Where exactly does one begin with this disjointed, draggy and somewhat messy film? Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi isn’t horrible, but neither is it awe-inspiring. It just is: a multi-million dollar blockbuster that will make bucketloads of cash, regardless of the flaws in its storytelling.
Which is a shame because the players are uniformly excellent – albeit weighed down by some clunky lines – the effects are as amazing as ever and there are just about enough feels to sustain a Star Wars film. But the magic is fading, methinks, which makes one wonder how Disney is going to sustain things going into Episode IX and the new trilogy in the works by director Rian Johnson.
We begin with hotshot fighter pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac, who’s starting to feel like a real Maverick) leading a daring raid on a Dreadnaught-class heavy cruiser of the First Order. Things come to a head, and the Resistance is soon on the run, pursued by General Hux (a deliciously over-the-top Domnhall Gleeson) and led by General Leia Organa (the late and forever to be missed Carrie Fisher).
Meanwhile, Rey (Daisy Ridley) is having trouble convincing Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) on that faraway island to join the fight. But there’s more to Rey than meets the eye and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver, still as emo as ever) can sense it, light years away. Could he possibly turn her to the Dark Side? Cue some of the most awkward interaction between two characters this side of Jakku, including a strange sort of psychic interaction that’s borderline sexy time.
And so it goes, as we sit through scenes that don’t really go anywhere and lots of lots of talking. It feels significant that somewhere around the halfway mark, I turned to my friend and asked: “Is it just me or is this kind of draggy?” His reply: “Nothing has happened yet.”
But now we come to the film’s real saving grace: the dynamic between Finn (John Boyega) and Resistance fighter Rose Tico (a marvellous Kelly Marie Tran), as they go off on a vital mission to do…something. Tran, a virtual unknown before being cast, is the heart and soul of the movie with her smarts, passion and derring-do. She is literally what all of us want to be: an ordinary person given the chance to do extraordinary things, even if her final action in the film feels somewhat contrived.
Other than that, there are some nice touches here and there, such as the cameo appearance of a certain old favourite. Porgs are destined to become the new favourite of the Star War creature universe, while Luke’s story follows a certain inevitable arc. All one can say is that the handing over of the torch to the new generation is in full force.
All in all, The Last Jedi is a (somewhat) enjoyable movie, but you can’t help feeling that director Johnson is capable of much more, considering the stellar work he did on Looper. But
the First Order Disney are demanding corporate masters, given what other directors have already experienced on the Star Wars franchise (step forward, Phil Lord and Chris Miller).
There is far too much at stake here – namely box office returns and merchandise sales – for anyone to greatly deviate from the plan. And that’s probably the greatest tragedy of all.
Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi opens in Singapore on Thursday, December 14.
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