The meditative ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ aims for Empire glory over a second episode slump

The Empire Strikes Back is widely considered the best Star Wars movie & Attack of the Clones the worst. I agreed with that until I saw this film.

The previous main installment The Force Awakens is a well oiled machine. The J.J. Abrams directed vehicle is perfectly paced and edited with heavy echoes to the original trilogy’s charm and old characters returning along with some new ones. It’s clever and well calculated references to what worked before is Abrams mode of operation. One wonders what tricks this film has in store to drive the force of nature that has become Disney’s Star Wars and steer it into its final chapter. Does it live up to the second chapter of the original trilogy or down to the clones titled prequel chapter?

The Last Jedi like Episode VII beforehand does have some parallels to the original trilogy. Luke Skywalker is in position to mentor ‘Rey’ just as Master Yoda did to him. Thankfully this repeated plot aspect takes up less time than I expected and solo writer/director Rian Johnson (Looper) adds a few interesting wrinkles. He flirts with the idea of shaking down the pious Jedi legend and complicating the dark side. He also inventively furthers the Disney friendly idea of the inclusivity of the force most notably in the opening battle [the film’s greatest highlight]. This is much to the prequels dismay. Finally, Johnson’s solo credit [a rarity among nine figure budgets] includes the frequently bold choice to zag when it is expected to zig; though it is hard to tell if this happens too often or not often enough as its ideas and its final impact won’t be fully rounded out until the trilogy is completed two years from now [with Abrams returning to the fold].

I will come out and say that neither I, nor my viewing partner liked this Star Wars movie. We considered it to be boring and uneventful; maybe the worst Star Wars movie next to II. But that opinion as right as it is doesn’t necessarily make it a bad film. II for all its flaws has great imagination and features John Williams’ BEST WORK. VIII is clearly made with great skill and care, but for my money [$21.98] Rian Johnson bets wrongly on the characters and subversion of expectations over the action & mythology, basically deciding on his own written language over advancing the established visual language. His rhythms are far better suited to a star wars spin-off a la Rogue One rather than the second movie in a franchise. His callbacks to other famous films though intelligently raised, follow the annoying derivative nature of The Force Awakens and make you wish they [the top brass at Disney] could decide on trying something new already rather just riffing on established forms. The Last Jedi in its drifting ambition is a long-winded exercise that feels like wheel spinning exercise. It’s frustrating that all that confidence can stage a memorable image and show the audience new possibilities while just making it very expensive window dressing.

Rating: 4/10


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