When I’d had a little time to digest the events of The Force Awakens I realized that it was not, in any way, a good movie. Since then, if anything, my opinion has deteriorated further.
Without wanting to rehash it all again here, I’ll sum it up simply: I don’t think JJ Abrams is a good filmmaker, and I don’t think Disney cares whether he is or not.
Now we get The Last Jedi, to somehow try to follow up on its mediocre predecessor. It’s definitely better.
The first thing to know about TLJ, and one of my most appreciated aspects of it, is that it puts in the time to destroy half of the garbage that TFA set up. It methodically ripped down several of Abrams’s ridiculous tropes, killed off some of the sillier characters, and made sure that any Star Wars going forward wouldn’t be able to rely on that silly garbage. New ones will need to invent new story, not keep rehashing the old ones… which will be interesting, as the next film is set to be directed by Abrams again.
It took risks, a lot of them, and some big ones. These are part of why some fans are freaking out like babies about it right now, but they also did a good job of adding some life to the old series. I appreciate this: the worst thing that could have happened is that it remain as safe and mushy, storyless, as TFA was. Some of the acting was good… some very bad. The visuals were just fine because of course they were going to be. That will never change.
The film also had some major problems. Item one on the list, and one that I felt TFA has needed as well, was a vicious editing. Practically murderous. Easily 40 minutes of film could have been cut out of it without losing any critical storyline. Here’s a tip: if you need a lengthy potty break, go when they get to the casino planet. It added a massive, completely unnecessary chunk of screen time solely to point out that the wealthy play both sides of the war, plus a healthy (and good) shoutout to that military industrial complex. A couple of characters could have/should have been cut entirely, and don’t really add a sensible reason to be there. No, three.
The scenes with Luke, which are also the focus of a lot of dumb fan ire, were good, but probably needed to be tightened up significantly, or a rewrite to make it flow better. That said, what it lacked in cohesion it made up for in changing the nature of the Jedi and the Force. I appreciate that, it was a good callout of some of the Jedi-oriented conceit that a lot of the writers doing side stories have tried to get away with for ages.
So, enjoyable, for me being a curmudgeon about it. Was it a good movie? Oh good god no. The dialogue was generally terrible, the overall plot was sort of nonsensical, the characters remained two-dimensional (aside, oddly, from Kylo Ren who had been terrible in TFA. Props to Adam Driver, but also to whomever wrote for him this time along, he came a long way.), and a hell of a lot of the film was a naked attempt to sell more toys. BB-8 now has an evil twin, of sorts, for instance. Goody. The pacing is bad, the editing is shameful, the cinematography is good but it doesn’t really matter when they aim it at a green screen and then plaster CGI all over it, blah blah.
I remain no-longer-a-fan of Star Wars. The more I think about it, the more I think most fans/former fans my age only really loved the first three movies. Anything past that is churning out whatever can be churned for the money, and that nostalgia is blinding people to the crappy stories they’re getting.
Episode IX, in Abrams’s hands, will certainly be more of that.