Padme Amidala's grim observation as Emperor Palpatine disbanded the Old Republic in favour of the Galactic Empire stands as one of the few successes of script-writing in George Lucas' prequel trilogy. Her words were resounding in my mind as I sat in astonishment among an audience earnestly applauding the conclusion of The Last Jedi. I dismissed the possibility that I was the victim of some Jedi mind trick, and that my fellow cinema-goers had indeed seen the same film that I had. Over-funded, bloated, self-important and virtually immobile, The Last Jedi bears more than a passing resemblance to Jabba the Hutt.
I am by no means fond of The Force Awakens but I see now that it does have at least one redeeming quality. The Force Awakens at least knows which of Lucas' original trilogy it seeks to plagiarise. The Last Jedi on the other hand cannot make up its mind and so seeks to emulate all three at various points in its 2hr 32 min runtime. One particularly egregious example sees Snoke, Rey and Kylo Ren act out the throne room scene from Return of the Jedi almost word for word. The final confrontation between the First Order (still a cartoonish farce) and the Resistance is basically the Battle of Hoth with a bit of red thrown in.
It is this kind of shameless "borrowing" from past (and superior) films that banjaxes The Last Jedi. It feels like fan fiction equipped with the kind of astronomical budget that only the Banking Clan could provide. Even the characters seem vaguely self-aware of the fact that they are in a Star Wars film, taking immense joy in constantly reminding both themselves and the audience. Not a single opportunity is missed to rob a dramatic scene of its gravitas by casually throwing in a quip or one-liner. This is a common trend amongst big-budget action films today, one Joss Whedon is almost exclusively responsible.
The biggest problem with The Last Jedi is that it is quite simply boring to watch. The essential premise the action revolves around is like a lockbox, trapping certain characters from doing anything meaningful while the others fumble about for the key. Leia Organa and Poe Dameron spend almost the entire film just sitting on a spaceship waiting to be rescued. Meanwhile, Finn and Rose (a new addition to the principal cast) distract the audience with an overlong and ultimately unnecessary side plot. The most interesting moments are shared between Rey and Luke Skywalker, but even these seem to have little bearing on the overall story.
I was looking forward to the return of Luke Skywalker, more so than Mark Hamill was based on some of the content of his interviews. Though broadly disappointing, Luke's scenes stand virtually alone in presenting something thoughtful and original. Luke is no longer the optimistic, ever-hopeful character that redeemed his tormented father. Instead he seems almost to have given up on the idea of redemption, unwilling even to attempt to save the soul of his nephew. Most significantly Luke has given up on the idea of the Jedi, condemning the religion as hubristic and vain. It's an interesting direction for the character and one that is well delivered by Hamill.
Yet despite the glimmer of good ideas here and there, The Last Jedi completely fails to invest in any of them long enough for a satisfying pay-off. There is another interesting scene where it is revealed to Finn that the First Order and the Resistance have both been purchasing weapons from the same arms dealers. It is a small moment in which Finn is forced to re-evaluate his role in the great galactic conflict, reminiscent in fact of the stellar Rogue One. It's a shame that small moments like this are lost amidst a restrictive and incoherent main plot.
Perhaps as a devoted Star Wars fan I am more attuned to the similarities between The Last Jedi and previous films than more casual viewers. It might even be the case that the kind of fan that has read and enjoyed the likes of Dark Empire and Heir to the Empire could never really appreciate the new canon. I don't think this is true. The aforementioned Rogue One is superb. In the realm of television both Clone Wars and Rebels have demonstrated that good Star Wars stories can still be told (the D-Squad plot line not withstanding). Still, the spirit of the franchise demands that I maintain hope. To that end I shall re-watch Rogue One and remind myself that, yes, there is another.
The Last Jedi has a few good ideas but these are utterly lost amidst an over-long and utterly unsatisfying overall plot. Replete with poor dialogue, irritating tonal shifts and superfluous scenes, The Last Jedi adds very little to the saga except an overwhelming sense of disappointment not felt since the release of The Phantom Menace.