17 December 2017

'Star Wars: Last Jedi' - Review

Review (contains a spoiler):

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, there was a brilliant Jedi Knight called Anakin Skywalker. But his desire for power made him succumb to the Dark Side of the Force - and he became a Sith Lord: Darth Vader. He became the evil Emperor Palpatine's trusted right-hand man. He kills the Emperor only in the end - to save his son Luke Skywalker. This was the story that the first six Star Wars movies told us. But here's a question: if Anakin Skywalker / Darth Vader was truly ambitious, then why stop at being the #2 guy? Why not become the #1 guy?

Force Awakens (Episode 7, 2015) was nothing but a remake of A New Hope (Episode 4, 1977). That is, it was nothing but a repeat of the original story - with just the characters recycled: 'Kylo Ren' instead of Darth Vader, 'Supreme Leader Snoke' instead of Emperor Palpatine, 'Rey' instead of Luke Skywalker, 'Finn' and 'Poe Dameron' as Rey's companions (filling in for Princess Leia and Han Solo) - and Luke Skywalker himself taking the place of Master Yoda. Rian Johnson's Last Jedi (Episode 8) also repeats the original story - but with one important change: the above-mentioned twist.

The first half is just a mountain of new characters, new plotlines, light-sabre duels and space-ship battles. The recipe looks something like "1 kg potatoes + 1 kg onions + 1 kg carrots + 1 kg beans + 1 kg peas + 1 kg garlic + 1 kg chillies + 1 kg tamarind + 1 kg salt + 1 kg pepper" - ie, over-stuffed. It is only in the second half, when the above-mentioned twist kicks in, that the movie finds its logic and direction. A leaner and meaner Last Jedi would have been much better. But that is too much to expect - considering the money Disney has at stake.

There isn't much of acting here. Adam Driver's Kylo Ren is - with his conflicts and torments - potentially the meatiest character (like Hayden Christensen's Anakin Skywalker was in the original story). But the script simply doesn't give the character the time and scenes needed to do justice to it. Mark Hamill with his grey hair and beard looks venerable enough as the elderly Jedi Knight. But the performance that stays with you is Carrie Fisher's. She exudes grace and dignity in her final innings as Princess Leia. Last Jedi will be Star Wars fans' fond farewell to her. Goodbye, dear princess. You will always be in our hearts - and the Force will always be with you . . .

PS: The good news is Rian Johnson has rescued this trilogy after its disastrous start by J J Abrams. The bad news is Abrams will be back to direct Episode 9.

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