I am not particularly invested in the Star Wars franchise. I like the Original Trilogy but I did not grow up with an attachment to it so I know Franchise Fred’s is not the approval they’re looking for. Still, it should not be this hard to make a movie I like. It’s about people in space shooting lasers and fighting with swords made of pure light. Franchise Fred disapproves The Last Jedi.
Every moment where The Last Jedi almost takes a bold risk for the series, it undermines itself to maintain the status quo. To a certain degree, I get it. As a fan of other franchises, I don’t like it when they make big paradigm shifts just to be different. But when I love a franchise as much as Star Wars fans love this, I do want to see creative permutations.
So if you just want to see more space missions, The Last Jedi comes up with new ones. Perhaps if it were only trying to be an action movie, it would be entertaining enough. However, The Last Jedi really wants us to be as invested in Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac) and Kylo Ren’s (Adam Driver) stories as we were Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) in the original trilogy. The amount of time The Last Jedi spends building up to character moments, only to have them back out of actual growth, weighs down the adventure.
Remember how Yoda fighting Count Dooku in Attack of the Clones blew everybody’s mind so much it made them forget that the preceding movie was Attack of the Clones. Now we’re used to seeing Yoda fight so it’s no longer enough to convince us that Attack of the Clones was good. The “Whoa” moments of The Last Jedi will eventually fade too and we’ll be left with the actual story of the movie.
There is less fan service by volume than The Force Awakens but the moments of fan service are much bigger. It’s not just seeing the Millennium Falcon emerge from the sand. Now it’s a major plot point hinging on the old thing.
I found the self-referential humor of The Force Awakens distractingly uncharacteristic for the series. Now I suppose it’s become characteristic and people like it. I still feel pulled out of a galaxy far, far away when they start to talk like modern day people. It’s going to date these movies hard once the slang changes in another decade or two. Slapstick is a little more universal. There’ve always been mishaps and pratfalls through time eternal.
There are some bright spots in The Last Jedi. Fans who have been waiting to see the further adventures of Luke Skywalker will be pleased to see him exhibit some moments of badass nonchalance. The red salt planet is a cool visual. Benicio del Toro has a fun character. But there are just as many empty spectacles. At one point there’s a green screen chase with the characters riding CGI creatures, so it’s not very engaging.
Perhaps The Last Jedi is intended for kids who have not seen thousands of movies with the same story before. That’s bogus because it’s obviously intended for 40-somethings who grew up with the originals too, but let’s stay on that track for a paragraph. Even if it’s only for the kids, it’s still kids who have seen eight other Star Wars movies before. I suppose as a kid I was never blessed to have a franchise nine movies deep to complain about. Those are champagne Franchise Fred problems, but I would have caught on by part three or four that all they’re doing is going back and forth with an empire and a rebellion over and over and over again. Even the most formulaic James Bond movies have a different maniac with a different plan to take over the world and James Bond has different gadgets to stop him.
The Last Jedi will teach kids that there are better solutions than flying off to war guns blazing. That is a valuable message. It just won’t teach them good narrative. Ultimately, it’s not a big deal if I don’t like a Star Wars movie. It would’ve been a pleasant surprise if I had, but I’m glad the people who live for Star Wars are happy. I’ve got my James Bond, Rocky, and Furious franchises.