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Hello everyone, I’m back, and it appears I’ll be shoveling over money to see Star Wars until I die. There you go for the definition of insanity. But believe it or not, seeing Star Wars is a crisis of conscience.
How come so many people love these re-fabrications? Is there something wrong with me? Is the Force dead?
Watching last night, I had to remind myself that I have no problem with JJ’s Star Trek. So what is going wrong? It should be obvious.
The Force is Always Suspect
I’m going to compare to Return of the Jedi to explain, and in doing so, I can at least point out the upside. I have previously stated that the Star Wars universe is contained in too small a small box. Technology vs. spiritualism, wrapped up in a mythological Oedipal Complex—how many storylines can there be?
The Last Jedi does a decent job of letting your cognitive dissonance take over and get you to forget that you’ve seen all this before. As we know, the force that drives Star Wars comes with a flip side, and our players are always suspect to turning on a dime.
Luke and Vader do a dance that reaches an unforgettable crescendo in Episode VI. Add the Emperor and the spiritual warfare takes possession of the trilogy’s very soul. The Last Jedi not only brings you back, but makes it a quorum and has you contemplating all the moral complexities.
The jockeying back and forth begins first with Rey and Luke. His self-exile does not welcome her disturbance, and the unstable nature of the force lies at the heart of their conflict. At the same time, Kylo Ren has his own internal turbulence, and he also hashes out the interpretations with his forceful contemporary.
Of course, climatic finales await with Snoke and Luke, and they feel relatively satisfying despite the deja vu. The same goes for being left on the run as the floundering fate of the middle installment is revealed.
Adam Driver also evokes a reasonable presence as the evilest man in the galaxy. Not quite James Earl Ray, but far superior to the snooze job he did in The Force Awakens.
The Adventure Falls Flat
The mythological necessities aside, the co-equal component of Star Wars must live up. That is the action, adventure aspect that lifts us out of our shoes and has us laughing at the seat of our pants.
This time, Finn (John Boyega) figures out a way to penetrate the shields of the First Order attack fleet so the rebel contingent of ships can elude pursuit. He sets off mission to find a code breaker to turn theory into practice and settles for Benicio Del Toro.
A highly unknown quantity, we feel pretty good about his presence, nonetheless. Still, the success of his part of the mission seems contrived - especially since the worn out political message weaved in is so poorly executed.
We are forced to overlook as Poe (Oscar Isaac) must stall his superiors and essentially commits mutiny to follow through on the plan. So the piracy is certainly at hand, but neither actor fills the screen like the Harrison Ford they are replacing. At the same time, Carrie Fisher definitely doesn’t bring that old magic in which she jabbed Han Solo’s imperfections at every turn. Instead, she’s just punch drunk.
By comparison, the Ewok action on Endor intertwined perfectly with the Greek drama that was being waged above in Return of the Jedi. Han, Leia, CP3O and Chewie giving Storm Troopers the run around has the audience walking the plank and ultimately bridged the concurrent plots.
But these space pirates fall flat, and I don’t get it. I mean you mostly got the hard part right. Poe, Finn and the expedient storyline just doesn’t pull you along for the ride. The humor we've come to expect is also attempted but never leaps off the page.
Why Did It Go Wrong?
Why? I can’t tell you. I’m not a filmmaker. In fact, I’ll even admit that I have no idea what a director does. Well, almost no idea, and I’d have one key direction for John Boyega, Oscar Isaac and Carrie Fisher. “Could you do me a favor and act better?”
OK, the greats probably don’t say that.
On the other hand, maybe the casting is wrong. Harrison Ford was certainly right and so was James Earl Jones. Mark Hamill deserves his due too.
In this installment, Hamill simply suffices. I say that with empathy. Return of the Jedi completes Skywalker’s journey to manhood but the first impression still lingers.
So that boy of wonder who seeks adventure must meld with an old man in search of himself. That’s tough to deliver and maybe the uneven spark contributes to the film’s undoing.
Or it could just be the writing and no amount of direction or casting could hit all the necessary cylinders. The good/bad news: This isn’t the last Jedi that will get the chance.
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Rich Monetti can be reached at [email protected]