Spoilers! The Last Jedi is no Empire Strikes Back.
|Here’s a little exercise: What movie am I describing?
The hero’s hidden base has been discovered, and so they must affect an escape under fire. A Force-sensitive begins training in an exotic locale. At first, the teacher refuses to accept the sensitive as a student. A betrayal by a new ally lands our heroes in the clutches of the enemy. Our Force-sensitive, sensing the hero’s plight, abandons Jedi training to go and help. The pupil does so over the protests of the master. The movie ends with one of its heroes perched at death’s door. The heroes have taken quite a beating, yet even in the darkest of times, there is the glimmer of hope…Cue the Williams score.
If you said The Empire Strikes Back, you're right. If you said The Last Jedi, I’m sorry to say that you, too, are correct.
I enjoyed The Force Awakens. So much so, in fact, that I was (and still am) willing to purposefully overlook the fact that it's a reboot of A New Hope. Droid carries something valuable, winds up with a kid on some back-of-nowhere planet, everyone is looking for them both, someone builds a big laser, and someone else blows it up. Hmmm.
So, I gave them the one. After all, it had been forty years since I’d seen my childhood heroes in action. I figured if this is what they needed to do to jump-start the new trilogy (make the first installment a sort of new character introduction/reboot) then so be it. A small price to pay…
With The Last Jedi, I was hoping for and expecting something new. There is, after all, a wealth of fantastic Star-Wars lore that has been written over the past twenty-five or thirty years, all of which was shit-canned so that scriptwriters could have complete freedom to bring us something fresh and exciting. Also, as Empire was (and according to most fans still is) the high-water mark of the Star Wars phenomenon, I figured no screenwriter or director in their right mind would try to lift it.
I was wrong.
Lightning (even Force-Lightning, apparently) never strikes twice, though, and this manufactured-feeling reboot pales in comparison to Irving Kershner’s 1980 masterpiece.
The Last Jedi is needlessly convoluted. The plot involves the fleeing resistance fleet staying just out of range of a Star-Destroyer’s guns for as long as their fuel holds out. If this sounds suspiciously similar to the plot of Battlestar Galactica to you, it did to me as well. Finn, a returning character, and Rose, a newbie, must locate a hacker who can get them through the First Order’s security so they can sneak aboard Supreme Leader Snoke’s star-destroyer and disable the ship's tracking device. They must do this because somehow the First Order is now able to track the rebels through hyperspace. All the while, Rey, Chewbacca, and R2-D2 take turns pestering Luke Skywalker into getting back in the fight.
Phew. Is it any wonder the movie runs nearly thirty belabored minutes longer than Empire. With Empire, the plot is simple. Fleeing rebels trust the wrong man and are turned over to Darth Vader. Luke trains on Dagobah, senses his friends are in trouble and goes to help. The End.
The Last Jedi is an enjoyable enough action flick, but it is, in the final tally, an extremely transparent reboot of The Empire Strikes Back. That, in itself, is disappointing. The high point, for this fan, was seeing Mark Hamil reprise his role as Luke Skywalker. We won't touch on the fact that the role itself was bizarre and unsatisfying (which is likely why Hamil made his feelings about his part known before the movie screened.).
And so alas, there are still only two sequels, in this guy's opinion, that come anywhere close to the original movie: The Godfather Part II, which was just as good as the first, and The Empire Strikes Back, which was better.