Unlike The Force Awakens which, as I predicted it probably would at the time, has declined in my memory as it crossed the line between homage and just copying and remaking huge chunks of earlier films so I was left feeling like I’d seen too much of it before, The Last Jedi tells a reasonably fresh story in a familiar setting, as Rogue One did before it.
This is, in my opinion, a good thing. I came away with almost none of that sense of disappointment that was already present after seeing The Force Awakens two years ago, even while I was caught up in the swoosh and spectacle of it. That is not to say I think the film was perfect: although I followed it all quite happily, it felt like there was a bit too much going on, perhaps one too many story lines, and that in turn made it roll in at a too-long 2 hours 32 minutes - better script editing could have made it a tighter 2 hours or 2 hours 15 minutes and a better movie. One fewer double cross or prison break or something could have made all the difference. Some people will, I suspect, complain that some of the scenes between Luke and Rey should be cut instead of the scenes I’ve suggested above because “nothing happens” but ‘breathers’ in an action movie are important to its pacing and in The Last Jedi these scenes are vital in terms of character building in my opinion. It’s hard to go into details because of my no spoilers rule but they give us a lot of insight into Luke, Rey and Ren and make quite a few of the later scenes work in a way cutting them would destroy completely.
All that said, what we have here, what I saw anyway, felt like a slightly flabby but still high octane adventure story. There are some very clever fakes and misdirections based on previous films, which I think made this film stronger, because they acted as homages and callbacks for the fans, without crossing that line into lazy remakes. There are a couple of scenes which more or less were complete throwbacks but they worked organically as part of the story and because there were only a few they worked better as homages rather than making it feel like the film was a cut and paste remake.
Although I tried to avoid reading about it until after I’d seen the film, I’m aware that this is the most divisive Star Wars movie, in terms of fan reactions, ever, and one of the most different, in terms of the difference in critics and fan reactions on Rotten Tomatoes and the like. There seem to be three main groups of unhappy fans as far as I can tell. (Warning - mild spoilers: you can see hints of this in the trailers though.)
- MRA types and/or racist types. Apparently the resistance, the resistance that Princess Leia has been part of since the very first movie, shouldn’t have women and shouldn’t have POC. While these sad, male, sheet-wearers in their tightie whities that their mum washes for them might believe the future is white and male, the rest of us live in a multi-ethnic world where the future is female and I have no sympathy for them or their orange shitgibbon overlord.
- Diehard fans who obsessed over every frame from the previous film and the trailers, constructed crazed theories about what was going to happen and feel betrayed because their theories were wrong. Well I have some sympathy for this, I’ve certainly constructed the odd fan theorem or two, although not about Star Wars, but ultimately: tough. Trailers are designed to get you excited and are often misleading. Their job is to get you to the movie and they certainly don’t owe it to you to support your theories. Sit back and watch the film or show on its own merits. It’s a lesson we all have to learn and I’m sorry you had to learn it on this film but disappointed you had to shit all over the film for your learning experience.
- People who hated the scenes between Rey and Kylo Ren. This I have some sympathy for. For me it worked: the battle between hope and pride, the joint obsession with parents but in such different ways, the need for control and the need for freedom and, ultimately, that division between the dark side and the light side. Taken on their own, the scenes might not have worked as well but with the wider story of the rest of the film I thought they made sense and had a strong reason for being there. However, I can understand that they might not work for everyone, and I read a mini-review from someone else who mainline ships and hopes they are the endgame power couple and heard a comment from someone else who just could understand why they “tried to force [them] together like that” which are both takes I can understand even if they’re not mine.
I still have my doubts about the casting of Adam Driver as the Kylo Ren, the son of Han Solo and Leia Organa. Nothing against his acting, I just can’t see him as their child. Domhnall Gleeson, another two years older, worked better for me as General Hux I think. Or perhaps I was just happier with this film and used to him in the role but it worked for me.
It’s hard for me to imagine someone seeing this as their first Star Wars movie, although I’m sure there are people doing just that. As someone who has seen most of them, this is right up there as one of the best in my opinion and well worth seeing. I saw it in 3D (I turned up at the cinema at the 3D showing was on in 5 minutes, the next 2D showing was 45 minutes) and generally it annoyed me for the normal reasons (focus on the ‘wrong’ person and so on) but some of the scenes, like star destroyers popping out of light speed into normal space looked spectacular, without doing the lazy jump shot as they leap out of the screen at you. A big screen extravaganza to be sure. Nottingham has an IMAX screen and I’d be tempted to see it again on the IMAX to be honest. If you like the Star Wars movies, worth the time to see it.
Bechdel test: Yes. There are a bucket-full of named female characters and several of them talk to each other quite often. Sometimes those conversations are about men (Leia and Rey talk about Luke for example, which is not surprising) but Leia and Holdo talk about battle plans.
Russo test: No. In the future no one is LGBT+.
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