The Force Falters in Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Daisy+Ridley+and+Mark+Hamill+return+to+another+episode+of+the+classic+sci-fi+franchise+which+first+began+in+1977.+%28Courtesy+of+Facebook%29.+
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The Force Falters in Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Daisy Ridley and Mark Hamill return to another episode of the classic sci-fi franchise which first began in 1977. (Courtesy of Facebook).

Daisy Ridley and Mark Hamill return to another episode of the classic sci-fi franchise which first began in 1977. (Courtesy of Facebook).

Brian

Daisy Ridley and Mark Hamill return to another episode of the classic sci-fi franchise which first began in 1977. (Courtesy of Facebook).

Brian

Brian

Daisy Ridley and Mark Hamill return to another episode of the classic sci-fi franchise which first began in 1977. (Courtesy of Facebook).

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By Matthew Dillon

 

Daisy Ridley and Mark Hamill return to another episode of the classic sci-fi franchise which first began in 1977. (Courtesy of Facebook).

While not quite as incompetent or lifeless as the dark depths of the mid-2000s prequel trilogy, The Last Jedi does not live up to standards of the timeless Star Wars franchise. Taking place after 2015’s The Force Awakens, the eighth installment of the series follows the ongoing antics of the Resistance and the First Order, successors to the Rebellion and Empire respectively. After the two groups’ fleets get caught in a poorly explained deadlock, former Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) and Resistance member Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) must venture to the gambling world of Canto Bight to resolve it. Additionally, we see up-and-coming force wielder Rey (Daisy Ridley) seek guidance from Jedi messiah turned hermit Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). Sadly, that last storyline is the only one with any real substance.

While all of these plotlines have a variety of issues, the overarching problem is weak writing and editing. This has a noticeable impact on the movie’s tone, as dark revelations and deep rooted cynicism runs alongside bizarre humor, cartoon animals and slapstick comedy. The contrived opening is completely sabotaged by these tonal issues, in which hotshot pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) faces down the entire First Order fleet while exchanging witty banter with its general. This serves as buildup to a scene heavily influenced by the more traumatic entries in the World War II genre, with quite an excess of on-screen casualties. I would call it cartoonish, except Star Wars’ animated outings have historically done a better job of representing the universe.

The Last Jedi suffers from surprisingly clumsy editing. Individual scenes drag on at the best of times or feel completely unnecessary in the worse cases. None of them properly link up, much less flow together. While the editing, historically Star Wars’ strong point, is the main issue, the writing certainly does not help. Only a handful of the major characters act consistently or even have coherent motivations. Those expecting answers for the many questions raised by The Force Awakens need to wait for the next film or accept that it’s a lost cause. The real failing is the dialogue, which feels straight out of a political Twitter rant. At one point, Rose declares to Finn that Canto Bight is a “bad place full of bad people.” The line itself is weak but becomes inexcusable when Rose fails to explain why until significantly later in the film. Star Wars has never exactly been on par with the likes of 2001: A Space Odyssey or Blade Runner, but even the prequels had more compelling dialogue.

Despite these problems, The Last Jedi is not a bad film or even the worst Star Wars film. Though the presentation is questionable, the visuals are impressive and emulate the grubby but heavy feeling carried by the original trilogy. The film produces some genuinely impressive moments, even if their importance is questionable. The poor script is somewhat salvaged by the casts’ strong performances, which are the film’s real strength. None of the actors give anything less than their best, even if the writing falls short of their acting ability. The young Sith and primary antagonist Kylo Ren is now a genuinely compelling villain thanks to Adam Driver’s magnetic performance. Mark Hamill’s relentless rendition of an outcast Luke Skywalker is what holds the film together. Thanks to Hamill’s efforts, Luke’s transformation stands as The Last Jedi’s only well executed or even original element.

While the fan backlash for this film rivals that of even the prequel trilogy, The Last Jedi hardly deserves it. While not particularly great, especially in the context of the larger Star Wars franchise, the sci-fi powerhouse has seen worse days. At the same time, The Last Jedi fails to get you excited for the final installment of this new era of Star Wars, much less the new trilogy that’s supposed to follow it.