It has been just over five years since Disney acquired Lucasfilm and the rights to the Star Wars franchise. Perhaps predictably, the first feature Star Wars film from the House of Mouse, The Force Awakens, turned out to be a rather polarizing movie. Some movie-goers loved how the new film embraced the spirit of the original trilogy while critics complained about excessive fan service and a plot that was more or less a rehash of A New Hope. Consequently, The Last Jedi has a lot riding on its story. Is it a cynical cash grab that banks on fan nostalgia or is it a genuinely good story in its own right? I was at the Jedi event last night and saw the film and after chewing it over, I’m ready to share my thoughts.
For those of you who don’t want to wade through my ramblings, I’ll cut to the chase. I do genuinely think that The Last Jedi is a better story than The Force Awakens. I also feel it is worth a trip to the theater to see it on the big screen with fellow fans if that is an option for you. I still feel that my old favorite, The Empire Strikes Back remains the best movie in the series but that is a tough one to beat. That movie was a special case of catching lightning in a bottle and I feel that all of the Star Wars films that came afterwards never quite reached those heights.
The Last Jedi has beats that echo both The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi but the story is its own. I believe that it is best to view each Star Wars film as an act within its own respective trilogy and so each trilogy is the equivalent of a three-act story. Thus the second film in a Star Wars trilogy needs to show the characters in their darkest hours so the third film can show them overcoming the darkness. The Empire Strikes Back filled this role beautifully with the rebellion facing a grievous loss and The Last Jedi does the same with the Resistance in an increasingly desperate situation.
None of this is to say that the movie is perfect. On the contrary, The Last Jedi has several flaws. I can excuse the corny jokes within the film. I can even suspend my disbelief during a couple of scenes (though there is one moment when a character uses the Force in a way that doesn’t quite sit right with me. I still need to think that over). I can even forgive an excessive amount of CGI critters throughout the movie.
What troubles me is the uneven character development within The Last Jedi though this has been a consistent problem with the Disney era of Star Wars. Two characters receive heavy treatment in this movieand that’s good. I would even argue that the actions of one character in The Force Awakens make more sense now. Unfortunately, a number of characters have not changed much at all. I am convinced that one character in particular has very little impact on this new trilogy and it doesn’t look like that is going to change. Even worse, one notable character from the original trilogy (No, not that one) is little more than comic relief in this film.
As of this writing, The Last Jedi has been very well received by critics but the user scores are below average. I usually take user generated scores with a grain of salt because anybody can submit them but it is clear that modern Star Wars does not sit well with a lot of movie-goers.
I have no agenda for or against this film. I went to see it and paid for the tickets myself and I found it to be a beautifully shot movie that explores desperation and hope. More importantly, it questions the nature of the Force and the Jedi Order. I certainly think that the lore of Star Wars can withstand some scrutiny.
If you are unsure about going to see this in the theater and if my words are of any value to you, then I suggest seeing this one and sharing the energy with fellow fans. The audience I was with laughed a lot, applauded outstanding moments and had a great time. I hope you will too.
If you want to see another opinion, check out David’s piece on The Last Jedi.