Star Wars: The Last Jedi continues string of disappointing Star Wars films

Christopher DiLullo, Managing Editor

On December 15, the much-anticipated sequel to 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released into theaters nationwide. Titled Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the film became the tenth movie in the Star Wars franchise to see a theatrical release and opened to the second highest domestic opening weekend in history.

The Force Awakens was a film that was very disheartening for me. Having grown up with the franchise through my father showing me the films of the old trilogy, my anticipation and excitement were boundless with the opportunity to return to a world so significant to my upbringing. I couldn’t wait to see what director J.J. Abrams, who had impressed me with his work in the Star Trek franchise, would do.

Unfortunately, I found myself utterly uninspired and ultimately very unhappy with the results of the 2015 film. The lack of originality, the idea that the film seemed so similar to the first Star Wars film, A New Hope, these tainted my perspective and love for the franchise. Yet, I still clung to a glimmer of hope. I knew that in 2017, director Rian Johnson would be given the opportunity to make his own film. It would have the creative freedom I had wanted to see in The Force Awakens; it would fulfill all the expectations I had originally had for Abrams’ film. I can say with melancholy and dissatisfaction, Star Wars: The Last Jedi did not.

The Last Jedi takes place following the events of The Force Awakens, where we see the main character of this new trilogy of films, Rey, portrayed by British actress Daisy Ridley, meeting with an esteemed figure of the franchise’s history, Luke Skywalker, played by Mark Hamill. Meanwhile, the First Order, comprised of the most evil figures in the galaxy, plots to eliminate their opposition, the Resistance, once and for all.

  Several aspects of The Last Jedi contribute to its position as a disappointment for me. First and foremost, the screenwriting and plot of the film are extremely underwhelming and lackluster. The dialogue is extremely ineffective and occasionally laughable, and while the film does contain moments of levity, they are not often intended to be comedic, which is how they ultimately come across.

In addition, a major storyline of the film is completely out-of-place and doesn’t add depth nor anything truly meaningful to the film itself. In a movie that is 152 minutes, excess is not something that should be welcomed, yet this plot thread feels superfluous as such, a storyline which is almost entirely inconsequential to the movie’s conclusion.

Star Wars is a franchise built upon strong characters and the improbable becoming reality. From A New Hope to The Empire Strikes Back, these are staple characteristics of strong Star Wars films. Unfortunately, in The Last Jedi, the character development and storylines feel very predictable. This is not something I expected from a film that has been heralded by critics for taking many twists and turns, much less from a film part of a franchise with such a legacy, yet I simply was never surprised or shocked by the events that transpired within the movie.

Further extending on this idea, the film itself actually presents several opportunities to surprise me as an audience member and bring new ideas to the forefront of the franchise, yet instead turns towards a different, more safe direction that ultimately left me unsatisfied as a viewer. This points towards one of my biggest complaints, which is that the film feels very safe and uninspired, almost as if the filmmakers felt they could not fully take risks and make something very controversial and different, thus leading to a final product that is not as strong as I had hoped it would be.

While it is apparent that there is some disdain on my behalf towards the film, The Last Jedi is not cinematically terrible. It may not be a masterpiece, but it is not entirely lacking enjoyment on the behalf of the audience. In a film with several weak performances, Adam Driver’s portrayal of Kylo Ren stood out from the rest.

A tortured, rage-fueled character that I find to be the most rich and full of depth, Kylo Ren’s anger and inner conflict were fully realized on the screen by Driver’s acting abilities. Of the newest cast additions, Ren seems to be the only one with any true and effective character development, something that truly saddens me. Driver’s performance and the beauty he captures in such a pained character is what I was hoping to find from the rest of the characters in this newest installment, yet never seemed to find.

Despite my pre-existing love for the Star Wars franchise, The Last Jedi is a thorough disappointment, its screenplay, story, and character development all holding the piece back. I may have been a fan since my youth, yet the last two Star Wars films have caused me to wonder whether the franchise can reach the levels of quality it did over thirty years ago once more.