Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
This wasn’t the best Star Wars film, but it certainly wasn’t the worst. (That would be The Phantom Menace, largely because it was so close to being a good film, but failed abysmally at almost every stage.)
The film’s biggest weakness was its poor pacing. This film was 2.5 hours long, but with the rejigging of a couple of plot points, could have been dropped to 2 hours; a film-length chase scene isn’t exciting unless it’s got the intensity of Mad Max: Fury Road. The entire final battle scene (which was, in itself, very good, and contained some lovely call-backs to the Battle of Hoth) should have been brought forward thirty minutes.
Finn and Rose’s mission to Space Monaco was a bit of a missed opportunity. While it served to expand on the First Order/Resistance era of the Star Wars setting, some parts of it just felt a bit… well… prequel trilogy. I guess that that’s what Rian Johnson was going for at times, with the child slaves and the racing and all that, but there’s no reason to bring the bad bits along. But at least slavery was actually portrayed as a bad thing in The Last Jedi, rather than just an obstacle in Qui-Gon Jin’s discovery of Jesus Skywalker.
The other big let-down with The Last Jedi is that it was saddled with the same characters as The Force Awakens. Don’t get me wrong – they were great characters, but they were created for Episode 7, not Episode 8. The main plot of the film explored Rey’s personal journey, and Kylo Ren’s parallel degeneration. However, the subplots felt like the writers were scrabbling around for something for Finn and Poe to do (other than each other, which didn’t actually happen – sorry, Tumblr).
There were loads of opportunities to mention midi-chlorians, but they never did. I wonder if this was because Luke wasn’t taught properly and so understanding of midi-chlorians never really made it through into the modern setting’s understanding of the Force, after the Emperor killed off virtually every other Force-user during the age of the Empire. Or maybe Johnson just tacitly acknowledged that midi-chlorians are bantha-balls.
The characterisation of Rey, Kylo Ren and General Hux were high points, along with the 30-year check-in on how Luke’s character has been developing. Kylo Ren and Hux were both particularly good, with both of them being deeply flawed individuals, neither of whom are actually well-suited for their roles. I look forward to seeing how they cope with working together in the next film; the First Order military have demonstrated they don’t respect Ren and Hux has shown that he’s willing but incapable of breaking away from domination by Ren.
Visually, the film was marvellous. The ‘bloody’ footprints on the salt flat made for some extremely stark colour contrasts when the red under-layer was exposed as the white crust was disturbed. (This phenomenon also provides a clue to a major plot event towards the climax of the film, as well as looking rather gruesome a few seconds later when a character gets targeted by heavy blaster fire.) Vice-Admiral Holdo’s crowning moment of awesome was beautiful, its visuals enhanced by the complete lack of sound at the key moment. The final shot with the kid with the broom, although possibly a bit cheesy, was also very nicely done.
Overall, despite not being the best Star Wars film, it’s still better than anything in the prequel trilogy, and does contain some incredible moments that more than make up for its weaker elements.