October 23, 2018

ANALYSIS: TRUE. We didn’t need Russians to convince us that Star Wars: The Last Jedi was bad.

After reading all of the negative reviews, I finally watched it last night on Netflix – and it was bad. Very bad. Prequels-level bad — and even worse. Old characters from the original three movies whose motivations and actions were completely wrong, an unnecessary subplot filled with plastic-looking CGI that goes on for a painful half-hour, and an exhausting running time of two and a half hours (a half hour longer than the brisk original 1977 movie) make for a numbing viewing experience. And that’s setting aside the film’s uber-woke politics, aptly summed up by John Nolte at Big Hollywood:

There is simply no question that Kathleen Kennedy’s decision to ham-handedly inject moments of wokeness into a beloved universe — a universe that is supposed to be set a long time ago in a faraway galaxy, mind you — is killing a franchise even the dreaded Lucas prequels could not kill.

Star Wars is supposed to be about fantasy, about escaping from reality, about taking a two-hour vacation away from our world… That does not mean the franchise cannot have something to say about the human condition or other big themes. Certainly, the original trilogy touched on these things. But that is not what Kennedy is doing. Rather, she is so inept and blunderingly determined to send a message, she constantly breaks the spell, constantly sets up tripwires in her own movies meant to shock us back into reality. Worse still, she hectors and scolds, divides and shames.

And even when Kennedy is not scolding and shaming, we cannot relax and enjoy the movie, because we know the sucker punch is coming. We are always on guard. Rather than focusing on the fantasy world, we’re now thinking about the real-world names in the credits. Thinking about how they hate us. Why they hate us. Just because we politely disagree.

Above all, Star Wars is supposed to be fun. The Kennedy Experience is not fun.

All of the above is true, but it’s really the endless running time that killed it for me; as with the original movie, it might have been possible to salvage The Last Jedi by ruthlessly chopping away the miles of unnecessary material. As John Podhoretz wrote in his review (headlined, “The Bore is Strong with This One”), “My problem with The Last Jedi is simple: Until the last 20 minutes, when it catches fire both visually and dramatically, I found it excruciatingly boring and startlingly devoid of any meaningful plot.” Those last 20 minutes are built around a callback to the Imperial walkers on Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back, but by the time they arrive, I felt bludgeoned by what is supposed to be a fun-filled popcorn movie. The Last Jedi is something akin to the third season of the original Star Trek, in which the actors couldn’t overcome new writers who simply didn’t understand the characters they were crafting scripts for, along with the glacial “we paid for all these expensive SFX shots, so they’re going in the film” pacing of Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

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