The lights dim. The audience is breathlessly waiting in the darkness, eyeballs fixated on the silver screen. The Lucasfilm logo materializes – everyone applauds. “A long time ago…” in blue text indicates that they’ll never deviate from tradition. Then arrives William’s iconic main title piece, accompanied by the simplistic yet effective title crawl. The entire fandom as well as the general public is pretty familiarized with these elements which announce the return of yet another Star Wars episode, the space opera franchise which just might be the biggest cultural phenomenon in movie history. It enjoys constant praise for its grandeur, its impact on cinematic history and the mythology behind its characters but having aged four decades where every story line and character decisions are analyzed to death, its bound to attract harsh criticism.
Lets stick to Episode 8 for now.
The Last Jedi can be summed up as a simple game of cat and mouse. The First Order, with its impressive armada of Destroyers and TIE Fighters, attempt to crush the Resistance’s modest fleet of carriers and X-wing fighters. Multiple character arcs are explored – Rey’s training under Luke Skywalker, Kylo Ren’s attempts to find the protagonists for his master Supreme Leader Snoke, Princess Leia’s guidance to ensure the Resistance escapes unscathed from the First Order’s attacks with the assistance of Finn, Poe and cutesy droid BB-8.
Writer-Director Rian Johnson’s take on the Star Wars saga has taken me by surprise. While his direction and execution is admirable, the writing is uninspired at times. The humor rarely works, the dialogue is slippery at times. Certain attempts to paint a picture which brings modern world parallelisms in the story, while well-intended, are ineffective. Through this movie, Johnson explores the lore which has guided this universe from the 70s and plays with it like a cat given a ball of yarn. It offers an interesting take on the Jedi and Sith views but does nothing substantial with it. The main focus, is more or less character development for Luke, Rey and Kylo, which works as intended to my delight.
Even though he’s partly ignoring the crowd-pleasing expectations of this movie, Johnson manages to deliver some of the most memorable sights in franchise history. Other technical aspects such as sound design, score, cinematography and CGI complement the story beautifully. Excellent choreography for the lightsaber fights, tension-inducing moments in space battles is still guaranteed even though we’re nine films in. Almost makes up for the pacing and structural issues.
Overall, the movie’s intention of going in a different direction than expected is admirable. However, the final product is not without flaws. You lose some, you gain some.