Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

December 28, 2017 by  
Filed under Movies

40 years ago, the “Star Wars” phenomenon began with “A New Hope” (then only called “Star Wars”). It ushered in a new kind of film franchise: the sci-fi action film. It broke box office records, and along with “Jaws”, began to define a new sub-genre of film: the blockbuster. Since then, we all know the story. We all know the characters. We all know the downfall.

In 2015, “Star Wars” came back to the “original trilogy” to continue the story–without George Lucas. Episode VII “The Force Awakens”, tried to appeal to the audiences that Lucas had alienated in his prequel trilogy. It seemed to work, but I believe there was still some restraint, some resistance (no pun intended), to fully embrace the new story. After all, these were not only the characters that everyone had come to love, being brought into a new era–it was the same actors, too. Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, and Harrison Ford, all reprised the beloved roles of Leia Organa, Luke Skywalker, and Han Solo respectively.

But “The Force Awakens” wasn’t really about them. It was about a new cast of characters: Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac), and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Though Leia, Luke, and Han all play roles in the new arc, they are more a relic than anything else. And though a chill runs through you as Han speaks the words: “Chewy, we’re home” to his furry friend in “The Force Awakens”, we learn pretty soon…we’re anything but.

With that, comes “The Last Jedi”. Throughout “Star Wars”, the Force lore has mostly been seen as a positive entity that can bring peace, hope, and love. Only by perverting its power can you use it for evil, and go to the “Dark Side”. In “The Last Jedi”, there’s more talk about the “balance” in between. It’s more like Yoga. It’s something that you need to harness, otherwise you’ll most definitely go to the “Dark Side” because of the temptations of its power.

So, we are back with Rey, who clearly has The Force–and she’s drawn to its mystique, and she has found Luke Skywalker, on the planet of Ahch-To, a remote island world that belonged to the Jedi Order as a training ground. Rey believes she can entice Luke to join the Resistance and snuff out the First Order. But he has no intention of returning to civilization, and just wants to die peacefully. He’s also hesitant to train her in the ways of The Force, but that’s because he feels he already failed someone in that regard.

That would be Kylo Ren, who returns as confused as ever on how to proceed as a person. Is he a villain, or a hero? He begins to connect with Rey through The Force, and it seems as though they create a bond between them. This comes to a head when Rey returns from Ahch-To and comes face to face with Snoke (Andy Serkis), seemingly as a sacrifice from Ren. But there might be something else in the cards for Snoke’s fate when they meet.

Much of “The Last Jedi” is wall-to-wall action. And there are a lot of storylines whizzing by, trying to be resolved in its 155 minute running time. This proves to be a bit overwhelming at times–and you do feel as though the weight of that running time begins to squeeze your patience. Though there’s a lot going on, not all of it amounts to much in the way of the plot. There are dead ends, and misdirections abound. And, the question of whether Luke will train Rey sometimes becomes aggravatingly tiresome.

There are also characters that seem to be in there just to be an obstacle, such as the purple-haired Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo (say that five times fast), who is part of the Resistance, and right-hand woman of Leia. Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) comes up against her a few times, and it just seems like burning up time rather than pushing the plot forward.

So what is the plot anyway? It’s not complicated. The First Order is cornering the Resistance, and there’s a bit of a stalemate because the Resistance has enough space (heh) between them and the FO’s major ships that they can bide time. But mostly, it’s one big retreat after another.

The film tries very hard to stay away from being too similar to “The Empire Strikes Back”–but sometimes it’s inevitable that there will be familiar plot devices and character narratives because…well, this is a bridge movie. All bridge movies in a trilogy have to get you to the finale, so there’s always going to be unresolved things that draw you to the next film.

But, the film tries to resolve a little too much at times, and its third act seemingly never comes to a close. When it does, it almost feels like it’s trying to wrap itself up completely.

There are also some scenes of inexplicable comedy, and some cameos that will make you smile–some will fall flat, too.

The weakest part of the film, though, is its central villain. While I held out for hope after “The Force Awakens” that we would be treated to something bigger and better; here, I feel a bit dismayed that Driver cannot pull off Kylo Ren’s internal struggle. It’s very important, and vital to develop in order for this to be a satisfying trilogy.

I had said in the last film that this cast & crew have their work cut out for them. As much as I could still enjoy this film on the basis of it being a rollicking caper, I’m still waiting for the big finale. After this, I’m not sure it’ll really pull through.

But…I still have hope.

My rating: :-)