More noise than signal

Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

Republished from the show notes of my other site, Fuds on Film.

At this point, I’m as tired of writing about these new Star Wars films as you no doubt are hearing me complaining about them, so let’s try and rattle through this with some alacrity.

Following on from the patricidal events of The Force Awakens, we join the Rebels discovering a fleet of First Order dreadnoughts reverse parking into their orbital driveway, throwing laser rocks at their space swings, the fannies. Overmatched, the Rebels beat feet, while Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron leads an assault on one of the bigger fish with an ultimately doomed fleet of bombers that aren’t like any craft I’ve ever seen in my X-Wing video game training, grumble grumble, as well as being a showreel for Hollywood’s tenuous grasp of how gravity works in space.

The Rebels jump away through hyperspace, but are followed immediately by the baddies, tracking them through some technobabble means that will require someone to slip on board the enemy flagship and disable it, that duty falling to John Boyega’s Finn and Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose Tico, but first they’ll need to undertake some harebrained excursion to the planet of the dinosaur derby to find an obviously untrustworthy hacker in Benecio Del Toro’s DJ.

Meanwhile Daisy Ridley’s Rey is camped outside Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill)’s shack hoping to annoy him into training her like it’s Project Mayhem or something, to which he eventually sort of agrees, although any training that happens appears to be largely accidental. She will, however, uncover more of her connection to the Force and Adam Driver’s psychopathic emo-manchild Kylo Ren. She seems to think he can be turned from the dark side, but from the way Luke tells it, that doesn’t seem likely.

All of this leads into an ending that I suppose I’d best leave somewhat vague in case you’re one of the six or seven people on the planet that’s not seen this, but suffice to say it channels The Empire Strikes Back in tone and outcome, if not actual events, or quality.

There’s been a lot of whining from the usual manchildren about The Last Jedi, as there is about any film with women in it these days, but I’m not completely clear on what their complaint is. Neither, I suspect, are they. As best I can gather, it reduces to writer / director Rian Johnston introducing some small degree of subtlety into the Star Wars universe. Loathe as I am to admit it, they may have something approaching a point, as a franchise built on Laser Space Wizards is not the natural home for subtlety.

As such, when a couple of mysteries set up in The Last Jedi are discarded in passing like a piece of garbage, well, it’s the sort of trick that would work well in Brick or some other neo-noir piece, but in the valley of the Laser Space Wizards? Well, I can see why people are annoyed. I was annoyed. Not because of any threat to the patriarchy or whatever the nuttier of the fanbois are peeved about, but because the situation at the end of this film is essentially the same as the start of the film, and not moved on very much from the start of The Force Awakens, if we’re honest about it. So it all just feels like a waste of five and a whatever hours of my rapidly diminishing lifespan.

Also, there’s about a one hour stretch of this film where everyone acts like they’ve just woken up and groggily make the worst decisions possible, sometimes with a wilful lack of knowledge, because otherwise this film would have no plot at all. Particular anti-plaudits go here to poor Domhnall Gleeson’s General Hux, who not only is an idiot, but is described as such by his boss, Supreme Leader Diana Ross, who is also an idiot, because his reasoning for having an idiot as the commander of his Space Navy is that he’s easy to manipulate. You don’t need to manipulate him, dummy, you’re his commanding officer. Order him. Unless chains of command work differently for Space Fascists.

Now that we’re firmly in the Star Wars-a-year groove, it feels less and less necessary to give y’all much of a review for them. You pretty much know what to expect, and this, despite the few aforementioned wrongfootings that aren’t all that important in the grand arc of things, pretty much delivers what you’d expect. It’s fine. I can no longer muster the enthusiasm for this franchise to either love or hate anything it does. It’s just more background noise, and this is as good as I can reasonably expect background noise to be.

I hope that we’ll look back in a few years and say that this was the permission slip given to every director and production team that follows to do something completely different to the established Lucas-based Star Wars films. I’m not holding my breath, though. Meh out of five.