Best for Last?

No spoilers. Yet. I avoided them all, including the trailer, so I won’t ruin your fun, either.

I’m on record that however good the experience of watching Force Awakens was, the movie itself was essentially a remake of New Hope.1 I watched it again yesterday in anticipation of … well, you know. After a year away from it, the first 50 minutes are really, really good. And then the Death Star 3 shows up and it’s Newer Hope and you remember who directed it. With Force Awakens, what we knew about J.J. Abrams turned out to be true — he knows how to start a great story, but has no idea how to end one. (See Lost, Alias, Star Trek, and, really, pretty much everything he’s ever done.)

If you were concerned, put your mind at rest — The Last Jedi does not have that problem. It has other problems, but they’re minor in comparison. Now we know Rian Johnson can make a pretty good movie (Looper was an interesting idea with a mediocre implementation).

The other big question was how bad Mark Hamill was going to be (even Star Wars fanatics recognize that Hamill was the weak link in the original trilogy chain). As it turns out, not too, not too bad at all.

Rey and Finn are developed in interesting ways. Kylo Ren is less of a whiner. Poe has more screen time but didn’t grow on me any more than he did in Force Awakens (although he has a great first conversation with General Hux that recalls his first one with Ren in FA). Leia is less sappy (and has a great re-entrance). (Johnson handed Abrams, called back into duty for IX after the original director was fired, an interesting problem.) The new characters are mostly well used and well acted, including Benicio del Torro being Benicio del Torro. The new creatures (there are more than you think) are cute without turning into ewoks. The question of Rey’s parents … hey, I said no spoilers and I meant it!

The biggest problem is pacing. The movie is at least twenty minutes too long, and the overall rhythm is erratic. You’re going to look at your watch at least once. It’s Goblet of Fire after Prisoner of Azkaban.2

Overall, I still think Rogue One is the best of the Disney era, but Last Jedi is a close second. For obvious reasons, I suspect that will still be true even after IX. We can at least hope the drop-off won’t be as dramatic (and traumatic) as Empire to Return.

We didn’t elect a guy who likes to date teenage girls, we threw out net neutrality, we had a good Star Wars release. Two out of three is better than most of the weeks of 2017.

  1. Just Star Wars to the old-timers.
  2. If you don’t know what that means, should you really be watching a Star Wars movie?

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