Somewhat jokingly, after I’d watched it, I suggested other names for Star Wars: The Last Jedi on twitter. They do sum up my problems with the film quite well.
Star Wars: This Could Have Been So Much Better
None of the problems are with individual actors or characters, indeed, I’d like to single out Domhnall Gleeson and Adam Driver for praise. None of the problems are due to the SFX or technical stuff. Very few of the problems are due to the director. Most of the problems are due to the writing. The writing, in terms of plot and cohesion, is bad. That leads to…
Star Wars: Poor Communication Kills
In the original trilogy, you had evil doing its thing; doing it bureaucratically sure but at least being vaguely competent. The forces of good, meanwhile, were outnumbered and outgunned but using their resources wisely.
Then came the prequels, where yeah, the forces of good were hubristic (I agree with Luke about that) and kept making every possible wrong choice in any given situation, but hey, evil was competent and skillful, and the Emperor basically played the entire galaxy like a fiddle.
The problem with Star Wars: The Last Jedi where you have incompetent evil versus useless good.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to watch the sci-fi office sitcom where someone (probably Captain Phasma) has to cope with their 3 variously incompetent bosses and their perpetual bickering, but it’s not very convincing as an evil empire. Why should I respect/fear them if their underlings don’t?
On the other side, you’ve got good guys who have managed to go from a position of power at the end of Return of the Jedi to being a very small rump against the Empire redux. They’re also marshaling their lack of forces very poorly.
The Resistance are tactically inept!
There’s no good reason for Admiral Hoda not to tell Poe about the plan. Not telling him almost lead to the whole plan failing. It also creates a giant plot hole about how come DJ knows about the plan when Poe doesn’t. Even if we presume he’s read the computer files that suggests it’s only Poe that they’ve deliberately not told which is an odd tactical choice!
I do wonder how much of that is Hollywood having issues with portraying heroic guerrilla warfare.
I couldn’t help but feel that if both sides were lead by robots, like BB-8 and BB-Hate (sorry, I have no idea what the evil robot’s name is), fewer stupid mistakes would have been made.
The story is very fragmented; Rey, Luke and Kylo Ren are the on-going Jedi-Sith-Skywalker saga, the idiot plot with Poe is the driving force of this episode, while Finn’s bit is interesting, and at least emotionally fulfilling even if it moves the plot forward not one iota.
Slimming those three plots down to two would make it a much better film (and I’ll let you guess which one I would get rid of).
Star Wars: ‘Talyn, Starburst’
The feeling that this could have been a better film is not helped by the way it feels like it has borrowed bits from other better films – like the last stand at Helm’s Deep/Krayt or Hoda’s/Crais’s big dramatic sacrifice. That last one wasn’t helped by the graphics looking so similar to the starburst scene.
That was one of the more visually appealing scenes.
Rian Johnson did seem to be trying to do things, but the film seems to be hamstrung by this being A STAR WARS FILM and therefore it NEEDS TO LOOK LIKE A STAR WARS FILM. I think it would have been a much better film if he’d been given more room for artistic expression.
Although, if he was being hamstrung, the script department were too. Which led to …
Star Wars: Maybe We Shouldn’t Have Been Mean About George Lucas’s Dialogue, They’re Stealing It 40 Years Later
Serious recycling, and dull and virtuous recycling at that. Really, who didn’t know that “if you strike me down” was coming in the end fight. Okay, so in the screening I was in, matters weren’t helped by D having a coughing fit right at the least opportune moment – D insists it was an accident.
The film was more interesting when it played with the formula; DJ’s thing about who do you think the Rebels get their weapons from, DJ being a Han Solo who didn’t come back and Kylo Ren not accepting the chance of redemption that his grandfather did take.
I’m not sure how I feel about Kylo Ren being beyond redemption. Or rather, I am not sure how I feel about Star Wars saying a character is beyond redemption, given who has historically been redeemed.
The heavy weight of the franchise, and its effects on the plotting and scripting really spoiled what were excellent performances by the cast.
I ❤ Rey, like beyond all reason <3, and I understand Finn.
I ❤ Rose, the way the film wants me to.
I want to smack Poe, probably more than the film wants me too (I have a low tolerance for charming but feckless), but I accept that the stupidest mutiny ever was not his fault.
I think Admiral Hoda is awesome, if strategically stupid (please film, if you’re going to tell me someone is a great general, don’t have them screwing up that much).
General Organa continues to be the only sensible person on both sides.
DJ is oh, he’s interesting, because yeah, he’s what true neutral actually looks like and it’s not a good look. And yet … basically, casting Benicio Del Toro is always a good idea.
Over on team actually evil, um listen, I cannot be reasonable about Domhnall Gleeson. He’s one of those actors who attracts my attention, and Hux only works because he’s a damn good actor and turns froth-mouthed ranting space spiv into someone with motivations. Like that little grab for the gun when he thinks Ren is down for the count and how quickly he moves his hand when it becomes apparent Ren is not unconscious. Because that man is a terrible, terrible coward (as well as being a space spiv).
Adam Driver is damn good. Like, he almost makes me want to sympathise with Kylo Ren, while keeping him the whiny, angst emo sith we all know and want to dip in a lake of lava. I am really impressed.
The acting is good. The SFX, the CGI-is-not-good-enough-to-do-feathers-yet of the Porgs notwithstanding, and a couple of Leia scenes that I suspect suffered due to the unfortunate occurrence, was solid. Ditto the direction.
That’s why I get annoyed, because so much of this was good, and it’s let down by the incoherence of the plot.