That’s my off-the-cuff assessment of The Last Jedi. I liked it. Maybe I’ll grow to love it. There were a fair few really incredible moments that had me punching the air and welling up. At the same time, there were a couple of instances where I became quite upset about how little I was enjoying it.
It was too long and imprecise, with entire story arcs that could have been cut. The humour was pretty forced (if you’ll excuse the pun), sometimes to the detriment of scenes – it really felt like Disney was trying to ‘Marvel’ the film up when, really, it just wasn’t a natural fit. We can’t have a world where every action film is trying to be The Avengers. Things must be allowed to have their own identity.
Like Rogue One, Last Jedi was very un-Star Warsy in structure and tone, with the characters, call-backs and plot being the only real tie to Lucas-era original trilogy ‘Wars. I forget which review said “in a universe of Star Wars sequels, Last Jedi is more ‘Attack of the Clones’ than ‘Empire Strikes Back'”, but there’s some truth to that.
Does it fill me with hope about the Rian Johnson Star Wars trilogy? Honestly – no. I’m quietly delighted JJ Abrams will be back for Episode IX. Dear god I have The Fear about the Solo movie, though.
Saying all that, I much preferred Last Jedi to Rogue One. It also offered some of the best individual Star Wars scenes we’ve ever seen, and the action was superb. I loved Rey, loved Fin, loved most of Luke, loved Kylo Ren, loved Snoke, loved Leia, loved Chewy (although one of those six was entirely wasted). And while I had mixed feelings about The Force Awakens after the first viewing, I’ve grown to adore that film, so in time I could see myself warming to Last Jedi.
I also applaud its willingness to do its own thing. While Force Awakens stuck far too close to the New Hope formula, Last Jedi really breaks free (mostly, anyway – there are some really interesting parallels that can still be drawn with Empire). And all cards are on the table regarding where they’ll choose to go with IX, which is unexpectedly cool.
The best thing the film does, however, is play with some of Lucas’ established themes in clever ways – as I had always hoped it would. Rogue One already challenged the series’ polar approach to good and bad. The Last Jedi runs with this, and does so in far more interesting ways. The modern universe, and especially its Force-wielding inhabitants, are no longer either black and white or good and bad.
You never quite know where you stand here, and the goal posts can be moved more than once even in a single scene. The theme of subverting status recurs more than once – the successful may be rich but are without morals, the dignity of the downtrodden, diminishing the role of lineage, the idea that anyone can be someone… One senses that navigating towards the truer grey that represents all of us is the goal here, and I welcome that.
Whatever my reservations about The Last Jedi (and to some extent, The Force Awakens), its masterstroke is how good those three new leads are – Fin, Rey and Kylo Ren are all fantastic in their own right. Ridley and Boyega execute their parts perfectly, and Driver’s petulant and insecure Sith is, in particular, a wonderful character – who I think works precisely for many of the reasons he’s often criticised. And what a timely character he is, too, in an age where angry children on the internet have such a tangible impact on wider culture.
As much as I went into these films yearning for Luke, Leia and Han, those end up not being the characters that linger in my mind. What an accomplishment that is, considering how deeply ingrained that trio is in my generation’s psyche.
Overall, The Last Jedi is a good film. And I can entertain the notion that one day I’ll regard it as a great one. We’ll see.
This, I think, is how I’d currently rank them:
- Empire Strikes Back
- Return of the Jedi
- A New Hope
- The Force Awakens
- The Last Jedi
- Rogue One
- Revenge of the Sith
- Attack of the Clones
- The Phantom Menace