Some are calling “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” the best in the series since “The Empire Strikes Back.” Is that typical opening weekend bluster, or is it the real deal?
Had I not suffered through the prequel trilogy, this might be one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to say about a franchise that has been a part of my life for literally as long as I have actual memories: I think “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” was just OK.
Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” (Photo: Lucasfilm Ltd. © 2017 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.)
I know my nerd cred is likely in question right now, so would it help my case if I let you know I recently tracked down my vintage Jabba the Hut playset (complete with mint condition Salacious B. Crumb)?
There’s much to like about “The Last Jedi,” but I feel like there’s quite a few things to be indifferent on, too.
Let’s start with a very brief – and spoiler-free – rundown of what’s happening this time out:
“The Last Jedi” picks up right where “The Force Awakens” left off. Rey (Daisy Ridley) is on the remote planet Ahch-To, trying to recruit reclusive Jedi Master Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to return to civilization to help provide a spark for the Resistance fighters, led by his sister, General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher).
Despite their dwindling numbers, the Resistance continues its efforts to usurp the First Order and bring freedom to the galaxy once and for all. Standing in their way is Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) and Sith-Lord-in-Training Kylo Ren (Adam Driver).
Finn (John Boyega) battling Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” (Photo: Lucasfilm Ltd. © 2017 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.)
When I sat down and started thinking of spoiler-free ways to talk about “The Last Jedi,” I realized there are a lot of questions.
Can Rey convince Luke to join the fight? Would that be enough to take down the First Order? Who/what is Rey? Who are her parents? Can/will Luke train her to harness what appear to be Jedi abilities? Who is the last Jedi? Does Snoke have a body or is he just a projection? And, probably most important, does Disney allow Jedi Skywalker to speak this time?
The answers to these questions, along with many others, are addressed over the course of 152 minutes. But, of course, there are just as many new questions to answer after everything that unfolds.
Rey (Daisy Ridley in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” (Photo: Lucasfilm Ltd. © 2017 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.)
If you were to ask me for two words to sum up “The Last Jedi” they would be “a lot.”
There are a lot of characters, both new ones – Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), DJ (Benicio Del Toro), and Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) – and those we’re already familiar with – Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), Finn (John Boyega), C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), R2-D2 (Jimmy Vee), and BB-8.
BB-8 and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” (Photo: Lucasfilm Ltd. © 2017 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.)
There is a lot of story. There’s the Resistance. There’s Luke’s reclusiveness. There’s Rey’s lineage and place in the world. There’s Snoke’s end game of galaxy-wide domination. There’s Kylo’s inner turmoil and angst. There’s Finn’s whatever it is he has going on now. And there’s Chewie and the stupid, pointless Porgs – a lot of Porgs … probably too many Porgs.
Honestly, at times it feels like it’s just too much.
Honestly, there are too many characters for me to care too much about them.
In the original trilogy, you had this core of characters that were in at least semi-close proximity to each other and/or the main story. There were obviously those moments where they were scattered, but those moments were rather fleeting.
General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” (Photo: Lucasfilm Ltd. © 2017 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.)
Now, however, you’ve got a crazy number of “main” characters and they’re scattered throughout the galaxy. They don’t have enough on-screen interaction to make you believe there’s any sort of connection between them and there are so many characters that they’re giving screen time and a story to, that it’s difficult for a viewer to invest in. It’s not that these characters are bad or uninteresting, it’s just that they’re not given enough time to make me want to see more of them.
And then there’s Porgs. If you thought Ewoks were pointless, Porgs are standing off to the side showing you those “hold my beer” memes on their phones. Sure, they cute in a completely unreal looking sort of way, but other than moving merchandise I can’t see what they exist for. I’m sure someone on Reddit will come up with a theory that Porgs are the source of Sith power, thus legitimizing their place in cannon.
That said, “The Last Jedi” answered enough questions and posed enough intrigue that I’m counting down the days until Episode IX. There’s undoubtedly spinoffs, continuations, etc. coming from some of the characters and storylines introduced/further explored here, so I’m hopeful that they will all come together enough to make me care.
“The Last Jedi” isn’t perfect, but it’s still “Star Wars” and I will watch it many, many more times. And at the end of the day, despite not being able to fully invest in the story or characters, I still enjoyed myself. It was good, it just wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be.
★★★ of ★★★★★