As the crisp 3am December air hit my face, I could not help but allow a boyish grin to spread across my face. Little did I know that only 3 hours later, that grin would have turned into confusion and disappointment. Of course, I was going to watch the 8th instalment of a franchise I’ve had a lifelong and cult-like devotion to: Star Wars.
To say ‘Episode VIII: The Last Jedi’ was ‘highly anticipated’ would be an understatement: following the mixed reception ‘The Force Awakens’ received, this was the film that would have defined this new trilogy. Has Disney been respectful of one of the world’s most highly-regarded franchises or is this conglomerates approach to filmmaking something that was going to mar the recognition Star Wars globally receives on a Prequels-level scale? Unfortunately I’d hazard to sway towards the latter. On my first viewing of ‘The Last Jedi’ I found myself in a state of mild frustration for a number of reasons that most likely could be acquitted to the studio behind the production of it as well as the current ‘blockbuster’ cinematic climate. ‘Episode 8’ demonstrates some of the cheapest comedy aspects that a Star Wars film has ever seen. To top this off, it would appear that the production methods that were employed in ‘The Force Awakens’, which paid homage to the traditional techniques of the original 1970’s trilogy, have disappeared. The complex modelling and puppetry has been replaced with CGI that seems to still demonstrate an element of the uncanny valley that plagued the prequels. It would appear that someone at the Disney editing suites forgot to lock the door, because one would think that George Lucas must have snuck in and ‘remastered’ the edit before release – his trademark slapstick comedy CGI creatures seem to haunt scenes as nothing but a cringy reminder of the past. Whilst some may find these creations light-hearted, many have argued that they are not conducive to the narrative, and in fact devalue it; when the intensity of a scene is suddenly broken to get the cheapest of childish chuckles, compromising the entire captivation of the audience. On top of these CGI monstrosities, there was the dialogue and narrative itself that at times had avid Star Wars fans feeling irritated. Take for instance the matching scene that we end ‘Episode 7’ with: Rey finally meeting the legendary Luke Skywalker after years of his absence, and offering him his iconic lightsaber hilt. As we re-join this scene in ‘Episode 8’, the poignancy of this offering is revealed to be nothing more than a 2-year set-up to a rather unsatisfactory punch line, as Skywalker takes the saber only to discard it over his shoulder in a comic fashion: a slap in the face to Star Wars enthusiastic, the fans’ trust and devotion was completely thrown away, much like the lightsaber.
The moving combination of Williams’ stunning musical outro to ‘Episode 7’ and the emotionality of Star Wars fans witnessing the return of Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker to our screens for the first time in 40 years, is turned into nothing but a joke as we resume ‘Episode 8’. A “Marvel-esque” meme which perfectly encapsulates Disney’s approach to the franchise; Han Solo was a comic character, yes, but this comedy defined his complex personality and his tongue-in-cheek take on situations became one of his distinctive trademarks. When almost every main character in ‘Episode 8’ is laced with the same approach it does nothing but change the unique juxtaposition that this light-hearted jokiness provided when existing to conflict with the seriousness of the situations the protagonists found themselves in. Ultimately this resulted in every main character in ‘Ep.8’ having very two-dimensional personalities; there is no longer a witty comic relief character when everyone in the film is making wisecracks. Yet, this Marvel model of production has already proven successful and is being mimicked all over mainstream Hollywood franchises, compromised by the interspersed one-liners whose self-aware novelty has long worn off.
As Ben Shapiro put it, ‘characters would deviate from common sense in order to set up a joke.’ The Last Jedi tries so desperately to forge a new take on the franchise, and in doing so it tears everything that made it so iconic. It works so hard to appeal to a new demographic that it neglects the long-term fans, resulting in a major disappointment for all ages.