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Two years ago, the world was set alight when The Force Awakens was released. The movie was a mega-hit, in no small part because it stood astride two worlds, the old and the new. It gave us new characters, new worlds, new adventures, but it was grounded in and was respectful, even reverent, of the original trilogy. And, as the first of three movies in a new trilogy, it set up larger questions to be paid off later.
The movie still holds up two years later and I stand by what I wrote about it then.
The new Star Wars flick, The Last Jedi, just opened and picks up where that last movie left off. I’ve been eagerly anticipating it, so I went to the first showing Thursday evening. This is the third new Star Wars movie in three years. Between The Force Awakens and Rogue One, my expectations were high. And, in all honesty, I was disappointed. The movie has several problems.
First, the humor. I read a few early reviews that mentioned it. Yeah, it’s there, or it tries to be anyway. The problem is twofold: not only do the jokes not land, but they don’t fit the tone. The humor was part of the fun of The Force Awakens, but it always fit seamlessly and matched the film’s reverence for the source material. The Last Jedi doesn’t do that. Sometimes the jokes connect, but the tone is always off.
Second, the plot. There’s a main plot and two secondary plots. But the two secondary plots don’t really do anything to progress the main plot. It’s like they had characters and were trying to figure out something to do with them. Compare this to The Force Awakens, where we had a clear plot, we knew where we were going, and everything was, again, seamless.
Third … how do I put this? I don’t want to go so far as to call them “plot holes,” because I feel people misuse that term. But a lot of the characters do stuff that doesn’t make sense, often from a practical military point of view. I’m willing to forgive some things, like in Rogue One where they use the mechanical claw to get the tapes. It’s a little silly, but I’ll forgive it. Fine, the Star Wars universe has its own rules on certain things. But “they can’t shoot us because they don’t see our small ship” isn’t consistent with our understanding of in-universe practicalities.
Fourth, some of the CGI goes too far. I’m going to use that word again — The Force Awakens combined practical and computer effects seamlessly. I didn’t know which were which and, more importantly, I didn’t care. In The Last Jedi, there are a few scenes that are obviously gigantic piles of CGI. Kids may enjoy watching our heroes ride a herd of strange creatures, but I just don’t care.
Fifth, it’s slow at times. The Last Jedi is literally the longest Star Wars movie, but it doesn’t need to be. I still don’t know what the battle in the final act adds to the story. And when part of your plot involves how slow-moving ships cannot catch other slow-moving ships (while other ships somehow can whiz in and out), that’s both problematic and annoying.
Sixth, the payoffs aren’t very good. The Force Awakens sets up a lot of things for future movies — several mysteries and things left to be explained later. Well, later is now. We get to see some of those payoffs and … they just don’t get there. Wow, we get to see Snoke in person and … meh. That’s the thing. There’s lots of “meh” in this movie.
And those are just a few of the problems. There’s plenty more. But there’s also a lot of good stuff in this movie.
First, you’re gonna want to see what happens to these characters. This is a continuation of the story from TFA. You could read a recap to find out what happens, but why read a recap when you can literally watch a Star Wars movie?
Second, there are a lot of surprises in this movie. Over and over again I sat there wide-eyed and open-mouthed because something happened that I did not expect. With some recent movies (Batman vs. Superman comes to mind), the trailers give away all the good stuff.
So should you see it? Yes. If you’re a Star Wars fan, you should absolutely watch this movie at least once. Just know that there are better Star Wars movies out there.