This review contains spoilers from films in the Star Wars saga
The Last Jedi opens with Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) prank calling General Hux (Domnhall Gleeson) before going on an extremely dangerous mission. This is the sort of comic relief handy to Guardians of the Galaxy, but the continued attempts to transpose it here has left The Last Jedi smugly light when it could’ve been better served with a tone akin to The Empire Strikes Back.
Production-wise, The Last Jedi looks and sounds fantastic. The star wars themselves are the most bombastic of the saga, yet the CGI never feels cheap or overdone. The planets all look great, with scenery varied without ever ripping off the original saga (though the final battle was lovingly reminiscent of the confrontation in Hoth of Episode V).
The problems lie not with Rian Johnson’s execution of scenes but his shooting script. There are way too many characters, and new creatures that in their cheap comedy remind of Jar Jar Binks in singularity and the Ewoks in general.
There is no point too monumental to be checked by a throwaway gag with signaled music cue. The thematic confrontation between light and dark that is at the core of the saga is only delved into through Kylo Ren, and for all of the time Rey (Daisy Ridley) is on Ahch-To she is never convincingly portrayed as fighting with the darkness.
The greatest slight is the portrayal of the characters from the original trilogy. Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), R2-D2 (Jimmy Vee) and C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) are chronically underused bits of fluff, and Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) spends a large portion of the film unconscious. Yoda’s (Frank Oz) appearance is a jolt, but ultimately only serves as a reminder of how ridiculous the character can be if not handled properly.
Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) is the only figure from the original trilogy with sizeable screentime and a character arc. Some fans not like the optimistic and headstrong figure of Episode IV becoming a miserable recluse, but decades of profound hurt can do that to a man.
Characters from Episode VII are also mishandled. Why the effort was made for Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong’o) to be established in The Force Awakens to get a ninety-second cameo here is beyond me. Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) is as underdeveloped as before. Rey is with Luke for the majority of the film, leaving her friendship with Finn (John Boyega) unexplored. Poe’s subplot exists outside the company of either.
Finn is instead lumbered with Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), whose only real character features are a mawkish backstory and stubbornness. The film is overlong, and in no small part due to their subplot taking them to Canto Bight. It’s a nice touch to replace Mos Eisley with a true hive of villainy, a casino for the wealthy, but it’s clear from the get-go that this storyline is incidental and all action from there on in is uninvolving.
The real reason for this diversion is to introduce Benicio Del Toro’s self-serving crook DJ. Del Toro is a fantastic actor who plays the part well, but like so many in this film suffers from a limited screentime in an overcrowded world.
A highlight of the film as per The Force Awakens is Adam Driver as Kylo Ren. You can feel the conflict roiling within him, and a confrontation with Rey is the undisputed highlight of the film. This scene had echoes of both the Episode V and VI finales. That the film carried on for a half hour more after this is a shame, as emotionally and narratively there wasn’t much to go on from there.
What is left is one of the most visually exciting moments of the saga, decrepit TIE fighters leaving great red trails across the salt flats in a final showdown. Yet even here the film is dogged by cheap comic moments, laboured sentimentality and unnecessary creature introductions.
Film Twitter is ablaze with people viciously defending The Last Jedi from all comers, insisting it’s the most creative and engaging Star Wars yet. I’m sure people were saying the same of The Phantom Menace on its release.