Forewarning – there will be spoilers, though I will give a heads-up before I get into them. First, I want to discuss my thoughts on why people love something that has become so bad…
Star Wars fans are just that, fans – the shorthand for fanatics. They are die-hards. Financially speaking, Disney was smart to buy up the franchise, at any cost. They knew it is a cash-bantha they can milk into perpetuity.
Star Wars has become a religion to some people. It is possible to slap the Star Wars logo on anything and increase sales. During episodes IV, V, and VI, merchandising was just finding its footing. It was not new. A decade before Star Wars, I had a Man from U.N.C.L.E. spy kit, a Lone Ranger mask and gun, and had put together a Superman model kit. TV and movies had been on the merchandise trail for a while. During Star Wars original episode years, merchandising hit a new stride. We expected action figures, lunchboxes, posters, and t-shirts. That was part of the territory. However, it moved into a new space, becoming collectable cups, happy-meals, Chef Boyardee Star Wars pasta, and so much more.
It became clear during the prequel episodes, the faithful would buy anything with the logo on it. The lines of toys became endless and licensing of the logo became as important as the stories themselves. Now, in the sequel era, the branding is boundless, ranging from the aforementioned toys to the Norelco Star Wars electric shaver and the Renault Zoe Star Wars car. No matter how big or small, cheap or expensive, valuable or valueless, put the Star Wars logo on it and you will sell more of it.
Unfortunately, this extends to the movies themselves. The Star Wars logo is like a cross to a Christian. Anything it adorns is holy, and therefore good. The worst movie in years will put butts in the seats, often for two or three viewings, and generate a glassy-eyed drone of “Star Wars movie, full of good. Star Wars movie, full of good”, like nuns reciting rosaries and Hail Mary’s. It is blasphemous to slander the works of Star Wars, even though it may be purely crap.
Star Wars fans have allowed themselves to be brainwashed and indoctrinated. They are either gullible, ignorant, or dumb, choosing to ignore their own sensibilities to worship at the franchise alters. I pray they wake up. I invoke them to shout, “No more”, and stop throwing their money, time, and attention away at poorly conceived, poorly executed, hyper-advertised bantha poo-do. I am not suggesting they call for a halt to the franchise – on the contrary. I am asking them to ask more of its producers. More thought, more effort, more attention to the substance, and less on how many licenses they can sell.
A long time ago, in a theater not so far, far away, a story began to unfold. It was cheap, it was simple, but it was sensitive and riveting, and spoke of grander things. Now the fanatics that shout its name are blasting it into atoms.
On to the critique / review – there will be spoilers…
The Last Jedi is, in a word, horrible. There is no redeeming quality in it. It fails on every level. It has been a long, long time since I have been tempted to walk out on a movie. I was sorely tempted during this one.
Costuming is appalling. Our new female captain, which should have been a strong female role, is dressed in an evening gown and high heels while on the bridge of the Rebel Alliance cruiser. I remember the days when Commander Organa wore military garb, and was always ready for battle. A casino filled with aliens is a rip-off of the Mos Eisley Cantina and Jabba the Hut’s palace scenes. However, instead of bizarre aliens with complex costumes, all of these aliens wear Western European tuxedos and gowns, as if the costumer robbed the closets from the set of The Great Gatsby.
The cinematography and visualization is amateurish. There is no sense of how to shoot over-the-shoulder conversations, or how to balance light and dark. There are frame compositions so unbalanced and poor that they would fail a first year art class.
The sound effects, once the magical spark of the franchise, are completely rehashed. Not a single original, fresh sound effect is generated. They even sink so low as to appropriate sound effects from episode IV for no apparent reason other than they are sound effects from episode IV.
The musical score is another redo. John Williams took a CD from episodes IV, V, and VI, and did a cut and paste. The score does not propel or highlight. It does not build tension, nor foreshadow. It is simply music for music’s sake. Other than the opening brass blast that marks every Star Wars movie, there is literally no memorable musical moment.
The special effects are tired. CGI is CGI – the ability to create space battles without layer lines or Chroma key drift is standard fare these days. With Star Wars, you would expect a host of new droids as special effect, and yet no new design appears. However, we did get a boatload of annoying little animals, but even these are remixes. The Ahch-To (Jedi island) caretakers are only Jawas in reverse. Where Jawas are short beings who wear black, and tear things apart, the Lanai are short beings who wear white, and put things back together. I’m sure that took hours of planning to come up with.
The direction is dismal, as seen through the poor cinematography and the unforgivable lapses of continuity, the lack of foreshadowing, and the piss-poor pacing. For example, the aforementioned Ahch-To caretakers: We spend an entire day and night on Ahch-To, without a single Lanai to be seen. We even travel the island, following Luke as he milks banthas, and spearfishes. Then suddenly, when Rey blasts a hole in a wall, the Lanai are everywhere, and they never leave. Where the island appeared desolate the day before, for the rest of the movie, it is teaming with these annoyances. This miraculous pop-up of items or people is commonplace in this movie. Someone needs lessons in foreshadowing and in how to set a scene.
To the direction, the major light saber battle is beyond disappointment. I felt far more engaged watching the 60+ year old Alec Guinness battle a guy in a costume that did not allow shoulder movement, than I did watching these youngsters display poor body mechanics.
The list of failures is almost endless, so I will close with the failure of the plot. It goes nowhere other than to reduce the Rebel Alliance to a handful of people, while at the same time violating so many Star Wars and storytelling principles. Just as The Force Awakens was a redo of A New Hope, The Last Jedi is just a redo of The Empire Strikes Back, except they reversed the major order. Instead of an ATAT battle on a white wasteland and then an escape from Hoth, the rebels escape their planet only to arrive at an ATAT battle on a white wasteland. Kylo experiences no growth or change. His emo-tantrums run throughout the movie, though he is not rebuked for them. His dark versus light struggle is unresolved. Rey does not grow or change. She learns nothing new. In the end, she is as conflicted with the light and the dark as she ever was. Luke, who was secluded from the world at the start of the movie, is even more secluded at the end. Finn is a waste of our time, as is Rose and Poe. I thought we were going to have a fitting tribute to Carrie Fisher, but apparently, they intend to CGI her for the rest of time.
The pattern of redoing the original episodes, but with only one-tenth of the skill, is clear, so you do not have to guess about Kylo and Rey. The Jedi will Return, and we will learn they are brother and sister. The work is so poorly conceived, they cannot hide their big surprise.
It is not worth the ticket. It really is not worth your time. The world will continue to spin if you do not see it, and perhaps the powers that be will learn a lesson. The Force is in you – not in this.