by Carrie Black
Star Wars has been, for lack of a better and more accurate term, the love of my life since I was in grade school. I remember watching Star Wars: A New Hope for the first time, sitting on the floor in the middle of our living room, cradling a bowl of popcorn. I remember countless birthday and Christmas gifts comprised of Star Wars books, games, and, my favorite, LEGO sets. I love Star Wars. So to endure the two hours and thirty five minutes of The Last Jedi was a whole bundle of disappointed with a few shoulder sags here and there for a number of reasons.
First, the humor. I know there are jokes here and there in the original saga and prequels, but Disney, in my opinion, went overboard, trying to fit petty jokes in too many places of the script. They moved from the normal brief chuckle amidst conflict and dialogue to inevitable eye rolls and facepalms with each poorly executed quip.
The second reason The Last Jedi was a let down for me was because of the portrayal of the Force (here come some spoilers). The Force connection between Rey and Kylo Ren is an ability not seen in Star Wars yet. I, and a number of friends with whom I have discussed this, felt that this connection was too similar to the connection between Voldemort and Harry in Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix. Then in the closing battle of the film Luke Skywalker uses the Force to essentially be seen on the planet of D’Qar while he is physically present in his little hideout spot elsewhere in the galaxy. Again, this portrayal of the Force is something that has never been introduced in Star Wars before. It is admittedly an interesting and integral part of the scene. However, George Lucas and his various directors for seven films prior to The Last Jedi clearly established the concept of the Force. This new portrayal is difficult to accept.
One of the larger disappointments was the introduction of the character of Vice Admiral Holdo. This character, played by Laura Dern, takes over command of the Resistance in the temporary absence of General Organa. And then she dies. Her introduction to the Star Wars universe is not only short-lived, but it is almost fruitless. It is as if the writers tried to make a quick fix on a hole in the story with a wadded up tissue instead of using the industrial strength, as-seen-on-TV Flex Seal.
I have a few more complaints about the shortcomings of The Last Jedi, but I will leave you with this final one. The Force Awakens, which was released in 2015, introduced many questions to the newly revamped Star Wars canon: Who are Rey’s parents? Where did this Snoke guy come from? How does Rey have the Force? I came into The Last Jedi thinking that these questions might be answered, or at least addressed. And — surprise, surprise — in large part they aren’t. The topic of Rey’s parents is briefly touched on, but apart from that, fans are left in bewilderment for another year (or perhaps forever, depending on how Episode IX is scripted).
Despite my rumblings and grumblings about the utter disappointment The Last Jedi was for me, there is hope. A new hope, if you will.
There are many similarities between the basics of The Last Jedi and Episode V, The Empire Strikes Back: the mystery of the overarching leader of the bad guys, the lack of depth of plot, the unanswered inquiries, the odd and sometimes nonexistent character development, to name a few.
In addition, when The Empire Strikes Back was released in 1980, the film got mixed reviews, just as The Last Jedi has received. Among the more negative side of the reviews on The Empire Strikes Back can be found further similarities between Episodes V and VIII. Take a look at some excerpts from reviews from 1980:
“In some ways, ‘Empire’ can be regarded as the most expensive, elaborate and well-done two-hour teaser for for the next episode to come in a couple years or so.” — The Denver Post “‘The Empire Strikes Back’ has no plot structure, no character studies let alone character development, no emotional or philosophical point to make.” — The Washington Post
“As for the idea of the Force, it is a mishmash of current cultic fashions without any base in ideas.” — The Washington Post
The same rumblings and grumblings that many Star Wars fans carry about The Last Jedi are similar to those of the fans in 1980. The Empire Strikes Back, when it was first released, saw the same disappointed fans and critiques that The Last Jedi is facing. Yet The Empire Strikes Back is seen as a great Star Wars film. Of course this is largely due to the following film in Episode VI, and the prequels, which all help in connecting the dots. But this fact is where the optimism lies. We may have to wait it out until Episode IX comes out in 2019, but all is not lost. Empire was redeemed, and The Last Jedi can be too. There is hope for the Star Wars universe after all.