In George Lucas’s original Star Wars trilogy, fans were immersed in a vast and uncharted universe rife with relics of the late Jedi order. The first film, "A New Hope," introduced and set the stage for the main protagonists and antagonists with drips of detail to induce intrigue and wonder in the audience. Following sequels provided sustenance for fans’ fervor, delving deeper into the characters and connecting storylines.
With 2015’s "The Force Awakens," Disney played it safe. Director J.J. Abrams effectively stuck to the same script (almost literally) as "A New Hope," and the film was highly enjoyable — discounting its lack of original storytelling, and the fact that our hero Luke Skywalker had been reduced to retirement in what could only be described as the Florida of the vast Star Wars universe.
Now on to "Episode VIII: The Last Jedi." Before I go any further, the review will contain major spoilers. There was a slew of weaknesses in the plot (and this is aside from the fact that the movie felt drudgingly dragged out at times) that can’t be pointed out without giving anything away. But don’t be discouraged, I’m saving you from having to sit through a 152-minute long mess.
"The Last Jedi" was written and directed by Rian Johnson, who had no involvement in "The Force Awakens." And boy does it show.
Eschewing storytelling norms found in the original trilogy, Johnson opted to mesh his own plot and direction into the existing storyline from "The Force Awakens," as opposed to building upon what J.J. Abrams set up for him.
As a result, the plot is all over the place.
In familiar fashion, the Star Wars sequel opens with the Resistance on the run from the First Order (and this is essentially the entire film — a two-and-half-hour-long escape sequence).
The First Order is tracking a Resistance ship through light speed. With The First Order on their tail, and lacking the necessary firepower for a head-on confrontation or the fuel supply for an indefinite abscond to light speed, the Resistance finds itself in a pickle.
Here is where the film really falls apart. Devoid of any communication skills, the ship’s captain maintains she has a plan to save everyone aboard but refuses to share it. When pressed for information by Poe (Oscar Issac), the captain scoffs replying, “I know your type, and you’re the last thing we need right now.”
Filled with frustration, Poe devises a plan with Finn (John Boyega), and Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) — more on her in a moment — to board the First Order starship and disable their tracker, giving the Resistance time to jump to light speed untracked.
If you don’t remember anyone named Rose in the first film, it’s because she didn’t exist. The new director felt the Asian community was just not sufficiently represented in the franchise and needed a character who could contribute absolutely nothing to the plot besides introducing a brand new love affair which likewise contributes nothing to the plot, to really feel welcome.
Moreover, the entire subplot surrounding Finn and Rose turns out to be a complete boondoggle upon their capture and arrest on the enemy ship, after they spent a whopping two-thirds of the film getting there. If two major characters can be entirely removed from a film with literally zero effect on the ending, what actual purpose did them being there serve?
In the end, the Resistance captain’s original plan ended up working. And had she had the foresight to tell her crew what her plan was, she could’ve saved the audience at least 45 minutes of unnecessary filler.
Oh, and where is our Jedi, Rey, amid all of this? Rey was at some remote retirement resort with Luke Skywalker, persistently trying to recruit Luke's prowess in the force for the Resistance. Finally giving in, Luke says he will train Rey to become a Jedi knight.
The entirety of his training, however, consisted of having her touch a rock and “reaching out with her feelings.” If this is the type of lackluster training Skywalker ordinarily provides, it’s no wonder Han Solo’s son instead went over to the dark side for training so easily. It’s a free market.
Now the antagonists.
This wasn’t supposed to be difficult. "The Force Awakens" set us up with a new Sith Lord — Snoke. Remember Snoke? Played by Andy Serkis, he was the impetus of imbalance in the universe. Corrupting Kylo Ren’s soul, his malicious exploits led to the destruction of Luke Skywalker’s new Jedi order.
Manipulating both Kylo Ren and Rey, Snoke succeeds in capturing the Jedi heroine. Pinning her down, Snoke orders Kylo Ren to complete his training by executing Rey.
Flouting the lightsaber at his hip, instead fueled by the saber between his legs, Kylo Ren decides to save Rey.
Using the force to switch on a lightsaber that Snoke had adjacent to him, Kylo Ren somehow manages to kill the most powerful Sith Lord in Star Wars instantly (don’t those things have a safety on them? This wouldn’t happen if the Star Wars universe had the NRA for lightsabers).
And all this was to unite Kylo Ren and Rey for a whopping 10-minute fight scene with Snoke’s security team. After wasting his muscle, Kylo Ren asks Rey to join him in “ruling the universe!” — Gee, Kylo, you know what could have made this easier? Perhaps not killing your boss who literally wanted the same thing but was eons more powerful than you.
But, Kylo, who obviously had the hots for Rey, killed Snoke while maintaining his tyrannical ambitions for ruling the universe, alienating Rey entirely. So to recap, we are exactly where we started, except now the most powerful Sith Lord, introduced in the last film, has inanely been killed off for no apparent reason.
And while we’re talking about Star Wars romances . . . Recall the relationship between Rey and Finn sown throughout Force Awakens? Well, say goodbye to that! Finn grows affection for the Asian girl after she kisses him in the final act. And Rey, meeting Poe for the first time, is now instantly drawn to his crass, cavalier attitude (this was a half hour after almost falling for the evil Sith-Lord intern who saved her). Am I watching Star Wars or the O.C.?
In the final act, we get a shot-for-shot remake of the Empire Strikes Back’s opening sequence on the planet Hoth — which only made me wish I was home just watching that movie instead. Bringing along an armada of firepower, Kylo Ren catches up with the Resistance, but only to flaunt his utter incompetence as a Sith Lord as he’s distracted by a Luke Skywalker hologram while the Resistance successfully escapes his grasp.
All in all, "The Last Jedi" was a putrid mess. The handful of entertaining scenes aside, the film was devoid of consistent flow. Any meaningful development in the majority of main characters introduced in the last film was brazenly sacrificed to score social justice points with new utterly useless characters in this one. In no way can I recommend you go see this film. But if you still chose to, may the force be with you.
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