Rian Johnson attempts to tell a bold, ambitious story with Star Wars: The Last Jedi, but the film suffers from an overstuffed narrative that could have used some editing and wasted and/or pointless storylines. At two hours and 32 minutes, Star Wars: The Last Jedi desperately needed to trim the fat as the extra time begins exposing weaknesses in story and characters.
Despite those ominous trailers, Episode VIII is not all doom and gloom. The space battles are brilliant, Oscar Isaac leads the way as Poe Dameron, and there are three epic sequences in the film that will make every Star Wars fan quite literally squeal. Plus, anytime I hear the roar of the Millennium Falcon followed by Chewbacca’s guttural bellow, my heart just melts.
To Johnson’s credit, this is a film that requires multiple viewings to absorb every detail.
The two major disappoints in the film are Mark Hamill’s portrayal of Luke Skywalker and the development of John Boyega’s character, Finn. With The Force Awakens, Harrison Ford makes you feel like Han Solo never missed a beat, and he walked right back into the character with ease. That is not the case with Hamill. From the wonky dialogue, to strange plot choices, Hamill is not able to stir the same emotion as Ford did in the previous film. The flaws become glaring in a moment of magic, when R2-D2 and Luke reunite; and then, it is gone in an instant.
Finn’s storyline is incredibly uninspired. The character takes an unnatural step back; his arc is pointless, and the CGI reminds you of Anakin and Padme riding through the fields of Naboo in the prequels. At the same time, and in the same thread, Kelly Marie Tran’s character Rose Tico, who is paired with Finn, has an emotional weight that plants your feet firmly in this world. This is what is confusing about Star Wars: The Last Jedi: two characters on the same path, but one storyline works and the other does not.
The movie feels more like a kid playing with toys than a cohesive film. The way characters come in and out of the story is jarring, as the viewer has to put together the plot on the fly. A Star Wars film should suck you into the universe and never let go. Johnson grabs you visually, but lets go during other elements of the film and the question of ‘Why?’ starts to creep into your mind.
The Last Jedi is frustrating. There is a masterpiece in there, but it appears Johnson couldn’t find his refined vision through the CGI field of toys. With that said, this episode will be the most talked about film of the year because of the risks Johnson takes with a major franchise, and I applaud him for his effort.
Come back here after you see Star Wars: The Last Jedi opening night, and give us your thoughts.