I’m not going to pretend this is actually a review of the movie because that would be kind of a lie. I’m not planning on being in any way objective or even looking at this movie in any kind of comprehensive fashion. And yet, I feel compelled to write about my experience viewing this movie (more the experience than the movie).
If that implies I disliked the movie, then I should probably make it clear that The Last Jedi was great fun to watch. As a block buster movie and the first cinema experience I’d had in months, I had a great time with this film. However, Star Wars is one of those franchises that comes up against a very special measuring stick and that is the nostalgia of the original trilogy as well as the lore and amazing universe created through so many novels (all now declared non-canon in order to kick this franchise back into motion in films without actually paying attention to any of the intricate story lines crafted).
I used to go to the cinema almost weekly when I lived less than a block from a shopping centre and it was literally a case of walking around the corner to go see a movie. I now live at a minimum 5 – 7 hours from a cinema (five if I just want to see any film and seven if I want to see something recent) so really it is only when I travel for family or work training that I actually get to see a movie anymore. I used to really enjoy the cinema experience and I still look forward to those chances I get to go to the movies. Yet recent movie going experiences have been somewhat flawed.
Firstly, I’m convinced they don’t even pretend to clean in the cinema anymore. Maybe a basic aisle sweep but the sheer amount of food and sticky (probably drink) patches in the carpet is disturbing to say the least. Maintenance in general of the seats, the curtains, the screen are lacking and I’ve been to a number of cinemas given I don’t live near any particular one, and they all have much the same issue.
For my Star Wars experience I had the overly tall guy wearing hat sitting in front of me. Which isn’t a problem. Tall people are allowed to go to the movies and the hat wearing inside might be obnoxious as a rule but isn’t exactly a criminal offence. No, the issue came that tall guy wanted to throw his arms in the air and toss his head about in critical scenes so despite having positioned myself on a bit of a lean so his head wasn’t obscuring much, either his hat or hands at times did cross through my field of vision and usually when I was trying to focus, and it broke the immersion I go to the cinema to experience. I’m just going to ignore that he and his friends also talked, cheered, applauded and generally enjoyed the film in their own way (which was lovely to see but kind of disruptive). I also talk in movies, particularly if it is a second viewing and I like that they were having fun. I just wish I’d been about two rows away from them.
Lastly, before I get onto the movie itself, what is going on with advertising? I get movie tie-ins and with Star Wars (now owned by Disney) I fully expected commercialisation and yet the sheer insanity of some of those ads and the desperation to forge a link between any and all products and Star Wars was just outright unnerving. I was left stunned before the trailers for other movies even started by the appalling nature of the sales pitches I’d just endured. You know, I get the Lego advertising given they are direct tie-in products, but why is hair trimmer in any way linked to the force? It was insanity on display and if anything made me note the brand-names as ones that are uninspired and happy to ride on any popular trends’ coat-tails rather than think of a way to actually appeal to an audience in their own right.
So that was the experience of being at the cinema, what was the movie like?
Well, if I were to write a check list of everything a Star Wars movie needs to be Star Wars and everything a modern block buster needs to be a commercial success than The Last Jedi would tick almost every box. It is a functional, fun movie with enough elements to clearly be associated with Star Wars, and follows along nicely from its predecessors.
It is also an incredibly generic movie with very few standout moments (with the exception of one of the best jumps to hyper-space mid-battle in a scene that nailed visuals, sound, and narrative purpose and I really, really think that it was a moment of true brilliance). However, you want action, a bit of romance, jokes being cracked in almost every scene whether they serve a purpose or not, explosions, plenty of scene changes, chameos (just keep piling in known characters, shove them in, doesn’t matter if they are needed), completely unnecessary fetch quests to bloat the run time, etc, etc, this movie has ticked that box just for you, and every other movie goer because you wouldn’t want to leave anyone out by actually having a targeted audience and making a movie that felt in any way unique.
Again, not saying there is anything bad about this. Visually, The Last Jedi impresses. Despite its long run time, stuff keeps happening but it doesn’t suffer from being frantically rushing through scenes as it actually knows when to embrace a pause and have a moment (something most of the Transformers movies should have learned). The characters are interesting enough characters and I particularly liked Rose (then again, I was supposed to). What I felt let this movie down was an overall lack of identity and focus.
The whole having to go to the Casino to find a code breaker to get onboard the ship segment was entirely filler. It was a desire to have a cool city and aliens and a chance to throw in a chase sequence and it was all good fun and yet if we just cut all of that out and send Finn and Rose directly to the ship nothing in the main story changes. At all. That’s entirely depressing that all of that was for nothing other than building up Rose’s character so we cared later on about her, a few laughs and a show off about how they can recreate the feel of the Cantina Bar again.
The Luke and Rei thing just went on too long. I won’t train you or anyone. I will train you. Oh, wait, you are going to the dark, I won’t train you. Back and forth and back and forth seemingly without any real direction. And then the cave sequence which of course is similar to Luke’s experience but with less payoff in Rei’s case. This scene is drawn out and achieves little.
And a final criticism was the language. Where the original series gives us insults like ‘scruffy looking Nerfherder’ here we just get ‘Rebel Scum’ spat out in increasingly over the top tones and some fairly modern slang being dropped into the Star Wars universe. The fit isn’t exactly a match made in heaven though I can see how this won’t bother most viewers particularly those new to the franchise. For me though, it seemed like the script didn’t have enough courage just to go full geek and decided it wanted to be more main stream.
But dissecting Star Wars scene by scene is not something I should really encourage. Even the original trilogy doesn’t end up looking that great when you subject it to that kind of scrutiny. Star Wars was always more of a sensation and a feeling than a quality story, and for the most part The Last Jedi managed to not step on those feelings even if it didn’t quite reignite them.
Overall, a perfectly serviceable continuation and at least this trilogy is shaping up better than the prequels. I might even rewatch these ones one day rather than pretending they didn’t intrude on a franchise I loved.
Thanks for reading.
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