Somewhere sort of near the end of The last Jedi, a group of rust-bucket desert speeders face off against a bushel of First Order war-machines; fliers, walkers, storm troopers, plus a big old thing called a battering ram cannon*.
Desperate but resolute, the rebels drive toward the enemy, over a white crystalline surface that turns crimson when it’s touched. They drive toward the enemy and we see an aerial shot with sprays and arabesques of crimson; they drive toward the enemy and Kylo Ren watches from somewhere, probably a walker; they drive toward the enemy looking frightened; they drive toward the enemy whose big walkers and stuff are backlit against the skyline, they drive toward the enemy with another aerial shot, they drive toward the enemy and dear God isn’t this movie over yet?
Basically, that sums up my impression of The Last Jedi.
I expected some things from the second movie of the third trilogy, or Chapter 8, or whatever you want to call this offering in this franchise. I did not expect to be bored.
There were definitely things I liked. Here’s a list. It’s a long list.
- Rey’s story.
- Luke Skywalker’s character arc. This rang true and made his final act heroic and triumphant, even if basically all he did was say “Neener-neener-neener” to Kylo Ren.
- Yoda’s short scene. I laughed.
- General Organa, Jedi.
- Laura Dern’s hair.
- Rose. I liked how we learned her history and why she is so committed to the rebellion.
- Adam Driver, who delivers a committed performance despite the fact that his character, in an unusual arc, is devolving from a complex villain to a loose bundle of stereotypes.
- The racehorse creatures.
- The crystal foxes. If the crystal foxes got their own movie, I’d watch it.
- Phasma. She’s shiny and I like shiny things.
- Finn and Rose’s mission (which will end up on both lists).
- The stable-children.
- The final scene.
Oh, and I loved the dedication.
There were some things I didn’t like:
Finn and Rose’s mission, which is doomed to failure from the start, and merely re-treads a bunch of tropes from other movies. A casino planet! A set piece where the casino is destroyed! I’ve only seen that about sixty times before. It’s okay to re-use tropes, but you better do something fresh. Nothing was new here except Rose and Finn.
Dameron Poe. Poe spends the movie being a weird hybrid of glory-hound and complete ass, only to Learn a Valuable Lesson at the end. (Yawn.)
The forty-seven space battles. Okay, there weren’t really forty-seven. There couldn’t be (could there?) It just seemed like forty-seven.
The light-saber Gene-Kelly-style dance off in Snoke’s red throne room. Hey, Snoke, do you do your own interior design? It shows. Speaking of Snoke…
Snoke. This is your villain? Really? There must be a big bad somewhere offscreen, pulling the strings, but this guy is just Emperor Lite. When Rey gives herself up, I was waiting for him to say, “Greetings, young Skywalker…” We’re supposed to believe Snoke is a powerful person on the Dark Side because he… manipulated an emo teenager? Oh, come on. And speaking of Snoke–
Kylo Ren/Ben Solo. Adam Driver is doing a good job with a character who is eroding out from under him due to bad storytelling and terrible writing. In the first movie, Ren’s parentage and his commitment to the First Order made him a compelling character. His strange fixation on his grandfather was creepy and weird in a good way. In an early scene in Jedi, he comes out wearing a homemade version of the Vader mask. He doesn’t look evil. He looks, well, like a fourteen-year-old cosplaying. Later, in the space of one scene, Ren falls from being a bad person with a genuine conflict to a two-dimensional Bad Boyfriend when he says to Rey, “You are nothing. But not to me.” Later, we get a two-year-old grade tantrum when he confronts Luke Skywalker.
My biggest sense, when the credits rolled, was boredom and a feeling of two-and-a-half hours wasted. I’ll admit, I did pick up a book and read a couple of chapters while it was on, so it wasn’t a complete waste.
I realized, at some point in between nit-picking set design and rolling my eyes, that I am no longer the right audience for this movie. Unlike most people of my Star Wars generation, I am not interested in Leia, Luke, their story and their family issues. I’m interested in Rey. I don’t want to see the old scenes from the original three (Chapters Four thru Six). I want to see new scenes. I don’t want to watch a handful of people who only know how to be rebels and apparently can’t govern. I want to see people who struggle to make things right for the non-human races they’ve been treating as second-class citizens. I want to see people for whom “doing the right thing” is more constructive than just blowing up The Other Guy’s space ship. Clearly I don’t belong in this world, where no one knows how to govern and everyone only knows how to fight.
*The rebels had to open the giant metal door that is, we are told, the only way in or out of the rebel hidey-hole, to bring out the speeders, but for some reason, the First Order saw no urgent need to blast a couple dozen incendiaries into the stronghold while the door was open. They do, however, fire the “battering ram cannon” at it later.