Let’s cut right to the chase: Rian Johnson has completely broken down everything that makes Star Wars what it is and has begun the process of rebuilding it in a single sitting. On the plus side, at times, The Last Jedi is daring, unpredictable, heart racing, epic and has all the makings of being the best addition to the series, period. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves; it isn’t that clear cut. It has the makings, sure – but something just isn’t sitting quite right about it.
Just as The Force Awakens (2015) was criticised for being reliant on the plot of A New Hope (1977), there is too much of a shadow of The Empire Strikes Back (1980) in TLJ, and this is evident from the opening crawl. One can see Disney’s hand in TLJ; they know their coffers are more likely to be filled by sticking with tried-and-tested formulas. Don’t go into TLJ expecting complete originality. Then again, the first trilogy basically just followed established tropes of the fantasy genre, so perhaps we’re being unfair here.
However, key questions regarding new characters that we were all asking after TFA are still left unanswered. To a degree, that was always going to be the case; TLJ is the bridge between Episode VII and Episode IX after all. Its job was to continue what TFA started and set up J.J. Abrams’s conclusion to the trilogy. We can’t help but feel Johnson has left Abrams with a herculean task. He might struggle to satisfyingly tie everything up and answer these questions. If he can, we may look back at TLJ and say, “We see why Johnson did it like that; within the context of the new trilogy, TLJ is a brilliant movie”.
What is clear is that you need to see TLJ more than once to form a solid opinion. Even for hardcore Star Wars fans, there is just too much going on in the 2.5 hours to really get your head around it all the first time around (especially if, like this writer, you saw it at midnight!) The Empire Strikes Back was met with lukewarm reviews when it initially came out, and sometimes outright hostility. Now, it is often cited as the best in the series. We feel that, like it’s ‘middle-of-the-story’ predecessor, only time will tell whether TLJ is a stellar masterpiece or a ponderous episode.