*Minor SPOILERS Ahead*
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is hollow, cookie-cutter corporate drivel masquerading as the newest entry in perhaps the most beloved franchise in cinematic history. In a breathtaking feat it manages not only to be narrower in scope than The Force Awakens, but also less reverent, coherent and focused all at the same time whilst thuddingly dull. The plot is simultaneously paper thin and yet drawn out over two and a half insufferable hours by a series of poor pacing and plotting decisions, chief among which is a particularly superfluous subplot involving John Boyega’s Finn, who is as utterly wasted on this film as is his nemesis, Gwendoline Christie’s Captain Phasma.
The poor decisions and the lack of coherence start immediately, with an opening scroll that informs the viewer that the New Republic is no more – the same Republic that the entire original trilogy was based upon reviving (a feat that apparently involved only liberating the five planets in the same system that were destroyed in a single minute of The Force Awakens) – and that the First Order is now essentially unopposed. Notwithstanding the practical considerations that stretch credulity, it is a testament to just how safe Disney and their new creatives will be with this most hallowed property that they cannot bear even for a single second to imagine a story that takes place outside of the ‘underdog Rebels take on mighty Empire’ dynamic that we all thought we might have seen the back of considering this sequel trilogy was to be set thirty years after the fall of said Empire, and the reformation of said Rebel Alliance into a New Republic. Never mind though, here are your requisite X-Wings and requisite Tie Fighters, and the good guys are all rag-tag and the bad guys are very well put together and speak in clipped British accents and now their equipment is jet black instead of grey so you know they really mean business this time. It’s cynical, it’s trite, and it is further compounded by the astonishing sidelining of the original cast, despite the fact that their quest was retroactively clearly never fulfilled.
The incredibly ill-judged injection of Marvel-style quipping humour into the film is also entirely unwelcome, unwarranted and unbalances scenes that are working hard to develop emotional or dramatic heft by cutting the pacing off at the knees, or making previously solemn or serious characters shift gears awkwardly into slapstick or bumbling jokes. Star Wars always had humour, but it was organic, and if there were screwball moments they came at the expense of background characters, and certainly not in the middle of scenes that so desperately call out for increased dramatic investment.
Investment is perhaps the most fitting watchword here – the investment of the Walt Disney Company weighed against the investment of the fans, and the actors from the original trilogy, who are both treated so badly by this new instalment it beggars belief. The Last Jedi is a horrifically misguided attempt to change up the franchise that is amateurish and fumbling in its execution; it comes off as incompetent at best and downright insulting at worst. So many opportunities are wasted, so many legacies trampled on in such quick succession that the head spins – to say that this film doubles down on the treatment of Han Solo in The Force Awakens as a prism through which to treat Luke Skywalker is an understatement. The film makes a mockery of his character journey through the original trilogy, thumbing its nose at perhaps the best – and certainly the most well-known – example of Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey in cinematic history. Here, instead of enriching his path and taking us to new depths, it drives the viewer – and the character himself – straight down a dramatic cul-de-sac that betrays the very essence of the character. Much in the same way as The Force Awakens took the wind from Han Solo’s sails, returning him literally to where he was at the start of A New Hope and undoing the vast majority of his journey up until that point, so too does The Last Jedi remove Luke’s achievements – the Dark Side rises further, the Empire is returned in near-full glory, and the forces of good are brought to their knees whilst he pontificates on an island retreat, waiting to die. If there has been a more disrespectful treatment of a returning main character in cinematic history it escapes memory. The failure of the film in this regard is complete, utter, and everlasting, tainting the legacy and the journey of a celebrated icon in the same year where the masterful Blade Runner 2049 and the sublime Logan showed two differing and immensely impressive ways to continue and cement the legacies of Rick Deckard, and Logan & Charles Xavier respectively. Both films deepened and enhanced the existing stories and characters, crafting something new, unexpected and earned whilst remaining reverent and indebted, but not enslaved, to the source material. This is the polar opposite of The Last Jedi, which is insincere and lacks all but the most surface-level understanding of what has come before it.
As viewers, we absolutely understood what happened at the end of Return of The Jedi – the Empire was overthrown, Luke Skywalker had fulfilled his destiny to bring the Jedi Order back from the dead, as his sister Leia had honoured the legacy of the Republic by leading the Rebels to victory. The signs were there in The Force Awakens that the new trilogy would actively undermine all that had come before, but it is only in witnessing the treatment shown to the original trilogy in The Last Jedi that the depths of Disney’s failure to comprehend the property it now so proudly owns is laid bare for all to see.
The Force Awakens did not know what to do, or had no desire to do something new, with the immense legacy of what had come before it, content only to revisit past glories shamelessly and claim them as its own. The Last Jedi, perhaps scared even further by what came before and knowing that it couldn’t possibly live up to it, decides that instead of building on the past – enriching and expanding – it would stand on the shoulders of giants, and then tear the giants down.
Disney has killed Star Wars, gutted it, torn it asunder and now proudly wear its skin whilst demanding your respect and adoration.
They deserve only your contempt.