog, a soaring score, and just an all-around strong and vividly woven production. And yet, all it took was a few plot decisions to get me (and thousands of other rabid Star Wars fans) riled up.
Having suffered through the sheer chaos and mayhem of The Rise of Skywalker, I now wonder how Rian Johnson would’ve completed the saga. I probably would’ve bristled at the idea of more Rose Tico, but who knows. Maybe her character would have grown on me (especially if she fell to the dark side and struck down Finn in a lover’s quarrel or something…)
At any rate, at least us die-hard Star Wars nuts now have The Mandalorian as our new security blanket. I cannot wait for season 2!