Please note this review contains spoilers.
Rian Johnson’s sequel to The Force Awakens took fans by surprise with some questionable storyline choices.
Just as much as what was included, many were surprised by what was excluded.
Whilst the movie did provide many cinematic treats, see part one of part one of Pink Bantha’s Last Jedi review, unfortunately too many scenes simply should have been left on the cutting room floor. Spoilers from now on.
There’s no doubt that Maz Kanata’s character in the Force Awakens worked really well.
Previously, we hadn’t seen an underworld fixer, so Maz’s blend of barkeep and kingpin was smart. Mercifully the character wasn’t overused.
However Maz’s use in Last Jedi was silly at best. Sure Maz’s character is tough, but to see her flying around in the middle of a gunfight just wasn’t credible. A simple conversation over the holonet would have been sufficient.
All Sci-fi films require a willful suspension of disbelief on the behalf of the viewer for a fantastical story to work. But too often in The Last Jedi this was broken and the viewer, sometimes literally, prompted to say out loud – what, really!
Which leads on to…
At a hefty one hundred and fifty one minutes this was the longest Star Wars film to date.
A long film isn’t necessarily a bad film but more Star Wars, just because you can, isn’t always for the best.
Many have pointed to Finn and Rose’s pointless mission to Canto Bight in this regard. There’s nothing wrong with a casino and being the middle film in a trilogy Finn and Rose’s failed mission storyline is to be expected.
But the length of this whole scene was just too much. Maz’s silly cameo falls into this category too.
Sure, Finn has lived a sheltered life but there’s no reason why either Rose of Poe couldn’t have simply said, based upon their life before the resistance, that the best slicer in the galaxy can be found on Canto Bight. Done.
Unfortunately the film just needed a really good edit to remove 20 minutes.
Snoke and Phasma dying
A seemingly dead character returning unexpectedly is a movie trope we all understand. So let’s keep that in mind for this next point, but surely we can say Snoke and Phasma are dead.
People die in Star Wars. We all know that, but some characters manage to capture our imagination more than others.
Often this isn’t for their complex involvement in the plot but rather for their design, visual impact and coolness.
The most famous example of all is surely Boba Fett. His design has become the stuff of legend. It’s copied in conventions around the world and every child’s favorite toy after watching the Return of the Jedi was their Boba Fett figure.
In fact the success of the design alone has triggered the entire history of the Madalorians to be written into canon by both Clone Wars and Rebels.
Darth Maul is another. Why or why wasn’t he kept alive? But maybe because of this these characters can never disappoint us. And so they are forever viewed through rose tinted spectacles.
As bounty hunter and apprentice both characters were expendable. But only after, in Maul’s case, a truly epic battle with Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon. Which for many is still their favorite lightsaber fight.
But Snoke and Phasma – really? If Darth Maul was the breakout character from the prequel trilogy and Boba Fett the breakout character from the original trilogy then surely Phasma in that armour and cloak could have been the breakout character of the new trilogy?
Phasma’s back story wasn’t the issue here. A small tweak in the story where Phasma defeats Finn using a surprise weapon and then kills Rose would setup an amazing battle between the two characters in the final film.
But Phasma across both films TFA and TLJ does nothing. Nothing cool, nothing even noteworthy. At least Maul was an amazing Sith swordsman and Fett had a cool ship, a jet back and a rocket propelled rope weapon.
And so we must move on to Snoke. In time we’ll probably find out exactly who he was but it really was disappointing so little was revealed. How did he turn Ren away from the light side, was he part of the Empire, was he trained by the Sith and how did become leader of the First Order?
Sadly all questions that were left unanswered. Admittedly Snoke’s death was a good plot twist but we knew so little about him that his death didn’t really matter.
There’s nothing wrong with trying to wrongfoot the audience with a clever plot twist, but when the end result leaves viewers unhappy and frustrated then you’re really trying too hard.
It’s all about timing
We can’t live in the past. But the past does inform the present and Star Wars movies have their own rhythm and structure.
The original trilogy introduced not only a physical gap of three years between films but a gap of circa three years in the timeline of the films themselves. This mechanism, which was used to advance the story, was followed by the prequel trilogy too.
This simple mechanism really kept the viewers on their toes and pushed the story forward in significant ways.
This was one of Lucas’ storytelling strengths. We also saw this with A New Hope. Sure, it was the first film, but it started right in the middle of a space battle, just as an emperor was about to take over from the Galactic Senate. In short the film-maker said ‘Come on – follow me and keep up’.
We weren’t spoon fed the background of characters like Luke and Leia. We learned what they were like by their actions. Their background only came later.
And so to the issue with The Last Jedi. For the first time, a Star Wars trilogy film started immediately from the end of the last and immediately our problems begin.
Firstly, the First Order seem to have taken over the whole galaxy according to the opening crawl but that wasn’t how we left events. Yes the homeworld of the republic had been destroyed but a seemingly large blow had been dealt to the First Order with the destruction of Starkiller base.
From the outset events seemed at odds with each other.
More importantly in term of our heroes, Rey simply didn’t have any time to develop her abilities. And yet we we’re to believe she was ready to face Snoke after just a few days practice with Luke?
Let’s be honest. Luke also faced Vader in the second film of the original trilogy. But that was after three years had passed and he was clearly much more comfortable with his powers, and just in terms of experience he had become an experienced commander in the rebel alliance.
Rey’s comfort levels with her powers do seem strange seeing as she started using them a few weeks before The Last Jedi takes place. In fact a number of storyline elements seem rushed.
Perhaps with just a little more patience, a more believable story could have been told.
Probably the biggest mistake of the new trilogy was that Luke, Han and Leia didn’t appear in a scene together.
Sure, we get it, this film was about the future with Rey, Poe and Finn and not about the past. But the past is the reason why we all went to see the new trilogy! We all knew by the end of the trilogy that most if not all of the original trilogy would be killed off.
But this drip drip of our heros dying is painful in the extreme. Losing Han in TFA was gutting and losing Luke was heat-breaking in TLJ. We’ll have to wait and see how Leia’s death in Episode 9 will be presented. Perhaps some deleted scenes or even unfinished scenes from TFA and TLJ exist that can be used.
Whatever happens Star Wars will have changed forever.
Have you seen…
Rebels with a cause
Could Solo be the best Star Wars film yet?
Doubts persist over Alden Ehrenreich in new Solo trailer
Last Jedi review part 2: The Bad
Last Jedi review part 1: The Good
New trilogy to take Star Wars – Back to the Future?
Last Jedi trailer #2 threatens to reveal all
What if? The Phantom Menace – Special Edition
Four people Snoke definitely is not
The era of the original trilogy will soon be over