A bit forced
In Star Wars: The Last Jedi, we get our older Luke and Leia movie. Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher get to do what Harrison Ford did in The Force Awakens by spending a little more time—in the case of Hamill, a lot more time—in their iconic roles.
Both stars shine in their frankly incredible opportunity to play in the Star Wars sandbox 40 years after the original’s release. When this film focuses on the saga of Luke and Rey, it is nothing short of epic. When the camera is fixed on the late Carrie Fisher, who gets more quality screen time than her glorified cameo in Force Awakens, it’s heartwarming and, yes, sad. The Leia stuff gets a little kooky at times, but I’m trying to make this a spoiler-free zone.
When writer-director Rian Johnson takes the action to the characters of Poe (Oscar Isaac), Finn (John Boyega) and a new character named Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), the film falters. Poe, so engaging in Force Awakens, seems underdeveloped here. While the Resistance fights an oddly prolonged and bizarre space battle against the First Order, Poe just whines a lot—to the point where you are actually happy when Leia smacks him across his head.
The film picks up where The Force Awakens left off, with Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Luke in a staredown. Rey is looking for tutelage, but Luke is in full hermit mode, wants nothing to do with that Jedi stuff anymore, and desires to be left alone with his alien milk. While on the island, Rey starts having some sort of psychic Force conversations with Kylo Ren a.k.a. Ben Solo (Adam Driver). Will Luke train Rey? Will Rey find out who her parents are? Will Adam Driver do obligatory partial nudity in this film? I’m not telling.
What I will tell you is that there’s too much going on in The Last Jedi, and a lot of it feels like filler. Besides the aforementioned, stalled-out space battle, there’s a clunky sequence in a casino that goes on far too long, a lot of distracting cameos, and new characters inhabited by Laura Dern and Benicio del Toro, who bring close to nothing to the proceedings.
Am I overthinking this? Yeah, of course I am, but I’m a dude who has spent the last 40 years worshipping Star Wars. Anything you put up on the screen within a Star Wars production is going to have the likes of me—admittedly, somewhat of a loser—taking that shit apart. I’m saying some of this movie seems a little half baked, and also overstuffed. If there’s any kind of movie I want to be over two and a half hours long, it’s a Star Wars movie. But, at that length, it needs to be a really good Star Wars movie, not a so-so one. The Last Jedi is so-so.
I’m of two worlds when it comes to The Last Jedi. It’s part Best Star Wars Ever (Luke, Leia, Rey, Ben Solo) and part Worst Star Wars Ever (Poe, Finn, the girl with the flip hair, and just about any time Domhnall Gleeson speaks). I’m recommending it for the Luke and Leia goodness, Daisy Ridley’s continued greatness as Rey, and inspired moments of fun and humor. But, man oh man, it goes into “Jar Jar bad” territory a little too often for my tastes.
Johnson has been given his own, new Star Wars trilogy to work on, a saga supposedly away from the Skywalkers. I’m hoping the guy gives us something a little more balanced in the future. He’s made great movies (Brick, Looper) and crap movies (The Brothers Bloom) in the past. The Last Jedi falls somewhere in between.
So, as Yoda would say, “A great Star Wars this is not. Like it just fine, I did, but there is a tremor of over indulgence in the Force. Be mindful of this for future times in edit bay, you must.”
One final note—Porgs are awesome.