Exciting sequences, memorable visuals, and the full return of a long lost character – Star Wars The Last Jedi has all that. But it also has some tedious storytelling which at times had me looking at my watch. Two and a half hours felt like,well, two and a half hours.
At the end of the previous film, The Force Awakens, we had our young hero and, apparently, Jedi-in-waiting, Rey (Daisy Ridley), meeting Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill)on a remote island in an extremely remote planet. Rey and the Resistance need Luke’s help. And so the new film spends much of its beginning and middle tracking a battle of wills between these two characters.
Ridley and Hamill do the acting business just fine here, but there’s only so much earnest pleading you can take. The dynamic of “will Skywalker or won’t he” step up to do the right thing is too drawn out and somewhere along the way – not that far along the way- one starts wishing for one of these stubborn souls to give up so the rest of us can move on with the story. It started to feel like padding. Yes, the return of Luke Skywalker is a big deal, but it feels like the writers are wringing every drop of Star Wars pathos out of this they can. Perhaps a small dose of a wise cracking hard arse like Han Solo might have moved things along.
While all this is going on, the story gives us another plot thread to follow, as the Resistance tries to flee a First Order armada. As is often the case in these stories, to succeed our heroes must embark on a dangerous side mission to achieve safety. So Finn (John Boyega) and newcomer Rose (an excellent Kelly Marie Tran) get themselves to another tucked away planet to enlist the aid of the Codebreaker (Benicio del Toro).
There’s the usual mix of matinee style action and humour in this escapade, but it does lack an edge. A dose of Han Solo might have done the trick…
Back on the Resistance home vessel, Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher, in her last role of course) and Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) aren’t seeing eye to eye on tactics. Dameron is the new generation Han Solo, and while the character is dashing enough, and has a streak of defiance in him, but he’s all rather earnest. Not like, you know, that Solo guy.
We mustn’t leave out the bad guys. Adam Driver is back as Kylo Ren. He was a conflicted character before, and much of the story continues to revolve around this. That makes him one of the more interesting characters in a world where mostly good is good and evil is evil. Being the son of Han and Leia, the nephew of Luke, and the protege of the Dark Side, he couldn’t be anything else. I like Adam Driver in the role.
Director Rian Johnson has a fine eye for composing a shot. Rey’s mirror sequence, close ups of Kylo Ren with his light sabre, the framing of Luke and Kylo’s confrontation – all these are memorable images.
So there’s much to enjoy, but by the end of it, The Last Jedi had a middle chapter feel about it, a feeling deepened during the aforementioned overlong Rey/Luke on the island sequence. The fleeing Resistance home ship sequence also seemed to drag. And yes, not having Han Solo around robs the series of a certain down to earth, don’t take yourself too seriously sensibility it needs. But the writers have still left us with unanswered questions by the end, and that surely will be enough to bring us back for the next chapter.