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Review: Star Wars – The Last Jedi

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It’s now a week since I watched the midnight screening of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” at the Brewery Arts Centre here in Kendal, and I thought it was time I put down my thoughts about it. Well, everyone else is! So, here’s my review – but a warning: this is full to bursting with spoilers, so it’s a review for people who’ve seen it and are interested, for whatever reason, in a fellow Star Wars fan’s view. If you haven’t seen the film yet then for pity’s sake don’t read any further because it will RUIN it for you. Any spoilers you read but didn’t want to read after this point are totally your own fault.

Ok… so… cards on the table, I am a HUGE Star Wars fan, have been since 1976 when the release of “Star Wars” was still a year away. I remember reading about it in the papers, seeing the pictures, etc. I even had a Star Wars scrap book full of cut out images of Chewbacca, stormtroopers and the rest of the cast. I made model TIE fighters out of straws and cotton reels, and pretended the ring pull from Coke cans was a teeny tiny Millenium Falcon. I carried a piece of wood around in my pocket which, in my head, WAS a lightsabre.

Yes, I was that geeky Star Wars kid.

And as the years passed, and as each new “original trilogy” film came along, I went to see it, and loved them. Then the godawful “prequels” came along and almost ruined the whole thing. I came out of the cinema after watching “The Phantom Menace” literally wanting to punch a wall, it was so crap. Thankfully the epic last half hour of the final prequel pulled things back from the brink, and I still watch the “birth of Vader” with a big grin on my face. But the original classic trilogy… they remain things of beauty, and art, and romance to this day, and I know I will always love them.

Then along came “The Force Awakens”… I know it has its critics, but I watched that film feeling like a kid back in 1977 again. I bounced out of the Brewery Arts Centre like a labrador puppy let loose on a beach. I LOVED it. There was a real joy about that film, and J nailed the characters, and gave us some truly memorable visuals too – the Falcon soaring up into the sky, Rey living in the remains of the AT-AT, the Star destroyer wreckage lying in the desert, and many more. At the end I was grinning and so was everyone around me. Star Wars was back!

And then came “Rogue One”… and it broke my heart like a dropped vase. Not because it was bad, but because it was so, so good. I was hypnotised through the whole thing, and at the end when Jyn and Cassian died, yes, I blubbed like a baby. I left the Brewery genuinely in a state of shock, and when I got home and stumbled through the door, lost for words, Stella actually asked me what was wrong, what had happened on the way home… I was just in bits, the whole film had been magical from start to finish. For me, “Rogue One” is THE best film of the whole franchise – yes, even better than “Empire”. That might be heresy to some of you reading this, but it’s just a personal opinion, chill out!

So, of course, I was looking forward to seeing “The Last Jedi”, like a kid looking forward to Christmas, especially after reading all the glowing reviews, one after another gushing about how “dark” and “different” and “edgy” it was, and how it was “the best film since Empire”. I took my seat at the Brewery at just before midnight on premiere night, and when the film FINALLY started at just before half past midnight I settled back and waited to be blown away…

So, was I?

Well…. at the time I thought I was. As the closing credits rolled I told myself I was. But even as I walked home, trying not to slip on the frosty pavements at silly o’clock in the morning, in the back of my mind a disappointed voice was whispering “Hmmm… It was okay… but it wasn’t that good really, was it?”

And a week later I have to agree. Yes, I enjoyed it. It’s ok. But it’s not as good as Empire. And it’s definitely not as good as Rogue One. IN MY OPINION, of course. Others love it to death, and are besotted with it like I am with Rogue, but speaking personally I was left a little “meh” by the whole thing.

Well, not the whole thing – parts of it. Parts of the story, I mean. Yeah, I should explain.

Being positive first – the film looks absolutely jaw-droppingly GORGEOUS. The effects are faultless, the design is beautiful, the whole thing looks like a beautiful painting from start to finish. The action sequences are thrilling and exciting too, with some of the best space battles seen in any Star Wars film and possibly THE best lightsabre fight in the whole franchise (when Rey and Kylo are fighting side by side and back to back… just brilliant!).

And there are many, many scenes in the film which contain true Star Wars classic moments every bit as magical as those in other films in the series. When Yoda appears… when Luke sees Artoo… when Luke returns to the Falcon’s bridge… all touching and moving little snapshots of Star Wars greatness.

There are great performances in the film too. Adam Driver steals the whole thing, I think, as Kylo Ren. Without that (Snoke quote) “ridiculous” mask on he is free to actually act, and he puts in a superb performance all the way through, really grabbing the role by the throat now. Daisy Ridley gives troubled, lost Rey new depths this time, and of course Carrie Fisher lights up the screen every time she appears. Mark Hamill brings Luke Skywalker back to life brilliantly, and when he dies at the end I had a lump in my throat the size of a small moon…

And it’s funny! It’s a very funny film! Sometimes it almost lapses into slapstick, but that’s ok. The rest of the time it’s very witty and self-deprecating, with some great quips and one liners here and there. Cute animals too…

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“Hang on!” I can hear you thinking. “It sounds like you LOVED it! What was wrong with it?”

Ok… deep breath… here goes… bearing in mind, always, that this is just one frustrated fan’s personal opinion…

Huge chunks of the story are dumb. I mean, just double Picard face-palm dumb. The whole premise of the remains of the Rebel Fleet being chased *in a straight line*, by the First Order starships, like the Colonial fleet being pursued by the Cylons in “Galactica”, is ridiculous and lazy. Why didn’t Hux or Ren just order a star destroyer to jump AHEAD of the Rebel fleet and cut them off?

And all that stuff on the “casino planet”… come on, what a load of rubbish, and what a total waste of time. It was like a whole load of scenes deleted from “Phantom Menace” had been pasted into “Jedi”. I half-expected to see Jar Jar Binks flapping and jive-talking his way across the screen. (“Mista Poe! Sosa good to see you! Mesa playing cards over here, with Mista Bond…”)

This part of the film also introduced us to one of the greatest wastes of space ever to appear in the whole franchise – Benicio del Toro’s character, “DJ”, who was obviously supposed to be some kind of wide boy scoundrel in the Han Solo mode  but just came across as a drunken bum.

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del Toro mumbled and grumbled and slurred his way through his scenes, like he always does, and I thought every moment he was on screen was a moment wasted, to be honest. I hope we don’t see him again. But I fear we will.

In fact, the supporting characters were not treated well in the film at all, I thought.

Finn – no “journey” or development at all this time. Just there to shout “yeah!” and look sorrowful now and again. Funny entrance though.

Phasma – what a waste, if she actually is dead. One of the most intriguing characters seen in the franchise for years, gone, just like that. I hope she cheats death and comes back in the next one, because if she doesn’t I’ll be well hacked off I can tell you.

Poe – again wasted. They stripped his cheeky charm away from him and just made him angry and frustrated. I missed the wicked-glint-in-the-eye Poe we all loved in “Force Awakens”.

Leia… started off well, full of angst and disappointment, and frustration and fear, and of course Carrie Fisher brought the role to life again, and at the end of the film she is still heroic, still noble, still The Leader we would all follow into the fire… but that part halfway through when, after being blown out into the void, she comes gliding in from space, floating in through the side of the starship like bloody Tinkerbell was SO stupid I almost shouted “Oh come on!!!” at the screen. I know Star Wars is a space fairy tale, and it’s wrong to take it too seriously, but that was just… stupid… not moving at all. It was clumsy and, again, lazy, like that moment in one of the prequels when, suddenly, R2D2 remembered he could fly, and took off into the air to jet around like Mark Whatney doing Iron Man in his punctured spacesuit at the end of “The Martian”.

Was that just me? Did everyone else “get” that Leia scene? Maybe it was just me…

Elsewhere the film is genuinely stunning. The Rey/Ren storyline is engrossing and intriguing, and I honestly couldn’t tear my eyes away from the screen when those two characters were on it. The return of Luke Skywalker is every bit as epic as it deserved and needed to be. The hardware is great to look at, and the battles are impressive. And, as I said, the film is absolutely beautiful to look at, with many scenes that turn the screen into a canvas that is painted with so many lovely colours and scenes that it makes you want to watch it again just for those moments.

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It was a great shame, I thought, that the “crystal foxes” weren’t use more, they are my favourite animals for a long time. Yes, the Porgs are cute, of course, great comedy creations… but foxes, made out of crystals… that’s genius, right there, and shows just how innovative and “outside the box” the Star Wars universe can be.

I get that the film is supposed to be darker, more introspective, and that it leaves the Rebellion and the rebels in a really desperate situation which will take a lot of coming back from, and on that level it succeeds. “What the hell are they going to do NOW?” you think as the film ends, and it sets up the next one very effectively…

…but big chunks of the story let it down. They could easily have cut out the whole of the “casino planet” section (Oh look, another bar full of bizarre aliens… another alien musical group… yawn….) and the film would not have suffered one bit, not one bit, from losing that half hour. True, it would have meant rewriting the whole “code breaker” subplot line but I’d have been okay with that, because it was stupid anyway, and the del Toro Han Solo-wannabe character at its centre was a mumbling, shuffling tramp. I know the character was an attempt to “blur the lines” between the good guys and the bad guys, by showing that both sides buy weapons, and with a different actor in the role it might have worked better, but for me it just didn’t come off, and was one of the film’s most criminal wastes of time and effort.

Will I go see it again? Yes, of course I will! And I’ll buy the DVD, ad no doubt I’ll find more things in it that I like. And if anyone reading this loved it, I’m honestly happy for you! I wanted to love it myself, I really did, but in the end it disappointed me in quite a few ways. But that’s ok; no Star Wars film is ever, EVER going to please ALL the fans. Star Wars is different things to different people. I just thought, for all the good bits – and there are lots of them – it was a film of wasted potential and opportunities.

But it sets up the next one big time…!

 

 

 

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2 Responses

  1. […] Cumbrian Sky Cumbrian Sky: It’s now a week since I watched the midnight screening of “Star Wars: The […]

  2. […] midway through filming I didn’t agree with, even more of a spotlight was placed upon this ‘Star Wars’ anthology film. With all the negativity swirling around this movie, I have even more of an interest […]

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