Film review - Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi

Wed 20 December 2017

I had the "pleasure" of watching the latest installment of the Star Wars Saga - The Last Jedi - over the weekend. After reading through some of the glowing reviews online by professional critics, I was really looking forward to it. Taking the reviews at face value I was anticipating a real tour de force of action, adventure, twists, surprises, revelations, emotion, and of course, epic space battles. I only experienced the epic space battles and that was about it.

(Warning: Spoiler below!)

I was bored throughout the film and left the the theatre in a confused daze. It was a poor film by both Star Wars and general standards. Being a bit of a lore buff, I was particularly looking forward to getting to know much more about what happened in the aftermath of the Rebel Victory as was seen in The Return of Jedi, the origins of the First Order and how they came to amass their immense power, the background and motivations of Snoke, how Kylo Ren was turned, Rey's parentage etc.

I didn't get any of that. The Director's intent throughout seemed to be more of a gratuitous "out with the old, in with the new", mirroring Kylo Ren's weird obsession with destroying the old order and creating a new one. Continuity and plot development doesn't matter. I found this disappointing, irritating and even a bit offensive.

It would be one thing to break with the Canon of the original trilogy and the "prequels" - I can somewhat understand that. But there was no attempt to sincerely carry forward the story and answer some of the questions raised in the previous film, The Force Awakens. Instead all we got were a lot of nice special effects, space battles and some nice fight scenes. As if that would be enough to distract us from questions we wanted answered from the previous film and the glaring plot holes, absurdities and inexplicable behaviour of the characters that pervades this one.

Luke's behaviour, for example, was completely bizarre and completely in contrast to the brazen determination and unrelenting optimism he exhibited throughout the original trilogy. The "reasons" given for this radical change in character (namely, his supposed failure in keeping his nephew on the straight and narrow) doesn't really make much sense. This is a guy who refused to give up on his father despite the latter's genocidal crimes.

In terms of the general structure and editing, the film was a long mess. Large sections of the film seemed to comprise of a bunch of cut scenes carelessly put together without much thought for flow and coherence. This was not helped by the multiple nonsensical threads of the film arising from the inexplicable behaviour of some of the main characters. For example the Casino Planet segment was boring, cheesy and totally unnecessary given that the whole charade could have been avoided if Holdo had simply told Dameron that her plan was to evacuate to the salt flat planet all along. The film was also too long given how boredom inducing it was and I was honestly waiting to leave the theatre.

Were there some positive or redeeming areas? Sure, like any film, but not enough to salvage the film as a whole. The fight scenes, special effects and space battles were impressive as can be expected from such a huge franchise. The cast was also diverse and talented, and there was some brilliant acting, particularly from Hamill, who deserves an Oscar for making the most of the poor writing. We also got to see Yoda again so that's definitely a positive.

I don't have much hopes for the Star Wars IX really. This film will inevitably be a huge box office success and that's what really matters to the people at Disney. They have no reason not to produce more of the same. And that's a real shame.

If I had to give this film a score, I'd give it a 5/10.