Flying into cinemas this December with all lasers firing is Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the eighth instalment in the long-running space opera that began in 1977. Picking up where 2015’s The Force Awakens left off, The Last Jedi sees Rey (Daisy Ridley) stuck on an island with the recently retired Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who spends most of his time being a grumpy git and saying overly dramatic things. Aside from the occasional Skype call (through the power of the Force) with her nemesis Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), Rey doesn’t have much to do on the wind-swept island, which is a shame as one feels her talent could have been better spent than listening to Luke endlessly sulk about life and the universe, as though he were a teenage emo, not a bearded man in his sixties.
The charming ex-storm trooper Finn (John Boyega) similarly finds himself without much to do. Sent on a bizarre quest to the galaxy’s most decadent casino, Finn finds himself involved in a side-plot that admirably critiques capitalism and animal cruelty but otherwise doesn’t add much to the two and a half hours long film. His friendship with newcomer Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) is cute but it’s a shame that he and Rey are kept apart for the whole film, as their chemistry was one of the best aspects of The Force Awakens.
Rian Johnson’s film has everything you could want from a Star Wars movie: lightsaber duels, epic spaceship battles, adorable CGI creatures… And yet, it ends up feeling rather underwhelming, dare I even say it: prequel-y. We are treated to such a menagerie of exotic alien animals that at times I felt like I was watching the next instalment of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, not Star Wars.
Kylo Ren remains the most compelling character, a villain who manages to seem both extravagantly evil and at the same time human. Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) and General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), however, both come across as melodramatic to an almost pantomime extent. At times the film almost feels like a parody of Star Wars: the multiple comical interludes might well be funny, but their superfluity puts the film out of balance. And whilst it is moving to see the late Carrie Fisher as Leia Organa again, she, like a lot of the film’s characters, finds herself with not much to do.
In the end Star Wars: The Last Jedi proves to be a visually stunning but ultimately disappointing film. The next segment in the trilogy will come out in 2019 and it will be back in the firmer hands of J. J. Abrams. Help us, J. J. Abrams: you’re our only hope.
Image: Jules Heath via. Disney/Lucasfilm