Home Video Review by Dominic Messier, Founder, Editor and Film Writer
As I had sat down last Christmas and marveled at the very existence of an eighth installment of the Star Wars saga — a wildly theoretical pipe dream to some of us kids of the 80s — I still found myself thinking of a line uttered by Jeff Goldblum in a later blockbuster of the early 90s, Jurassic Park, in which his eccentric chaotician character, Dr. Ian Malcolm, posits that the makers of the dino park were so obsessed with whether they could clone dinosaurs that they never stopped to wonder if they should.
While I’m still not against the idea of new Star Wars films (though not much in favor of overkill, either), I would sincerely like to think that the painful experience of horribly pablum prequels would have taught us that it’s not always ideal to cough up a new film simply for the sake of satiating a legion of fans or for box office moolah.
Them fans are a rabid and passionate breed, and will not settle oh so gently for rushed product.
With The Last Jedi now having been released for home viewing, offering a slew of deleted scenes (fourteen or so) cut out for time and narrative flow, the axiom of less often being more stands true.
Picking up shortly after The Force Awakens (aka Episode VII), The Last Jedi finds Rey (Daisy Ridley) reaching out to the long-missing Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), hoping he may offer guidance or at least some motivation to the dwindling rebellion led by Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher, in her final role). Sensing the same raw Force strength as he had in his apprentice-turned-villain Ben Solo/Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), Luke is reluctant to take her on, having too many regrets already. You can’t blame the poor hermit guy. He’s got baggage, and matching one at that.
Meanwhile, General Hux (Domnhall Gleeson) and Kylo Ren are under orders by Supreme Leader Snoke (voiced by Andy Serkis) to hunt down the remaining Rebel Fleet ships so to squash their efforts once and for all, were it not for kamikaze stunts by Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), Finn (John Boyega) and a spunky mechanic named Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), who find new ways to outrun the First Order while they exhaust the last of their fuel in one last daring escape.
The big question mark becomes whether any of them will succeed in their respective goals, at least before the relentless enemy closes in and obliterates them once and for all. Will the Force still be with them? More importantly, will we still care?
Throughout the nearly two-and-a-half hour running time of this latest chapter, there’s a looming sense of narrative disconnectivity that lingers from scene to scene, as if the overall story arch had either not been thought through or looked at from a farther, more objective standpoint.
Sure, the major players are back and there are plenty of of lighthearted moments (a few misguided ones at that), but as the story boils down to what should be another epic chapter in a legacy of sci-fi brilliance, what remains is a watered down familial side story paired with what amounts to a space version of Smokey and the Bear, what with relentless chases and the nagging issue of fuel supplies remaining.
I still question whether it was wise to introduce a feeble secondary character like Rose in this half-baked follow-up; her role feels wedged in, as did the half dozen untrained teens in Steven Spielberg’s cringeworthy Hook. Here, Tran feels out of her depth, with a forced romantic bent with Finn feeling like it took a wrong turn at Toshi Station. Power converters be damned.
What should have been a well-paced series of epic reveals turn out to be nothing more than half-baked twists or flat-out disappointments. We anxiously await a denouement that leaves us hanging, in vain, for a glorious cliffhanger towards a finite Episode IX that should blow the doors right off the Jedi hut, but it sadly doesn’t. To wish for an explosive and mindbending finale in 2019 seems out of reach by now.
I’d love to say that the interviews and behind-the-scenes extras on this Blu-Ray make this a must-have title, I can’t honestly vouch for this. The only point to adding this to your collection would be in the completist sense.
Is this film an absolute disaster? It depends on who you ask, insofar as it ignores, disrespects and insults a four-decades long legacy of science-fiction canon for the sake of throwaway gags, out-of-place veiled vegan quips (you’ll see what I mean) and non-sequitur red herrings galore, it’s just not worth the Imperial credits it was paid for and produced with.
I have indeed felt a serious disturbance in the Force…and I’m seriously tempted to join the Dark Side after this one.
Here’s hoping JJ Abrams can do a tad better, as he did with the much better Episode VII a few years back.