The honeymoon appears to be over with the new “Star Wars” trilogy, at least from this reviewer’s perspective.
The latest film in the saga is “The Last Jedi” and it takes place shortly after the events of “The Force Awakens.” The Resistance, a military branch that was created to defend the peaceful republic government, is on the ropes to The First Order, a faction of Imperial remnants. The movie begins with the Resistance evacuating their base and getting chased by large spacecraft from The First Order.
Meanwhile, in another sector of the galaxy, new force user Rey (Daisy Ridley) is pleading with the Jedi Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) for training. The problem, though, is that Luke is more or less retired now. As Rey tries to connect with Skywalker, members of the Resistance Finn (John Boyega) and Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) go on a special mission to help their faction escape. However, the two are on the clock because the last Resistance ships are being chased by larger crafts from the First Order.
There is one major, glaring issue with “The Last Jedi” and it has to do with the previous sentence. Basically the whole plot structure revolves around the last Resistance ships constantly running away from the First Order, but they can’t warp because they’re being tracked. So, the goal is to find a solution before their ship runs out of fuel.
The problem is that the film never brings up the idea of the First Order speeding up or going into lightspeed to get in front of the Resistance and just block them off. Again, this is the driving force of the film, because both Rey as well as Finn and Rose are more or less working to return to the Resistance to help them get away from the First Order. Logically, it just didn’t work.
It was also unfortunate that the side quest that Finn and the new character Rose went on was largely forgettable. Their mission didn’t have much tension, despite the race against the clock factor. In the end, it doesn’t exactly have a big payoff, either.
With that said, the sequences of Rey interacting with Luke are quite interesting to watch. The two sort of break each other down, with them having to reflect on their past and decide what they want from their future. Through their discussions, the audience gets to learn more about the Force and even the Jedi.
There’s also a set of intriguing scenes of Rey and one of the lead villains, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) speaking with each other by way of the Force. Audiences somewhat saw this Force ability before, ala Luke connecting with Vader at the end of “Empire Strikes Back.” However, it hasn’t been explored to this depth so far, so it was nice to see that fresh take.
These segments also work thanks to the acting from Ridley, Driver and Hamill, with the latter making a triumphant return. Ridley’s Rey, for example, is once again a relatable newcomer to the Force, similar to how Luke was in the original trilogy. Rey’s character arc as a whole is good, too, as it explores her flaws, her strengths and displays her questioning the future in regard to the Force.
Driver’s Kylo Ren, meanwhile, is also given a more unique turn as a villain, as he also questions his future with the dark side of the Force. It allows for more depth to a character who was previously looking like just a Darth Vader wannabe.
Stealing nearly every scene he’s in, though, is Hamill. The guy has not lost his stride at all, he’s great as the former Jedi Master who’s lost his way because of tragedy in his past. However, the Luke we’re all familiar with as the audience who was featured in the original trilogy comes through as well.
The characters with the Resistance, though, are a bit hit or miss. Rose, for example, seemed like an entirely unnecessary character. Tran is a fine actress, but her character doesn’t have much of an arc through the movie until an awkward and seemingly random moment in the third act with another character.
For much of the time where she and Finn were on their mission, all I could really think of was why didn’t Finn just go on the mission with the Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac)? The two already had great chemistry in the previous picture, yet they don’t get as much time together here.
With that said, it was fun to see both Finn and Poe come back and have expanded roles here, and Isaac along with Boyega are awesome in the roles.
There’s one character who’s significantly disappointing in this picture, though, and that is the big bad himself, Supreme Leader Snoke. It’s not that I have a problem with Andy Serkis, I think he’s fine here and I’ve written before about how good of an actor he is, but his character in “Star Wars” is such a blank slate.
We don’t know enough about his plans or who he is and the film never gives him that much depth. Plus, the character design just looks downright goofy. The character design wasn’t helped in this movie by the fact that Snoke was wearing all gold, making him look like Goldmember from “Austin Powers,” either.
While still on the subject of characters, it’s also important to note the very poor decision the movie has with one of them in the second act. Basically, there’s a heartbreaking moment with one of the characters that’s stripped away later in the picture that felt emotionally betraying.
At the very least, the look of the film is pretty damn good. Rey’s training on the deserted island with Luke is wonderfully captured through the camera and filled with grit. There’s also some fantastic space battles and an intense fight scene later in the film that takes place in a red room and it’s incredibly well shot and choreographed. However, a detriment was a scene taking place in an intergalactic casino, which honestly looked like it belonged in the prequels.
Overall, while some of the characters and story work from time-to-time and despite featuring solid acting from a strong cast, “The Last Jedi” has too many weaknesses. Its story and pacing has a lot of problems, which really hurts in a two hour and 30 minute picture, the main villain is forgettable and the film gets too emotionally manipulative in parts. 2.8 out of 5.