Review: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

I consider myself a Star Wars fan. I first watched A New Hope when I was five years old, and I’ve enjoyed the franchise ever since. So I went to see the midnight premier of The Last Jedi with high expectations, having enjoyed all the other films. While there were some fantastic scenes and characters in this instalment, I left the cinema feeling distinctly disappointed. That isn’t to say The Last Jedi is a bad film – it certainly isn’t – but it didn’t match up to the high standards set by The Force Awakens and Rogue One.

One of the main problems was the looseness of the plot. There was constant jumping between the Rebellion’s escape from The First Order in space, Finn and Rose’s quest to find the Codebreaker, and Rey’s interactions with Luke Skywalker. This meant that the battle scenes – one of the best things about Star Wars movies, in my opinion – were too short and too numerous. By including so many characters but giving them such little time each, I felt the film lacked the character development so successfully made before. The vast majority of characters were superbly acted; John Boyega’s portrayal of Finn was as good as The Force Awakens, and Oscar Issac’s Poe deserves a special mention for being even more heroic than before. But the film would have benefited from having a simpler plot to get the very best from a smaller cast.

The inadequacy of the film’s villains was a significant shortcoming. Kylo Ren was even more of a stroppy teenager than in The Force Awakens. He was never remotely intimidating, nor witty or intriguing. Rather than a menace, he felt like an annoyance, and so it was a relief when the film tuned its attention away from him. Ren’s master, the mysterious Snoke, was a far better character. Played by the wonderfully talented Andy Serkis, Snoke was as evil as the late Darth Sidious, but with a David Bowie-esque sophistication and charm. Who knew glittery gold gowns could be so malevolent… Snoke’s only problem was, like most of the other characters, that he featured far too little.

Luke Skywalker’s return was one of the most highly anticipated aspects of The Last Jedi, yet here was another missed opportunity. Skywalker spends much of the film on an island, well away from the action. Initially, his internal conflict between a desire for a peaceful life and his innate altruism, and care for the Rebellion, is interesting but soon becomes tiresome. Daisy Ridley expresses Rey’s frustration at him fantastically, but it isn’t enough to redeem Skywalker’s wasted potential. What saves the scenes on the island are small, humorous quirks, like the small animals that end up nesting in the Millennium Falcon, or the island villagers that become frustrated with Rey’s accidental destructiveness. Sadly, Skywalker fails to fill a hole left by the departed Han Solo.

Overall, I’m afraid to say I’ve never seen a film with such unfulfilled potential. Star Wars is a great franchise: a huge universe filled with explosive action scenes and mind-blowing scenery. The Last Jedi is no exception. It has characters who are nuanced and rarely clichéd, a beautiful soundtrack and fantastic CGI and special effects. But what the film fails to do is tie it all together in a coherent, evenly paced and imaginative plot. Rather, there is far too much jumping around from planet to planet. As a result, we never feel emotionally involved with the characters and their struggles. For long-time Star Wars lovers and general sci-fi fans, the film is a solid addition to the franchise, albeit not an exceptional one. But for those unfamiliar with the Star Wars universe who simply want to enjoy their evening, they are better off looking elsewhere.

 

Owen Bell 

 

Featured image source: http://starwarsblog.starwars.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/6/2017/10/the-last-jedi-theatrical-blog.jpg

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