Spoilers Below. If you haven’t seen THE LAST JEDI, then you probably shouldn’t read this, as it won’t make sense. And you should definitely see the movie to judge it for yourself.
I sat in the theater as the credits rolled for Star Wars: The Last Jedi wondering what had just happened. I was in shock, but I had to admit to the people I was with that I disliked it. And on the drive home that dislike turned to hate. Fortunately I’m not alone: this is a very divisive movie with many fans, although it’s clear that a majority liked it. However, this movie shook my confidence in Disney’s Lucasfilm so completely that I am seriously questioning the future of the franchise. Kathleen Kennedy has stated publicly how much confidence she had in this film and its creator, and that makes me question whether she actually cares about the franchise that I treasure above any other. So let’s discuss why I think it’s a terrible movie.
IT SHOWS CONTEMPT FOR EVERY MYSTERY SETUP BY ITS PREDECESSOR
I went in with pretty low expectations. Both Kevin (the magnanimous owner and main writer here at The Cinema Files) and other critics I trust had some very harsh things to say about it, with Kevin explicitly telling me that I wasn’t going to like it. So I went to the screening thinking “well, at least I’ll get some questions answered even if I don’t care for much of the story or filmmaking.” I was so wrong.
Do you remember how The Force Awakens setup Supreme Leader Snoke as an intriguing figure shrouded in mystery? We were teased that he had a very compelling back story and they hired one of the great unsung actors of our day, Andy Serkis, to play him. I thought we might not get answers about him in this movie, but certainly more would be teased for a third film that would allow us to delve into exactly who he is and where he came from in a satisfactory conclusion to his arc. Well, apparently Rian Johnson doesn’t think so. He killed him off halfway through this movie, and left no trace of anything. Even his bodyguards are dead.
Not only was Snoke contemptibly snuffed out by Johnson, but how it was ridiculously implausible. This character, who has shown he use the Force so powerfully as to manipulate time and space, can’t seem to notice a lightsaber move when it was RIGHT NEXT TO HIM. Apparently he wasn’t as big and bad as we were led to believe despite evidence to the contrary 30 seconds earlier.
Oh, and Rey’s parents? We were led to believe that knowing who they were was a big deal. NOPE. In what was arguably the most anticlimactic reveal in modern movie history, we find out that Rey’s parents were nobody. All that build up that caused hundreds or even thousands of speculative videos and articles theorizing in the lull between saga films was for naught. It’s not as if JJ Abrams and Daisy Ridley didn’t tease that her parentage was a big deal or anything. Oh wait….they did. Some will argue that this was an example of the subversiveness that Johnson employed throughout the film. OK. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t the opposite of satisfied with the answer. Also, lots of people will say that the answer was deceptive and that Kylo Ren was simply preying on Rey’s fears. Fair enough. If that’s the case, I will be happy and look on that scene more favorably.
Oh, and the Knights of Ren? Yet another tease that Johnson had no time for. It was assumed that the Snoke’s red guard were them, and that they are just contemptibly uninteresting to Rian Johnson as Snoke was.
THEY TURNED LUKE SKYWALKER INTO A MARVEL SUPERHERO
If I were to name my five favorite characters ever created in all of cinema-dom, Luke Skywalker would come very close to the top of that list. He is the epitome of the hero’s journey and probably the character I related to most as a child and teenager. However, much like Force Awakens did to Han Solo, The Last Jedi has completely done away with any character growth that happened to Luke in the original trilogy.
Also, they turned him into a wise-cracking superhero with angst, like much of what Marvel does with their superheroes. I consider Luke Skywalker to be a part of myself more than any other character in Star Wars, and this is not the Luke Skywalker I know and love. Some would argue that I don’t own him and that’s true. But their perversion of his character is nothing short of heresy in my view.
THEY DEFLATE SINCERITY WITH CHEAP HUMOR
There are several moments in the film that should be iconic and I honestly expected them to be. Yet when they came, they threw in cheap humor. There are moments of sincerity that are actually quite good, most of them between Kylo Ren and Rey, but not enough to redeem the film for me.
The moment when she hands Luke the lightsaber at the beginning, he throws it over his shoulder. A moment that was meant to be as iconic as Han being frozen in Carbonite was punctured for a cheap laugh. When Leia and Luke meet for the first time in over 30 years and they throw in a joke to lighten the tension. Sorry, but the tension doesn’t need to be lightened. It’s quite okay to feel serious emotions in a movie, especially a Star Wars movie. Yet Rian Johnson doesn’t seem think so. The same thing happened when Luke is getting shot at from every direction by the First Order; why the crap did Luke have to brush off some dust? The filmmakers are afraid of serious emotion, methinks. They seem to find it too risky to have actual earnestness in their scenes.
There are lots of other nitpicks that I have with the movie, but these are sufficient to show why I disliked the movie so much. I’m sure you disagree with my points or I’m being too harsh. That’s fine. Everyone experiences movies differently. This just happens to be one where I experienced it vastly differently than many of my friends and peers.