In five to ten years times I believe the sequels of the original Star Wars trilogy will be met with the same (if not more) scorn as George Lucas’s infamous prequel trilogy. And the 8th episode of the series is reason enough to believe so.
As you can tell I did not enjoy Star Wars: The last time I sat in a theater for this long was Blade Runner 2049. I admire what it tried to achieve by subverting expectations and taking a more personal approach with Rian Johnson having written and directed the movie rather than a locust swarm of Disney executives. However, it appears a threatening mouse shaped shadow was looming over Rian during the making of the movie. For every interesting, morally grey or philosophical point being made is quickly drowned out by an unfunny one liner or the Star Wars adaptation of Madagascar’s penguins. It is as if Rian would get slapped with a newspaper by the ghost of Walt Disney whenever he wrote an original idea, and was only able to sneak in a few rushed bullet points before Disney demanded the final draft. It is eerily similar to the prequels in which characters and weird looking extras are just slapped into the story and every single frame for the soul purpose of selling toys. This is Disney – so that is to be expected. Nonetheless, this movie tries it’s very hardest to make these side critters integral to the plot and even recurring characters. At least fan favorite, Dexter Jettster from episode 2, was only in a 3 minute segment and didn’t reappear at the final battle giving Jango Fett a Chinese burn.
‘It’s so dense, every single image has so many things going on.’
-Rick McCallum – Film Producer best known for his work on the Star Wars trilogy
One thing I did enjoy was one of the 8 sub plots that focused primarily on Kylo and Rey. Whenever they are on screen the movie begins to feel like a realistic film with interesting character dynamics and surprising, well executed twists. Rather than a TV sitcom of Skywalker and friends – ‘on today’s episode they travel to the casino planet’.
The film did not follow a clear 3 act structure all the way through. Instead: we begin at the struggle of act 2, start the beginning of act 1 with Rey, then create another act 1 for Finn, catch everyone up to act 2 then finish off the 3rd act for Rey and leave everyone else hanging.
Overall ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ had a few good moments but went on for far too long, lacked focus and ultimately went nowhere. It is not the worst Star Wars movie – but I would say that episode three was probably more entertaining to sit through. Episode 8 felt like taking part in passionless sex for 2 and a half hours with only a few brief moments of euphoria followed quickly by a rush of guilt and then continued on.
My main point is not that Star Wars episode 8 is a failure of a film but that the series in itself is creatively bankrupt – and this is the reason why I see 8 as so poor. Whenever it tried to steer the cart into new interesting territory, someone had to pull hard on the horses leash because anything complex in Star Wars, that is not action packed or adds new lore, is a steep cliff edge with rabid angry fans at the bottom.
Star Wars was originally a success because it was a simple fantasy adventure dressed as a sci-fi at a time when sci-fi was hard to understand and often long winded. It came out shortly after films such as ‘Silent Running’ and ‘Space Odyssey’ that, although were good sci-fi movies, were too difficult for a mainstream audience to enjoy. ‘A New Hope’ is simply about a blonde hair boy saving a princess and stopping evil space overlords. That was simple and well done enough that men and women and (non binary) aliens of all ages could enjoy. George Lucas attempted to add complexity with the prequels by adding a political edge with trade routes and the senate – we all know how well that turned out. The sequels seemed to at least rekindle the simplicity of the old with ‘episode 7’ (released in 2015) which worked well enough as a Star Wars film, but, as a regular film seemed to copy to much from ‘A New Hope’ (1977) making the overall experience fun, but highly unnecessary with a strong case of deja vu.
‘The Last Jedi’ attempts to branch out into complex narratives and twist exceptions, yet the whole experience feels tedious and unfulfilling – it ultimately leads nowhere. One question I have – how does the empire rule the galaxy and what is it like living on any of the planets as a normal civilian? This is impossible to answer because Star Wars doesn’t exactly know itself. All it knows is that someway, somehow, somewhere preferably in the stars, a war needs to happen, a jedi or the force needs to be mentioned and big spaceships need to shoot lasers and explode. There has to be the good guys fighting against the forces of the bad guys who wish to rule and dominate the galaxy. We don’t know how or why? – we just know that they do and that lasers should be pointed at them.
‘But listen, I still haven’t accepted it completely. But it’s only a movie.’
-Mark Hamill – Luke Skywalker
Featured image by Darth-Pravius from https://darth-pravius.deviantart.com/art/Star-Wars-Episode-VIII-Poster-Hi-Res-593492070