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Review – Star Wars: The Last Jedi -“At times it felt like fan-fiction”

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Alan, Sarah and Adam have reviewed the film and we also covered the London press conference. I got to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi last night with my daughter and it has been mulling around my head since then. I had managed to avoid any spoilers so had no idea what was going to happen.

There will be spoilers later on in the review, but I will mark that clearly.

I shared my initial reaction on social media – Some great bits, some amazing bits, some poor bits, some “what were they thinking bits”, last half better than the first. There were a few WOW bits and an almost punched the air bit as it was cool. But also a couple of “really?” bits.

Thinking it over, I can see what Rian Johnson was going for as the film at the most basic level is a meditation on loss, failure and rebirth. That is the driving force (no pun intended) for most of the characters in the film. It was also a great big shake-up for Star Wars, and I can see why they went that direction, but at times it felt like fan-fiction written by somebody who had had Star Wars explained to them or who didn’t like The Force Awakens and wanted to start afresh on their own story. Fan-fiction can sometimes be great, other times it can be an absolute mess. I feel The Last Jedi falls somewhere between the two.

I really enjoyed The Force Awakens. Yes, I can see why many didn’t due to it being a rehash reboot of A New Hope. I was okay with that and felt it was the right way to go due to the length of time since the last Star Wars film. It had great pacing and editing throughout with some great character development and some very touching moments.

The new film is different from what we expect from a Star Wars movie and that is a good thing. We shouldn’t always get what we expect and I like the fact they took some chances, but they could have been executed a lot better.

Looking at both films together it could be said that The Force Awakens repeated the pattern of A New Hope as so often we repeat the same mistakes in life, but The Last Jedi is all about breaking that cycle and moving forward. That applied to both the film itself and some of the characters within.

The Last Jedi had some good ideas, took some narrative risks and there were some great moments, but I did feel the pacing and the main story felt a bit off in places. On the whole, it all felt a bit flat. However, when the action kicked off we did get some incredible scenes. The fights were fantastic to watch and kept it quite clear as to where everyone was but still felt dynamic. The light sabre battle was a particular standout, but even the smaller fights were great to watch. The same went for the space battles which were fast-paced (well apart from a few slower ships) and had some jaw-droppingly cool moments.

Mark Hamill was my favourite part of the film, and great to see what Luke had been going through. That also led to a Rashomon moment, that worked well and gave us an insight into the mindset of a few characters. Again there were some moments that did not quite work with and it almost became a running joke of him constantly walking away. He would say something, we would cut to a reaction shot, then back to Luke who was now walking away up a cliff.

In fact, all the actors did a good job with what they had, but the story or character beats did seem inconsistent in places and there seemed to be an overabundance of humour. I get that these are aimed at kids and the original trilogy did have some humour – mainly with the droids or with Han being sarcastic – but that was just a few characters and was not a huge part of the film. In The Last Jedi there seemed to be characters on all sides wise-cracking whenever they could. It often undercut some cool moment and felt out of place in others.

SPOILERS AHEAD after this image.

Okay, apologies if this gets a bit all over the place, but I find my mind jumping around from different scenes as I think about it.

First of all the main plot of the First Order tracking the Resistance / Rebel Fleet was just the basic concept of the Ronald D. Moore Battlestar Galactica TV show. The first episode, “33,” was basically the driving story of The Last Jedi and I was extremely surprised to see that being used in this big-budget sci-fi movie that was going to take Star Wars to new places. I am all for shaking things up, but going back to a 2004 sci-fi show seemed an odd way to go. So say we all.

You could also say the film was just The Empire Strikes Back in reverse with a bit of Return of the Jedi thrown in. As with The Force Awakens, I honestly don’t mind when they reference the previous films in the series. Although, I obviously don’t like it when they use a plot device from a sci-fi TV show! Oh, the mind is a fickly thing.

Then there is the fact that Finn (John Boyega) and Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) could hyperspace to Canto Bight and then hyperspace back directly over Snoke’s ship with no problem. That raises the question of why didn’t some of the First Order Star Destroyers do a couple of hyperspace jumps and get ahead of the Rebel Fleet. I suppose overconfidence and the thrill of the chase could explain it.

Canto Bight….I’m still not sure whether I liked those moments or not. It did seem like a needless journey just to comment on consumerism, big business and capitalism. Mind you it did introduce the kids who would do that thing at the end. How did they hear about Luke’s Standoff with the Walkers so quickly as that’s the story one of the kids seemed to be telling. Also the fact the final kid looking like one from Rian Johnson’s Looper did make me think he is going to be a future Rainmaker in the Star Wars universe!

I will say that the effects in the film were gorgeous, although there were a few little moments of dodgy CGI – a scene with Luke and Rey on the cliff side was especially poor. The spacecraft all looked stunning and the initial battle with Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) was great, but that humour with Hux felt incredibly forced. Don’t get me wrong, I did laugh but it just seemed wrong. If the First Order were intent on destroying the Resistance by totally wiping them out, why even bother talking to the lone fighter. As the film went on the treatment of Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) also bothered me. He was one of the main leaders of the First Order but was transformed into a snivelling buffoon. Yes, I know Snoke mentioned Hux’s character, yet turning one of the main leaders of the bad guys into a comedy routine just lessened their whole threat. Fair play to Domhnall Gleeson though. He still acted the hell out of it and I did love the moment when he found an unconscious Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and surreptitiously readied his blaster.

The battle that proceeded that moment was one of the standout moments in the film for me. The light saber battle with Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Kylo Ren against Snoke’s Honour Guard was fantastic with some brilliant choreography. I loved Kylo’s use of Rey’s saber to take out the last guard. Kylo and Rey’s dynamic in the film was another great aspect of it. Mind you, whenever they did the whole Force-Skype thing all I could hear was Han saying, “that’s not how the Force works!” I could see why it was done though to help bridge that connection and move the story on, otherwise, they would have had to get the pair together some other way.

The end of Snoke (Andy Serkis) was another great moment, which I loved. We all knew Kylo was not happy with how he was being treated and spoken, and I did like how Johnson subverted expectations throughout the scenes in the throne room. From Kylo’s tricking and subsequent murder of Snoke, to how we thought he was going to go good, but just ended up getting even worse. Snoke did seem to have a handle on a great many things, so with him no longer in charge will we have the First Order splintering into different factions?

We saw Kylo doing what Vader could not do and Luke realised the truth which Obi-Wan failed or refused to see. Both moved on, breaking the cycle. Kylo gained power and Luke found peace.

Okay, what else?

I have seen some people moaning about how the bombs could possibly fall in space as there is no gravity, but as Jesse Pinkman would say, “magnets!”

As I have mentioned in space, let’s get to the main thing that probably pulled a whole lot of people out of the film. I am talking about Space Leia!

Every scene with Carrie Fisher was heartbreaking knowing that she is no longer with us. The moment when Kylo Ren did not fire but watched as the other TIE Fighters did and blew up the bridge of the Rebel Carrier, you felt his pain as he saw his mother killed.

I turned to my daughter and we both said, “Leia is dead!” It seemed a shocking end to a beloved character, but also a great, surprising piece of storytelling. Totally unexpected, but now a huge emotional moment for Kylo having now lost both parents, but also for the Resistance. Their beloved leader was dead, as was Admiral Ackbar and the other main Rebel leaders, and they were still fighting to survive. I was emotionally engaged with the film after my initial misgivings…..and then….well she used to Force to fly back to the ship. Fair enough, you could see a few explosions and fires around her, showing that the ships shield still had some breathable air around her. There was a precedent in Star Wars Rebels (see below). However, the way it was done in The Last Jedi just pulled me right out of the film for a short while. Maybe it will work better on a rewatch.

I also felt it may have been more powerful having Leia stay on the Carrier at the end of the film. She said she had lost too many people, so that would have made perfect sense for her to tell Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) to take the Rebels to safety, while she took the fight to the bad guys one final time. Still, Holdo’s last stand did give us one of the most powerful moments of the film when she aimed her ship at the First Order Fleet and jumped to light speed taking them all out. The absence of sound (which as we all know, is how it would be in space) just made it all the more impressive and was a true “wow” moment!

Was this the first time something like that had ever been done in the Star Wars universe? I assume so otherwise, the Rebels could have evacuated one of their other main ships before it ran out of fuel and turned that into a hyperspace missile. I would have got a droid to do that though so no Rebel had to die, or is that Droidist of me? Hell, you could go back to a New Hope and have had the Rebels do the same thing with the Death Star using a few of their larger ships.

Of course, they have now set a precedent. In future films the Rebels and the First Order could just use fighter craft and other Capitol ships in exactly the same way.

Damn, reading this back it all feels like I am nit-picking and that was not my intention. It just seems that thinking back over the film these are the things that stand out more which is a shame.

I should be thinking of the final showdown with Luke and how good that was. Kylo telling them to open fire with everything was the perfect response in that situation and the battle that followed was great and surprising. All the clues for the twist where also there, but thankfully I didn’t catch them as I was too caught up in finally seeing Mark Hamill be super cool as Luke Skywalker. I just wish we could have had more of it. Again Han’s “the Force doesn’t work like that,” tries to get through, but it was almost like a Force Ghost and I see it as Luke using everything he had in that final moment and then finding true piece knowing that he had done something that would eventually put right his perceived mistake with Kylo Ren.

Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) had her moment to shine, but ultimately again proved she is the Boba Fett of the new films – looks cool, but does very little before falling into a pit. Part of me wants her to have survived, as I do like the character.

Laura Dern was great as Admiral Holdo, but I wish she had sat Poe down and talked things over with him. Although hot-head Poe would probably have still done things the same way and if he had listened we wouldn’t have had a reason for a big chunk of the film to happen.

Benicio del Toro as DJ….hmm, like the whole Canto Bight storyline, I’m still not sure. I liked the idea of him, but it all seemed too convenient him being there in the prison cell when Maz had already said only one hacker in the galaxy could do the job. I suppose that’s the Force doing it’s thing….shut up Han!

Daisy Ridley was brilliant as Rey. Her scenes with Mark Hamill were great and good to see that the fire within her is still burning strong. and finding out about her parents was brilliant. I hope they stick with that as sometimes that’s what happens. Having everyone and everything connected to each other can make a story seem small, so her ancestry just makes things more realistic. Snoke saying that her rise was linked with Kylo’s was also a smart idea, but does that then mean Kylo can be defeated if Rey sacrifices herself?

There were also many cameos and great seeing director Gareth Edwards (Star Wars Rogue One) as one of the Rebel soldiers near the end of the film.

Where does it all go from here? JJ Abrams is back to direct Episode 9 and I do look forward to seeing where it goes next. However, at the ending of The Last Jedi we just seem to be right back to the beginning. The overall story didn’t break the cycle of a small group of Rebels taking on the overwhelment evil organisation. At least the beginning of Star Wars Rebels which also dealt with a small group of Freedom Fighters bringing the spark of rebellion to the galaxy. I do know that I will still be looking forward to seeing Episode 9.

With the First Order now being overseen by Comedy Hux and Emo Teen Kylo Ren could the Resistance just sit back and watch the First Order crumble? Will we finally see the Knights of Ren get together and will they fight the Jedis of Rey?

Thinking back to The Last Jedi as a whole, I think I am disappointed with it. I don’t know what I was expecting to be honest. I know Star Wars owes nothing to me and I am glad they were changing things up with this one. The problems with some elements of the plot, too much wise-cracking and poor pacing just felt too noticeable. Maybe it will work better with a rewatch as I enjoyed Rogue One more on the second viewing, but should I have to keep seeing a film to try and like it more?

What did you think of Star Wars: The Last Jedi? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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9 Comments

  1. The best review I’ve read so far and pretty much nails my thoughts. I have no issues with the decisions made in term of themes and character, but the poor plotting, terrible comedy and turning characters into comedy sidekicks really drags the film down. There is an amazing 90min film in TLJ.

    • Thanks Paul. Glad you enjoyed my review. Spot on with your comment as well.

  2. Agree, the deaths and Rays vision have reset the time line and now they need to set up a new plot for the last one,

    Can’t see why they needed to do that, they must have had a time line for all 3 planned out?

    can we look forward to Ewan McGregor waking up in the shower?

  3. A very good review and I basically agree with everything.

    A thing that bothered me with The Force Awakens and even more so with The Last Jedi is the way they construct drama. In the Star Wars universe there are rules, as in any universe, and you must follow them, otherwise you get that fan fiction feeling. There are also rules to how to create drama. Now, what I think is that these two movies cheat on these two basic rules. Here’s how I see it:

    If you pin your protagonist in a tight spot, you have to write him/her out of it within the rules of the world he/she is in. The previous trilogies did that. Of you don’t oblige, the illusion of the world you are trying to sell is shattered. With the new movies the protagonist escapes by bending the rules, not by wits or skills. Figuratively, when in corner, our protagonist doesn’t fight his/her way out but rather lifts the skirt of the filming set and walks out under it. That happened with Holdo. The decision to destroy enemy ships by ramming them in hyperspeed broke the rules of the Star Wars universe and created all kinds of problems, just like you describe. It happens all the time with the new movies; Rey being a wunderkind and learning the Jedi skills in an instant, it pulls the rug under the whole history of the Jedi. Or how the Millennium Falcon penetrates shields by slipping through in hyperspace (and jumping out in atmosphere!). The list is long.

    In the new trilogy movies they create these gripping and threatening scenarios for the characters only to let them survive by breaking the rules. They mislead audience to think the situation is very grave and then they take a chalk, draw a door to the set wall, open it and let the characters walk out. And we’re supposed to cheer for their ingenuity?

    They cheat and I do not appreciate that.

    Many people love these movies, and for a good many reasons. But blaming others not liking these to be luddites or just haters is terribly wrong and unfair. I don’t reject new and different, I loved Rogue One, I just reject being taken for a fool.

    • You got it spot on and I hadn’t thought of it that way. Yes, they definitely do break those rules and those are great examples. They do try and cover some of it with people saying its never been done before, but I think that’s what I have found jarring. Great comment

  4. I don’t buy that “magnets” BS but I’ll not longer on it! 🙂 I almost totally agree with this review except for the summary that you were disappointed. I saw the flaws you saw and still felt entertained. There’s a lot of fault to picked up on from the entire saga but you can still enjoy them. I am disappointed with a couple of elements from Ep VIII but they didn’t kill it for me. My main gripes are:
    The comedy was mostly a poor choice.
    How did Rey get back off Snoke’s ship and onto the Falcon so easily?
    If the bombs were actually using a non-gravity-based propulsion, then why did they have to get right above the “sweet spot”?
    Finn’s kamikaze flight seemed pointless and ill-conceived as a plan, considering that the girl just swoops in RIGHT NEXT TO THE STAR WEAPON to save him from death.
    Luke’s Force teleport could have been less confusing without chatting to Leia first and giving her fake cubes.

    I could go on but, as you said, it becomes nit picking the more you think about it.

  5. I could go on & on about the bits that where not quite right and argue with you all about it. But I’m not going to.
    I loved it, despite its flaws.

    It made me laugh (not too much), it made me cry my eyes out & it made me feel like I was 7 yrs old again and that feeling was awesome.

    *drops mic*

  6. I’m not sure what I watched but it was Star Wars in name only!

  7. It’s a strange feeling. I expected something amazing and it was just good. I remember Empire leaving me with so many questions I needed Jedi to answer which it did whilst throwing another Death Star into the mix. At the end of this film I don’t have that. No big reveals. No big suspense. It’s one I need to watch again with lower expectations to see if I feel differently. Maybe I’m just different as I seem to be the only Star Wars fan who enjoys Battlefront 2!

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