“Star Wars Episode VIII – The Last Jedi”
Dir; Rian Johnson. Starring; Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Mark Hammill. 2017. PG-13. Color. 152 min.
The most powerful film franchise in history returns with “The Last Jedi”, the eighth installment in the galactic Skywalker saga. It was the second biggest opening ever behind only “The Force Awakens”. In this new installment, the plot thickens as the first order gains power while our main hero Rey (Daisy Ridley) learns the ways of the force from the now old and wise Luke Skywalker (Mark Hammill). The space opera continues, but does it live up to the original classics? Not even close.
I will keep this review spoiler free for the most part in case you are one of the five people who have yet to see it. Instead, I will describe the positives and negatives in generalizations.
It is impossible not to get excited for a “Star Wars” movie, no matter how good or bad the previous installment is. Now owned by Disney, this current trilogy has breathed new life into the franchise, and created a whole new generation of Star Wars fans. My anticipation was sky high for this latest installment, even though I found “The Force Awakens” disappointing and vastly overrated. “The Last Jedi” was a let down, but it was not a total failure.
The opening space battle between the resistance and the first order is fantastic. It hits the audience like a freight train right away, and is pure “Star Wars” excellence. The ending is unbelievable, and will have you cheering in the theater. I will not reveal what happens, let’s just say what Luke Skywalker does is awesome, and a great piece of writing for a film like this. In between those two moments, this movie kinda sucks.
Leia floating in space? Luke drinking breast milk? Emperor Snoke hanging out in a giant red room because that is what bad guys do? These are just a few of the elements where you will scratch your head and wonder how actual adults with millions of dollars would think this was a good idea. The original trilogy is all time great. The prequel trilogy is all time awful. This new trilogy is all time mediocre. It has excellent moments, but lacks consistency.
The biggest problem here is the characters, or lack there of. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is the only interesting person in this new series. The resistance fighters led by Finn (John Boyega) and Poe Dammaron (Oscar Isaac) are boring heroes. Rey is a solid main character, and centering this new trilogy around a female hero is great, but she certainly is not iconic. The late Carrie Fisher as General Leia seems to be collecting a paycheck more than embodying the character she made famous. The side characters are absolutely useless, in particular Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), and DJ (Benico Del Toro). All three are excellent actors in their own right. In this film, it feels like they’re more excited to be in a “Star Wars” movie instead of delivering good individual performances. Kylo Ren is the only one the audience cares about. He’s complicated, driven, and a great bad guy. This comes as no surprise as Adam Driver is the best actor this franchise has ever had.
In the original series, we received a plethora of interesting characters. Princess Leia had spunk and fight in her. Darth Vader was classic evil. With the side characters, we got the awesome Lando Calrissian, the wise Yoda, the moody yet hairy Chewbacca, the disgusting millionaire-esque Jabba the Hut (Donald Trump anyone?), and the ultimate role model Obi-Wan Kenobi. What drove the original films was Han Solo. In between the lightsaber battles and depressed Skywalker family tropes, Harrison Ford made the films fun without making them cheap. We have none of that in this new trilogy. After Kylo Ren, it is hard not to forget this new cast three days after walking out of the theater.
My second example comes with the head honcho villain, Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis, doing his motion capture acting once again). This will be the only spoiler I give in my review. This guy has been touted as the new big evil, similar to Emperor Palpatine. When we finally get a full scene with him, we find Snoke hanging out in a red room surrounded by red soldiers because you as an audience need a color to know that this guy is bad. Then a fight breaks out, and Snoke is killed off. What? Why was this character introduced in the first place? Completely useless.
The final example I would like to address is the Porgs. With “The Return of the Jedi”, George Lucas was destroyed for introducing the Ewoks. It was an obvious move to sell toys and cuddly pillows. The Porgs are the same thing. The difference? In “The Return of the Jedi” the Ewoks, while admittedly silly, impact the plot of the movie. These teddy bears help defeat the evil empire. In this film, what do the Porgs actually do? What is their purpose for existing other than to sell pillows? “Star Wars” is about selling toys, I get it, but you have to give reasoning for these creatures to exist.
So now, after sitting through hours of nonsense, we come to the ending. This is unbelievable popcorn entertainment filmmaking. You will be on the edge of your seat. It is one of the best sequences in recent years. That is what defines this new trilogy. We see unbelievably stupid stretches of filmmaking, then we get brilliance.
“Star Wars” is a giant in the world of film, deservedly so. I am glad that a generation of kids have a new appreciation for the series, and I hope they revisit the originals. “The Last Jedi” is not awful, but it is very disappointing. I am not sure how it will all end with Episode IX, but I hope they return to the model of consistency the originals had. It is better to be really good for two hours instead of being awful for an hour and a half then suddenly be amazing for fifteen minutes.
Suck Factor: 4 out of 7 (7 means your movie really SUCKS!)
Written by Byrd
*The Suck Factor! – How it Works
I’ve flipped the switch on the standard rating system for film criticism. Instead of rating a movie with stars or letters representing how good a film is, I rank films from 0 to 7 to tell you how much a movie SUCKS! So if the film is a masterpiece, like “The Godfather” for example, then it gets a 0 on my scale, meaning the movie gives 0 SUCKS! If the movie is absolutely terrible, for instance every Michael Bay film, it scores a 7 so you know to avoid it at all costs.
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