Big Screen: The Last Jedi
December 20th 2017
It’s bloody hard being a Star Wars director. The franchise’s fanbase is passionate but super-critical, demanding innovation while still expecting the same tropes and catch phrases we’ve been hearing for years.
After all, this is blockbuster film-making in the modern era — a balancing act between producing the film your studio wants, and appealing to the fans who can sink a movie faster than you can say Batman Vs Superman. So Rian Johnson, the director of the The Last Jedi, had his work cut out for him.
Once again, we find the brave Resistance members fighting to restore peace to the galaxy while the evil First Order, who are basically the ‘No’ voters of space, try to obliterate them. When the Resistance hideout is discovered it becomes a race against time as the Rebels rush to escape the First Order’s nefarious clutches. It’s simple stuff, but hey, that’s Star Wars.
Photo: Jonathan Olley
That simplicity is something Johnson would have done well to remember, because the first half of The Last Jedi is a straight up garbage fire of a film. It’s convoluted, contrived, and at times so unlike a Star Wars film that it feels like you could have been watching literally any other blockbuster this summer. Worst of all, the film weirdly insists on bookending its serious moments with jokes that feel as natural as your nan sending you memes.
Johnson forgets that one of the most important features of Star Wars, is not the Force or the Jedi, but the pathos. Star Wars endures because while it’s an escapist delight, it also contains a tremendous amount of tragedy. Anakin gets betrayed by Obi-Wan, Luke has to bury his father — these are crucial parts of the Star Wars myth! Those sort of heartfelt moments are lost in The Last Jedi because they insist on inserting a punchline every time there’s an emotional scene. It becomes impossible to feel any meaningful connection to the characters when they’re interrupted by anachronistic, tone deaf and often out-of-character quips throughout the movie.
It’s disappointing because the ideas within The Last Jedi are interesting. There’s a more complex understanding of the Light & Dark sides of the force. Hubris, and the power of myth within the Star Wars universe is explored. On top of that, the characters are really strong and the world building is way better than the previous two films. Johnson tries to redefine Star Wars for the new generation, and if fans want the franchise to succeed, that’s absolutely vital.
Unfortunately in doing so he delivers the ideas in such a clumsy, jarring manner that it ruins their effect. That prevents The Last Jedi from being the truly great movie that Johnson, Lucasfilm, and fans want it to be. However even an attempt to push the boundaries of a Star Wars film should be commended, so if these directors are willing to risk it all for the franchise, I think it means that there’s hope for the galaxy yet.