Only General Leia Organa's band of RESISTANCE fighters stand against the rising tyranny, certain that Jedi Master Luke Skywalker will return and restore a spark of hope to the fight.
But the Resistance has been exposed. As the First Order speeds toward the rebel base, the brave heroes mount a desperate escape...
And then a bunch of stuff happens. I was 4 when the first Star Wars was released in New Zealand and am thus the perfect age to judge The Last Jedi on its merits as a Star Wars film. On that axis, The Last Jedi scores pretty highly - it feels Star Warsy to me. But the film is not without problems.
In the Jedi shrine where Luke teaches Rey there is a pool lined with some mystical mosaic that looked cool and mysterious. The whole of The Last Jedi was like that pool - wide but shallow. The plot covers a huge amount of ground and goes many potentially interesting directions but none of it has any depth or really resonated with me.
Structurally, the film is very odd, with 4 or 5 subplots going on. But it is hard to point to one that could be called a main narrative. This is obviously intentional but it sometimes feels like the film is made up from half a dozen different episodes of The Clone Wars TV show, or maybe the deleted scenes from a much more cohesive film. I think it may be a result of trying to please everybodyThe cynic in me is sure that "everybody" in this case is the marketing department, the licensing department, and various internal focus groups - not the general film-going population. There is a plot for you if you identify with the cocky loner, the cocky duo, the studious loner, or the shaggy porg-eating wookie.
I don't actually mind films like this (as a child I thought that Star Wars Episode 4 was about a heroic robot named R2D2) but in The Last Jedi the plots have very little to do with each other. Any one of them could have been dropped without changing the story much. Some do have rewarding moments - I liked Rey and Ren's little moments together, and Rose and Finn's casino adventureRose's line about how only evil acts can generate so much wealth was pretty funny in the week when Disney purchased Fox for $52,000,000,000, and a ornery Luke Skywalker.
On the other hand, Poe Dameron is the Star Wars version of Bucky from the Avengers movies - his story only works if the audience is invested in the character but the film doesn't show why we should care.
What The Last Jedi has in lieu of strong plot is an attempt at a theme, but even here the producers hedged their bets. A strong theme is one of failure - almost everything that anybody (good or bad) attempts in this film ultimately fails for one reason or another. I guess this is somewhat of a callback to The Empire Strikes Back which also contained a lot of failure but here even the characters are aware of how useless they are.
And that leads into the main theme, explicitly stated several times - that the future should not be burdened by the mistakes of the past. It is tempting to read this as a direct reaction to the slavish devotion to cannon that The Force Awakens displayed. Certainly, The Last Jedi shakes things up by killing off Luke and reintroducing the notion that anyone could be a Jedi. I really like the revelation that Rey's parents were just some randoms instead of fate-kissed heroesAmong the greatest sin in the prequels was to imply that the force only traveled along bloodlines and the coda with the little slave boy at the end was great.
Some other stray observations:
- With all the older characters dead and the passing of Carrie Fisher, there is only Chewbacca left amongst the non-droid characters to carry on. Chewie looks great though - I think he has had work done.
- Not all of the jokes were winners but there were some moments that made me laugh.
- Speaking of the droids, R2D2 and C3PO are hardly in this. I suspect they don't resonate well with kids today. BB-8 has a big part, of course.
- Wisely, The Last Jedi is sparing with the lightsabers. I don't think there is a scene where a lightsaber hits another saber in the whole film until the very end.
- Snoke's death was great and I don't care that we never learn more about him. I was hoping that Rey would take Ren up on his offer - that would have made an interesting film.
- The orchestral score seemed just as muddled as the plot - nothing really stood out.
- Rose crashing into Finn as he was trying to sacrifice himself to save everyone seemed pointless and the love between them forced. But I liked the point they were trying to make - it is better to help the ones you love than to kill those you hate, a positive message in a film that is otherwise pretty nihilistic.
- A small thing, but in this age of big budget CGI I enjoyed seeing Yoda played by a silly looking puppet again.
- The Force Awakens was well-liked on release but suffers on re-watching. I suspect The Last Jedi might be the opposite - it is just interesting enough to be memorable.
If I could point to one big flaw in The Last Jedi, it is that for all its talk of throwing off the chains of the past the film doesn't go far enough to be really startling. It ends with a small group of rebels on the run from an evil wizard, which is getting a little familiar even with new rebels and a different wizard. If the next film doesn't do something drastic that is all Star Wars will ever be and we will end up with 20 remakes of what we already haveI believe in the business this is called James Bonding.
But it would be nice to be pleasantly surprised in 2 years time.