Friday, December 29, 2017

Star Wars: The Last Jedi [dir. Rian Johnson]

So one of the last things I did last night was catching the last show of The Last Jedi (TLJ), and these here are my lasting impressions. Rather decent by way of disposable entertainment I thought, if also beset by the customary problems of these massively extended franchises. The good bits first. It worked a lot better than The Force Awakens, where almost everything other than the parts they were ripping off the 1977 Star Wars (fuck all this Episode 4 bullshit) was tedious filler. It's nice that they're at least trying for some fresh angles in a done-to-death enterprise. In TLJ it's not always the bone-headed "okay, we got one shot at this, so let's go blow shit up" plan that works, and even when it does there are consequences (well, at least for the peripheral characters there are). Like in Rogue One (which I also liked) the Rebels are not painted all-white and writer-director Rian Johnson manages this without too much ham-handed political discourse and post 9/11 paranoia metaphors. Some of the stuff from Rey's Jedi training are cool - that fun bit when Luke asks her to "reach out", the infinite mirrors scene. While the space battles have a sameness to them (what an age we live in, when meticulously detailed visuals of gigantic ships getting blown apart elicit a yawn), the climactic saber fight in which an elite Sith guard is taken down carries a propulsive intensity. Veteran John Williams' score rehashes the well-known themes, nonetheless I found  it sufficiently rousing to enhance my enjoyment.

On the other hand, at 2.5 hours, TLJ has butt-hurting levels of tedium. The entire strand where rebels Finn and Rico go to the Dubai-like planet with casinos and camel races, get imprisoned and escape, stands disjointed from the rest of the picture and achieves little other than introducing a convenient hacker character (Benicio Del Toro, slumming it these days). It's like watching video-game footage in which a player opts for ALL the side missions. Yes, when you have several characters you need to give them something to do, but don't take audience investment for granted. And talking of killing off the old, why the fuck is Yoda still hanging about? A relatively good scene of Luke destroying the old Jedi Legacy is spoiled by this dyslexic puppet. If Ghost Yoda can come back, you might as well bring in Ghost Vader to spice things up. The new Emperor (the head bad guy, whatever his name is) continues the legacy of Star Wars bad guys that love to monologue while they conveniently leave around the shit that gets them killed. A minor peeve is that the Jedi seem very reluctant to use force powers during combat, which are exclusively (ha!) saber-rattling. You'd think a scrap between elite Jedi would involve at least some neat bits of force push or lightning but no, apparently they are purists that believe in a fair fight even when they are evil.

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