“It’s All Been Done.” The song by Canada’s eighth best band, Barenaked Ladies, was bouncing around my head as I watched the latest installment of “Star Wars.” A galaxy, far, far away isn’t nearly as exciting as it used to be—not since Disney bought the franchise and turned it into an annual blockbuster, money-printing machine. The series has been floundering since the lackluster “The Force Awakens” opened in 2015, followed by the even more formulaic “Rogue One.” “The Last Jedi” is the third and most salient example of how it’s all been done, and Disney has little interest in doing anything differently.
Trust me when I say, “This sucks.” It’s fine to dislike insanely popular movies, but when writing columns and reviews for publications, being a downer leads to charges of elitism and other assorted dickery. I went in hoping “Star Wars” was going to be an improvement—a movie both entertaining and compelling that continues to expand the galaxy George Lucas created so many years ago. “The Last Jedi” is entertaining at times, and for a few moments manages to be compelling, but the idea of world-building is long dead. By the way, I’m about to spoil the shit out of this movie, so if readers who haven’t seen it yet may want to flip over to the food review on page 27.
The movie starts the brave Resistance fighters, led by Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), once again fleeing the evil empire-lite, First Order, led by the villainous Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis). It seems like Leia’s lot in life is to pick the side with the least likely chance to win and blather on incessantly about hope. Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) still is shooting first, and uninterested in asking questions about the countless corpses left in the wake of his terrible leadership style. After getting their asses handed to them, it seems the Resistance is about to be quashed once and for all, unless they can talk Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) into ending his self-imposed exile.
Things haven’t gone well for Luke over the years. His new school for enterprising young Jedi was a bust—it was about as beneficial to the young members as Catholicism was to young altar boys. After having his spirit broken by his dark-side, emo-goth-nephew Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), he decided to live out his days in exile. Unfortunately, his hermit lifestyle is interrupted by young Jedi-wannabe Rey (Daisy Ridley). Will he scrub away his crusty exterior and find the will to love the Force again?
“The Last Jedi” is a muddled, messy melange of good intentions and terrible execution: two-and-a-half hours of very good-looking vistas and about 45 minutes of excitement. There’s another 45 minutes of interesting ideas and a solid hour of bloated padding that make me question if its filmmakers and Disney have any real idea what they’re doing. It’s strange for the second film in a new trilogy to feel so disconnected from the first. “The Force Awakens” ended with young Rey bringing Luke Skywalker his lightsaber back. The next moment in “The Last Jedi,” he chucks it over his shoulder and shows a lack of interest in revisiting that part of his life. It also acts as a metaphor for writer/director Rian Johnson being uninterested in carrying the baton passed over to him by “The Force Awakens” director JJ Abrams.
So many ideas introduced in “The Force Awakens” are completely abandoned in “The Last Jedi.” Mysteries, like “Who are Rey’s parents?”, are answered in a flat, matter-of-fact way without weight, while others, like “Who is Supreme Leader Snoke?”, are completely abandoned. He’s just a really bad guy with really strong powers. Want to know more? Shove it up your ugly ass because Rian Johnson and Disney aren’t going to tell you. The Disney-made “Star Wars” movies are about creating cool moments—and there are plenty of cool fights and space battles in “The Last Jedi.” But its characters are treated like terrible dialogue-spewing exposition pieces, with 75 percent given nothing to do.
Adam Driver still is the only character with any sense of depth or complexity. He’s becoming angrier, more powerful and committed to embracing the dark side. All other characters are just paint-by-number bores who use words like “hope” and “destiny” as if they’ve earned our good will.
The truth is, Disney has taken the most popular franchise in film history and pressed it into a familiar formula that feels less novel with each subsequent installment. Some people will like the film simply because it brings back Luke Skywalker, alongside the familiar elements audiences are accustomed to: lightsaber battles, big action scenes. But let me be clear: It is garbage. Just because we’ve eaten trash for so long we’ve learned to like the taste doesn’t change the fact we’re eating rubbish.