Star Wars: The Last Jedi proves the well can run dry for a beloved franchise
From the original trinity and three prequels to the spinoffs and sequels-trilogy, George Lucas’ space-opera franchise has taken on a box office-busting force of its own. Disney is determined to keep that “galaxy far, far away” near and dear to cineplexers’ hearts each year. But as an actual down-to-earth movie, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is box-tickingly formulaic. Its story flat and stretched-out, it’s filmmaking is a series of choreographed ‘mega-F/Xtravaganzas (the production—budget undisclosed—involved 125 sets on 14 sound stages).
Resistance to the ‘Jediverse’ may be futile, but the Resistance’s struggle against the First Order continues. Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) leads General Leia Organa’s (Carrie Fisher) forces against one of Supreme Leader Snoke’s dreadnoughts. Meanwhile, Rey (Daisy Ridley) arrives on Ahch-To—the planet that sounds like a suppressed sneeze—to be taught by Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), but Snoke’s protégé Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) begins communicating with her in visions.
Amid the incessant score, that talk’s a big problem. Lines of dialogue are often story-signposts in bold 48-point font (action cliché serif or blatantly obvious sans-serif). On a cliff’s edge, with foes approaching, Resistance fighters Finn (John Bayega) and Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) declare, “We’re trapped!” When the two make it back to base, Poe proclaims, “You’re alive!” And so, banally on. Many shots are overdone close-ups: sneering or steely faces, hands, Ren’s gloved fist, Rose’s medallion.
The quasi-Biblical allusions (a flaming tree of knowledge; Skywalker’s Crusoe-like guru in the wilderness) and mysticism of “The Force” (talk of balance in the universe; astral projections) clunk and clang. There are the requisite droids, cutesy critters (guinea pig-like, with big black eyes), and Yoda—uttering motivational-poster clichés in his trademark syntax (“The greatest teacher, failure is”). There’s one inspired alien—whose udders Skywalker milks—but the humour’s usually pat or an in-joke that makes for more self-mythologizing; the storybook-epilogue refutes Leia’s worry that “the galaxy has lost its hope.” As super-slick as this eighth episode looks, its only sequence with real snap is the first lightsaber battle.
The movie’s political stab? Disgust with arms-dealing … pretty rich when Resistance fighters express awe at the enemy’s “big gun,” Kylo Ren has Skywalker blitzed by cannons, and heavy weapons bombard scene after scene. By the time Star Wars: The Last Jedi empties its rounds, the overall saga’s only inched forward—this movie feels like a TIE fighter on the fritz, spinning in circles as it fires off one light-show after another.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Directed by Rian Johnson