Saturday, 16 December 2017

The Brutal Truth: Star Wars The Last Jedi - By Guest Blogger Steven


Just a mere two years ago, something was awoken in Star Wars fans across the globe. Snoke told us so in the opening line of the first trailer for Episode VII. Was it our hope? Was it our faith? Was it that feeling called optimism; could Star Wars once again return to the glory days of the original trilogy? As the sun sets on 2017, whatever it was, has gone. Disney, Kathleen Kennedy and Rian Johnson unloaded a 12 gauge shotgun and dragged out the cold, lifeless carcass of everything Star Wars represented and sold it for billions of dollars to audiences worldwide. 

"I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened." To be clear, I have no bias against the Disney era of Star Wars. The Force Awakens was a thoroughly watchable journey, based loosely on the plot of A New Hope, which balanced nostalgia with a healthy amount of humour. A plethora of new and energetic characters combined effortlessly with the cast of the original trilogy. Han Solo brought the quality and his eventual death gave us the drama. Only the lack of screen time given to Luke Skywalker and the lazy similarities to Episode IV held back this film. 

The follow up was 2016's spin-off, Rogue One, a film I simply rank as my third favourite from a galaxy far, far away. By Christmas 2016, Disney had miraculously pulled off the impossible and recovered Star Wars from the politically charged, CGI-mess fests which are known as the prequels. As the credits rolled on Episode VII, JJ Abrams had successfully teased the fans and left us with a delicate cliffhanger with an intriguing finale. As Rey handed Luke his old lightsaber, JJ completed his handover to Rian Johnson. Who is Rey and where does her connection to the force stem? Has Snoke been lurking in the background throughout the saga? Has he always been the ultimate puppet master, manipulating those from the dark side of the force? Why is Luke Skywalker in hiding and how powerful has he become? Ultimately, can good ever truly overcome evil? Since leaving the two apprentices, Rey and Kylo, embarking on their education down the light and dark sides of the force, respectively, we the fans have debated and pondered the aforementioned questions, amongst others, for twenty-four long months. 
 Surely with all of this new energy and the limitless possibilities, a cinematic moment of history similar to that of Darth Vader's fatherly confession to Luke in Episode V would be a certainty. This is not going to go the way you think! Sadly the film which was delivered by Rian Johnson is nothing more than 152 minutes of questionable cheese; a fluff piece so out of sync with the history of Star Wars, that even still after 24 hours of leaving the screening, I am left with a bitter taste in my mouth. Suddenly the problems which plagued the prequels; Jar Jar Binks and Anakin's issues with sand seem like a distant memory. Nothing more than a blip on George Lucas' now bulletproofed reputation. Was this really a Star Wars film I endured? I remain confused how a Star Wars film could conclude without the sound of a single lightsaber clash against another? 

Maybe I missed this moment while my head buried in my hands, as one embarrassing joke or scene played out after another. The awkward and often forced humour which cluttered the script was topped off by a humiliating scene of near-death experience, as a decomposing Princess Leia drifted lifeless through space. Instead of allowing the now-deceased Carrie Fisher the opportunity to depart the saga gracefully, the director chose for her character to learn the power of flight, so she could glide through space wreckage onto the landing bay of a cruiser. Thanks to this ridiculous idea, we can all look forward to CGI Princess Leia making a return for the next instalment. This was just one catastrophic error in a movie strewn with many more.

Finn's side plot to find an infamous code-breaker on a planetary sized Monte Carlo; and then ultimately back onto the First Order's dreadnought which had all the while been engaged in the slowest and least inspiring chase of a Resistance cruiser, which was oddly under threat from an ill-conceived Poe Dameron led mutiny, wound up being entirely fruitless and an utter waste of time. Not even the acting talents of Benicio del Toro who had been picked up along the way, could salvage any reason for his character's existence. However thanks to the visit to this new gambling-mad planet, Cantonica, the audience were treated to at least one writers strangely placed and not-so-subtle opinions on wealth inequality, arms dealing and animal rights. The lessons on morality did feel a little hypocritical coming from a film being produced by one of the world's wealthiest conglomerates.
 As for the journeys of our main protagonists and antagonists, their education in the force and the questions we had been left with since 2015; be prepared for disappointment. Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to. That's the only way to become what you are meant to be. The only logical explanation I can summon is that Rian Johnson had never watched a single Star Wars Episode, or he simply despised the saga and has now staged a master plan for its demise. The other possibility is that JJ Abrams forgot to pass the memo which would detail his ideas to follow on from The Force Awakens. Throughout all of the confusion and clutter which is The Last Jedi, you will not find any fluid or sensible attempt to explain the ultimate vision which had been born from Episode VII.

Snoke, the all-powerful Supreme Leader who's potential links to the Sith Lord, Darth Plagueis which had created a buzz of excitement following TFA, was the first character to fall victim of a lazy and botched screenplay, as he found himself decapitated by his own apprentice after no more than 20 minutes of screen time. Captain Phasma faired no better as she too met her demise after less than 5 minutes of screen time. Once again the valuable lessons from past mistakes had been ignored. Before the fans had enjoyed an opportunity to learn about the history and background of these latest on-screen villains, they had met their untimely deaths, mirroring the similar feat of both Darth Maul and Boba Fett. As for the background of Rey and the question mark over her lineage, we the audience were offered the game-changing revelation that her parents were nothing more than 'filthy junk traders' who had sold her for booze. No connection to the Skywalker, Kenobi or Palpatine bloodline after all and thus another missed opportunity to create some form of depth to a story fast losing all purpose and reason to continue. 
 The greatest insult of all was saved for the treatment of Luke Skywalker himself. The hero of the original trilogy, the Jedi who sought after the good in his father where others saw only evil. The character who inspired movie goers across the world was now reduced to nothing more than a coward; a hermit who briefly considered murdering his own nephew in his sleep. Mark Hamill had told director Rian Johnson, "I pretty much fundamentally disagree with every choice you've made for this character (Luke Skywalker)." I can understand why. The hero who had once taken on the Emperor now chose to hide away on his private island, allowing others to fight and die on his behalf. Before the credits rolled on this shit-shower of a film, the legendary character of Luke Skywalker was killed off in the least poetic and unexplainable way possible, adding zero contribution to the future of the saga. With only the two apprentices, Rey and Kylo, remaining for the final act, still having received little training from their now deceased mentors, it is difficult to understand where the direction of Star Wars is leading.

Never mind the strange decision to retain the only character left from The Return of the Jedi, Princess Leia, soon to be portrayed in CGI. As Kylo Ren states in the film, "let the past die". Maybe Rian Johnson felt this idea was a necessity in order to create his own vision of where Star Wars should go?Maybe one day we will call these choices brave? For now, I call them an insult. Let the past die but not in this manner. Overall The Last Jedi is a poorly written and poorly planned excuse of a film which is nothing better than a disgrace to the legacy of those films which had come before. Where the saga can go now, I simply do not know, but at least we can always rely on John Williams to provide a terrific soundtrack. Final Rating is 2/10 Steven.

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