The first semester of my senior year is finally over, and I guess that means it’s finally Oscar Season. I haven’t quite gotten around to seeing some of the more likely Oscar candidates this year, but I did get to go see “the most anticipated movie of the year” earlier this weekend, which currently sits at a wonderfully cozy 93% on Rotten Tomatoes.
The Last Jedi is written and directed by Rian Johnson, the same guy who gave us Looper (2012), which I think was an extremely underrated sci-fi movie from that year. Other than that, however, Johnson hasn’t really worked on anything else recently other than directing a handful of episodes for Breaking Bad (one of which, “Ozymandias,” is critically acclaimed as one of the best episodes in the show). Despite a lack of works to go off of, I was definitely optimistic about this film’s quality when it came to the writing, as Johnson showed great writing chops in Looper at the very least.
Even so, there was still that hauntingly dark presence that loomed over the production of this film… Disney. It’s worth noting here, for those that don’t know, that Disney is potentially about to take control of 40% of the entire entertainment industry. That’s nearly half of all movies and TV shows… HALF. Now, you might say, “Bryce, one of the last movies you reviewed was also a Disney movie and you seemed to think pretty highly of it; why the skepticism?” Yes, Thor Ragnarok surprised me by seemingly giving their director and writers more control of the film than other Marvel movies, but c’mon people, it’s still Disney. They will find a way to muck something up.
When The Force Awakens first came out, I must admit that I was a little influenced by the long period of time between Star Wars movies and the sheer hype the movie received within my close circle of friends. Going back and reading my review for the film, it seems “reluctantly positive,” as if I knew my true feelings about the film, but didn’t want to be the one person that didn’t like it. My score for the film ended up being a 7.6, but only after it was saved by my stupid X-Factor score of 9. Rest assured, dear reader, that this will not happen again.
To save on time, I’m simply going to just talk about the Writing of this film.
Oh yeah, it’s gonna be one of these reviews. The first few paragraphs will be spoiler-free, but expect spoilers in the majority of the review. Sorry.
I have seen far too many comments that say something like “Star Wars fans don’t know what they want. They complained that The Force Awakens was too similar to A New Hope, and now they complain that The Last Jedi is too dissimilar from the rest of the franchise.” This comment is stupid for two major reasons: firstly, it’s stupid because I’ve yet to hear someone complain about this movie being too dissimilar. Secondly, this comment implies that the The Last Jedi is a fresh and unique addition to the Star Wars franchise, which is the most absurd thing I’ve heard in more than a month.
The biggest fear I had about this movie was that it would follow in the same footsteps as The Force Awakens by giving us a rehashed version of The Empire Strikes Back. Thankfully, it’s not just a rehash of TESB: it’s a rehash of TESB AND The Return of the Jedi in one movie.
On top of the unoriginality, this movie also has what I think might be the least intelligent script of the franchise so far. Just let that sink in for a minute; I’m saying that this movie is dumber than any of the prequels. The story is littered with unmotivated character decisions that don’t make sense, sub-plots that go absolutely nowhere, and criminally unexplored character-arcs.
[Spoilers Start Here, skip to the end if you want to avoid them]
Let’s start with how this movie is a rehash. The movie opens with the good guys evacuating their base because the bad guys know where they are and have come to annihilate them once and for all. Hmmm, this sounds really familiar to the opening of another movie I’ve seen… The only difference is that the bad guys don’t get there in time for us to see an epic ground attack. Meanwhile, our hero is on a remote planet trying to convince a reluctant and reclusive mentor to train them to be a Jedi, which is also just like that other movie that I can’t remember the name of. Back with the rest of the good guys, a chase sequence ensues in which their smaller and faster ships are able to outrun the bigger and slower bad guys. They then hatch a plan to get help from a friend of theirs on another planet. At the same time, our hero sees visions of their friends and their nemesis, and becomes convinced that they need to confront them. Against the mentor’s advice, the hero leaves the remote planet to face their foe and hopefully help her friends. The good guys arrive at a new planet and find their friend, but they soon find out that their “friend” has betrayed them and turned them over to the baddies.
The confrontation scene has got to be the most blatant copy we’ve seen from either of these sequels yet. Rey and Snoke’s confrontation plays out exactly like the one between the Emperor and Luke in ROTJ. Snoke’s dialogue moves from “look how powerful and smart I am” to “watch your friends as they die” as Rey stands in the EXACT SAME SPOT AND LOOKS OUT THE EXACT SAME WINDOW that Luke does in the other movie! IT’S INCREDIBLE HOW STUPID THEY THINK WE ARE!! And if that’s not enough, Rey is able to convince Kylo to save her and kill his master. Yes, a cool action sequence follows, but action does not compensate for unoriginality.
Later, we get to see a “new” planet covered in white stuff where a resistance base exists, which is NOT called Hoth. Now we get to see that epic ground assault that they skipped over in the beginning of the movie. They even set the scene exactly the same, complete with a guy looking at walkers through binoculars, guys jumping into trenches, and a guy that reaches over the trench to tell us that the white stuff is not snow, but salt, which makes it so much different than the other movie.
Now, we can move on to the sheer stupidity of this movie. Before I say this, I want to clarify that I realize that Star Wars doesn’t care that much about space physics. That being said, this movie goes out of its way to pretend that they simply don’t exist: Bombs “fall” from spaceships, Poe has air-brakes on his X-Wing, nobody gets sucked out of ships by vacuums, and all of our spaceships suddenly require some kind of fuel. When has fuel ever been a thing in Star Wars? NEVER, because it’s assumed that giant spacecraft that are supposed to spend their entire lives in space don’t need fuel. Do you think the Deathstar ran on some kind of fuel? No, because it definitely had its own power source, just like all the other ships probably do. BUT APPARENTLY THEY DON’T ANYMORE.
Next on my list is the stupid Poe plot. There is absolutely no reason for the Admiral Holdo to keep her plans a secret from him, especially when she knows that he’s probably going to do something that screws up her plan. The only reason they kept this secret is to make the audience think that she is either a traitor (which Poe rightly accuses her of being) or just plain incompetent. She also receives a heroic death while other characters, who have been more important to the franchise, such as the famous Admiral Ackbar (it’s a trap!) are passively killed off-screen. What a way for the former commander of the Rebel army to go out.
On top of Holdo, we also meet another new character, Rose, who is almost entirely useless and is really just a stand-in for Rey since she has to be on another planet for the majority of the movie. How is she useless? Well, when we meet her, we know she’s basically some kind of janitor-mechanic hybrid, but by the end of the movie, she’s apparently graduated to being a fighter pilot, because someone has to keep Finn from being a hero. Someone also has to accompany Finn to the casino planet….
Sweet Jesus, the casino sequence is easily the dumbest part of the movie. Nothing about this sequence belonged in a Star Wars movie. It looked exactly like a Vegas casino, and it had mostly human characters in modern earth costumes. This sequence also featured the hammy “save the horse-rabbits from the their cruel masters” sub-plot.
One thing I want to briefly mention before I move on is Luke Skywalker. Many have said it better than I can, so I’ll simply put you on the path to find out for yourself. Mark Hamill himself has stated time and time again that he hates the way Luke was written for this movie and wholeheartedly disagrees with it. He’s right. As a character, Luke was re-written for the sole purpose of fulfilling Johnson’s vision for the story, and he is nothing like the Luke of the original trilogy.
The last thing I want to talk about is Snoke and how much of a waste of time, energy, money, and acting ability he was. Snoke was played up to be far more menacing than the Emperor was in this film, but he’s just offed like the dumbass he turned out to be. This was a huge disappointment to me for several reasons. Namely, Andy Serkis no longer has a part to play in the Star Wars universe. Secondly, nothing will ever be explained about how he came to power and who he actually was, and don’t give me that “it doesn’t matter” bullcrap. Lastly, Kylo Ren is now the primary antagonist of the series. As a character, I don’t have a problem with Kylo. In fact, I think he’s probably the best fleshed out character of the series. However, as a primary antagonist, I do not believe that Kylo is intimidating in any sense. Though he seems to hold all of the cards at the end of this movie, there is not an ounce of me that believes he stands a chance against Rey and the rest of the Resistance in the coming movies. That is the definition of a bad antagonist. As a leader, he consistently shows himself to be incompetent, child-like, and way too emotional. Ergo, killing Snoke got rid of the series’ only promising villain.
Overall Score: 5.7 / 10
The Last Jedi to me is the solidification of the Star Wars franchise into the mold of Disneyfication. It’s not original, it’s safe, it assumes its audience is stupid, it appeals to the lowest common denominators, and it shoves in “feel-good” sub-plots everywhere it finds room for it. A score of 5.7 puts this movie right under X-Men: Apocalypse, which also felt like a half-assed installation of another popular franchise. For me, it marks the point where I’m officially off of the Star Wars train. The cynic in me has taken over, and I will be able to expect nothing better from the series until I’m proven wrong.
I think perhaps the worst thing about this film is the reception. As I noted in the beginning of the review, The Last Jedi currently sits a totally unfounded 93% on Rotten Tomatoes. Never have I seen such a slough of positive reviews that are mostly negative in tone. The disparities between Critic-User scores and Score-Actual Quality are becoming more and more discouraging for me, especially since this mainly seems to happen with Disney movies. Put your tin foil hats on readers; if this deal with Fox goes through, I will actually be worried about the future of American cinema.