The Last Jedi: a conflict between light and dark

THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE LAST JEDI

Last night I saw the latest instalment of the Star Wars ‘nonalogy’. I really enjoyed the Force Awakens and loved Rogue One so had high hopes for this film. However, like one of its main themes, I came away conflicted. A billion words will already have been written about the film but I wanted to get some of my thoughts down about how I read the film and my reaction.

tl;dr;

A conflicted film with some fantastic themes and performances at its core but diluted by some unnecessary story arcs and characters and an over-dependence on comedy and CGI. 7/10

So …

A core theme of the Last Jedi is the tension between the light and dark sides of the force. However, this dichotomy resulted in two very different films competing for my attention.

For me the evolution of Ben Solo and Rey was the best part of the film, with brilliant performances from Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley, expertly mediated by Mark Hamill. Rey’s development was heavily reminiscent of Luke’s journey in the Empire Strikes Back and at times echoed the darkest parts of the original trilogy. The battle between Rey, Ben/Ren and Snoke was a highlight of the film and ultimately one of the darkest and most suspenseful moments in all of the Star Wars films.

However … with the dark there must also be light and this is where the film failed for me. Alongside Ren/Rey’s story arc is the ongoing battle between the New Order and the Resistance, the latter trying to flee in a protracted pursuit that spans the entire film.

Unfortunately for me these parts of the film felt over-reliant on comedy and CGI to underpin and stretch out a much weaker storyline that was there to prop up rather than complement Rey’s story. The survival of Leia – especially given the death last year of actress Carrie Fisher – seemed an odd choice whilst there were scores of unnecessary scenes and characters; from Finn and Rose’s journey to the casino city, Canto Bight to the culminating battle on Crait.

Although it was great to see two strong new female characters in Vice Admiral Holdo and Rose, these felt underused in these weaker parts of the film whilst Benicio del Toro’s scoundrel was criminally two-dimensional. John Boyega is a fantastic young actor but his character Finn was reduced to a slapstick, comic role until virtually the last scene of the film. And let’s not even discuss Captain Phasma or the Porgs.

Speaking as a socialist there was a nice sub-theme about the dangers of capitalism and the commercialism of war (somewhat ironic in a merchandise-fuelled Disney event) but this was lost in a heavy-handed delivery that made me wonder at times whether the film actually had two directors, especially given how wonderfully and subtly directed the scenes featuring Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley were.

I sat through the Last Jedi wanting to love it but at times I really struggled.

On the one hand this felt like a film that was passing the baton on to a new generation of Star Wars heroes: a New(er) Hope. This is both a bold and necessary step for the series to take and it definitely draws a line under Star Wars as a narrative about the Skywalker dynasty.

But this also felt like a passing of the baton on to a new generation of audience. My kids loved the film and I definitely came away thinking this was more a film for them than it was for me.

Maybe it’s nostalgia, maybe it’s just getting older but I – like so many others – grew up with Star Wars. My good friend Ryan pointed me in the direction of an article entitled, the Last Jedi doesn’t care what you think about Star Wars. However, I wish it had thought I cared.

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