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Star Wars: The Last Jedi
 
Year : 2017
Country : United-States


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DokBrowne  [ 7.5 ]    [ add to preferred ]    [ email this review to a friend ]

Though commendably the "Star Wars" movie most willing to experiment with outside-the-Lucasfilm ideas, it is also, unfortunately, the least satisfying episode next to the prequels, the first "SW" film that has felt overlong and drills into one's consciousness like a jackhammer the rather disappointing reality that these "Star Wars" movies are boringly cyclical. Never even mind how "The Last Jedi" obediently follows the "New Hope" remake aka "The Force Awakens" by modeling itself in some big, "wait seriously you're going to copy that down to the letter??" ways after "Empire Strikes Back", or that there are arguably 89 deus ex machinas too many; as someone casually observes in this very movie, "Today they blow you up, tomorrow you blow them up" (or something to that effect). That's pretty much all there is here, just an endless game of upper hand, signifying nothing. What great goal is the Rebellion seeking? To end the tyranny of the First Order, an evil government that's ruling most of the galaxy even though we rarely ever see how it affects anyone (except for the token "let's visit a busy multi-cultural den of hedonism and indulge in kooky creature designs while our characters pursue some arbitrary piece of the plot puzzle!" scene, which indulges in some bald-faced political allegory about arms dealing, pushing this movie a few steps toward prequel territory in diminishing the mythos of "Star Wars" itself)? And then what? As an audience rooting for the good guys, we should want what our protagonists want, but the only thing they're ever capable of wanting is to vanquish these one-dimensional foes, which would negate the one and only narrative conflict of any "Star Wars" movie and thus end the series for good, so it can never happen. The filmmakers need to contrive reasons for these rebels to continue just barely scraping by as underdogs against the iron fist of the black hats, instead of ever shaking up that formula or advancing it or changing it completely, somehow. The closest we get to a fresh perspective here is a semi-intriguing rehash of what Han Solo embodied, when a character posits that both the good and bad guys are corrupt, and the only true way to live is to look out for yourself. Oh, and Luke pointing out that it was the Jedi themselves who begat their own enemies and downfall. I would imagine there's a lot that can be explored with an insight like that, but it's not what this series will ever be about.

But yeah, how many times can the allies keep running away and escaping while the chosen few sneak onto the main Evil HQ and defeat the evil leaders, and then we start over when those who are next in line for leadership step in to replace the defeated ones, and so on...this is the first time during either of the main trilogies (I won't count the prequels in this comment) that I realized how dull the plotting can be. Finn and Poe hatch a plan that takes most of the movie to generate, a plan whose grand pay-off would simply enable the rebels to keep running away, I guess forever? Poe meanwhile feels like his superiors aren't making the best decisions to protect the rebels, so he clashes with management. Could these stakes be any less involving or creative? Luke is in self-exile like Rambo, reluctant to participate, looking for peace, zzzz...Kylo Ren is petulant and wants to be taken seriously, but also suffers from conflicts of conscience (oh wait sorry I just copy and pasted that from a synopsis of the last movie). Hollow Emperor Palpatine stand-in Snoke continues to have no backstory or compelling motive - he just wants to convert a Jedi apprentice to the Dark Side and nurture his powerful protege and end the Jedi.

As you can see, if the story threads here aren't pure cliche, then they're simply redundant to the series like much of "The Force Awakens" was, only with significantly less pop and charm than that movie had. The humor and comic book-style high drama of that movie carry over, but nowhere as effectively; some story turns satisfy, such as when Rey meets Snoke in his throne room, and the outcome of Laura Dern's part, and finally learning about Rey's parentage, while a couple others still have potential for better payoff in Episode IX, but others can be disappointing, banal, and in the case of one unique moment involving a person floating out in space, downright embarrassing if you ask me.

Through no fault of her acting, Kelly Marie Tran's addition to the heroes roster feels completely extraneous, and while it always tickles to watch Benicio Del Toro be his weird self, his part too is woefully uninspired and another needless inflation of the supporting cast. It might've been worthwhile to try developing some of the recurring side characters introduced in "The Force Awakens", like General Hux, Captain Phasma, Snoke, etc., but that doesn't happen at all; instead we get a new batch of players who again feel like placeholders for more dynamic personalities that no one ever took the time to imagine.

The ones who do leave a mark are Rey, Kylo Ren, and Luke, maybe because all of them navigate intense psychological warfare, or because each of these three actors is in such command of the screen through these personas that they match the standards of this legendary franchise and soar. Rey and Kylo aren't quite as captivating as they were the last time around, but there's is still the chemistry to beat; and yes, most of Luke's stuff is derivative, but damn it all if Mark Hamill doesn't sell it big time with those giant glassy eyes, haggard face, and utter commitment. As the new wise old mentor of the series, albeit a much more jaded one, he does Alec Guinness and Yoda proud.

Sorry to be such a spoil-sport about all of it. A property like "Star Wars" brings such deep roots and complex filmmaking goals to each new movie at this point that there will always be plenty to enjoy, and beyond everything else I've mentioned, there's a terrific cameo or two, occasional striking imagery and a crimson color theme that makes the movie a bit more indelible, the porgs are every bit as adorable and amusing as they were meant to be, and Rian Johnson does aim for a more conceptual experience than all the other, very straightforward episodes of this series, not only with impressionistic strokes but also by way of its jerkier rhythms. Yet for every compliment I'm happy to report, I feel like three other criticisms come spilling out. Some of the risks just don't work out well, poor Chewbacca has no part (it would change nothing to edit him out of the movie altogether), and pretty much all of the dialogue is clunky.

"Ha joke's on you, Mike. The dialogue in 'Star Wars' movies has always been clunky, you fool." Yeah maybe, but until now they were always so magnificent in every other way that I never noticed..




*for the record, I'm fine with the prequels and "Rogue One" not being great films. I liked them all in their own ways, but they didn't seem like part of the true canon that constitutes the original trilogy and now this new one (I realize the logic there is convoluted, hopefully it makes some sense), so I can live with them merely being 7.5/10-quality efforts for the most part. But I've cherished episodes 4, 5, 6, and 7 down to my deepest levels of movie fandom, so getting a dodgy, kind of unfulfilling 7.5-rated movie out of that lineage is a particularly bitter reckoning.

 
Weighted Rating : 6.8
No. Ratings : 1
No. Reviews : 1


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