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Where Better to tie a bow around the franchise than with Luke Skywalker’s passing — Han Solo having already been despatched in 2015’s installment of this latest portion of the saga.
Actor/celebrity Carrie Fisher’s death last year means her iconic character Leia Organa can’t plausibly continue to offer nostalgic continuation to the rebel cause in the forthcoming final episode from this main plotline.
So we’re left with — what — Chewie to tug at our heartstrings? I’m as fond of Chewbacca as the next real Star Wars fan but a wordless Wookiee warrior seems unlikely to be able to generate substantial emotional surges on his own. Ditto C-3PO and R2-D2. So really the Last Jedi would make a great natural end of the line for the Skywalker saga. Instead there’s yet another episode (IX) to go.
But what of the new characters, I hear you cry. Rey! And Finn! And Poe!
All perfectly competent actors. But their characters just don’t have the chemistry and grit of the original oddball trio, Han, Leia and Luke.
That thrown together threesome was the rough diamond in the extraterrestrial sand — creatively rounded out with a bunch of organic and mechanical sidekicks to bring the incidental comedy and moments of genuine horror.
And, yes, I know there are multiple other plotlines/timelines also being churned out as standalone movies to keep the franchise delivering its quasi-yearly cash injection — including a forthcoming flick focused on the early life of Han Solo. But much of that is still incidental fringing hanging off the Skywalker plotline.
The brand new Star Wars trilogy — yes a whole THREE MORE movies are in the pipeline, announced last month — which will apparently break entirely with the Skywalker saga, certainly has its work cut out to inject new life into such a tired franchise. (The Star Wars brand name may be a license to print money but it comes with plenty of hard constraints and creative limits… Hello there made-for-merch cute animals!)
Harrison Ford’s original turn as Solo has proved the hardest act to follow. But even beyond his show-stealing charisma, there’s a lightness to those first films vs the sheer financial weight of the Star Wars brand now where teams of people necessarily have to be involved in making strategic decisions about a staggeringly long-running saga that’s bogged down by its own chequered history and the need to carry fans that cut across generations.
Was The Last Jedi a great Star Wars movie? It wasn’t the worst by any means. Though at this point, 30 years in with 10 Star Wars movies screened, that’s really not saying a great deal. At least it successfully avoided being the most boring (remember The Phantom Menace? Of course you don’t.)
For me the best of The Last Jedi was watching an older Leia holding the line in a commanding role. Albeit some of that was nostalgia, and the knowledge that Fisher’s story sadly ends here.
The rest of the film felt predictable — a stale mix of space and sword (saber) fights, with a largely uninspiring script and the film’s few focal points coming across as weakly diluted parallels from earlier moments in the franchise.
Ergo, Lord Snoke is a less interesting and less terrifying reincarnation of the Emperor. And Rey’s Jedi comes over as a posher female version of Luke. While Luke, the now grizzled Jedi training master, is like Yoda without the laughs.
BB-8 vs R2-D2? Well, I guess they made the same droid spin around so it goes faster or something.
As for Kylo Ren, here he seems more emo than evil. Which is maybe a progression of sorts.
Benicio del Toro tries his best to bring something fresh to a cameo role as a Han Solo-esque space rogue. But he’s playing a Han Solo-esque space rogue so even Han Solo himself would have had trouble pulling off such an over-exposed trick.
Kids and action film fans coming to the franchise afresh will probably find something to enjoy. But for this long time fan at least, the force feels weak — and getting weaker.