Okay, so this has been a long time coming, and already another movie has come out in the franchise, but I think I’m ready to expound upon the failures of The Last Jedi. My first and last criteria for a movie is the simple question, did it entertain? I love bad movies/television that nonetheless manage to be entertaining, and I despise media which, technically good, fails at this core principle of entertainment. I thought Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows was stupid, but it was fun. I understood Avatar was groundbreaking, but, primarily due to its sanctimonious, driveling plot, I see it as preparation for my upcoming root canal.
That all said, there is only one good thing about The Last Jedi: It was visually beautiful. Beautiful sets, beautiful people, beautiful special effects, the whole thing was polished to a T. A movie is a visual art style, and The Last Jedi was visually great.
But in every other conceivable way, the movie failed, and the two ways it failed most spectacularly, in my opinion, was in narrative and metanarrative.
The narrative came across as unplanned, almost dreamlike, in its zigzagging among three basic stories. No suspense seemed natural, and every conclusion lacked weight. Almost every problem had some sort of Deus Ex Machina solution, literally in the case of BB-8. As an aside, the humor of this movie, instead of integrating into the story, seemed world breaking, even mean spirited, an attack upon those who loved the material, i.e. Luke throwing away the lightsaber.
But the metanarrative is where this movie really fails, because it and its predecessor are meta-movies. On the surface, The Force Awakens is A New Hope with breasts stapled onto the protagonist. It wasn’t done as well as A New Hope, but that didn’t matter. By returning to the original, the movie was as much as saying to the audience, “We get it, you’re upset by the prequels, and we are returning to that which is Star Wars.” And then the movie ends, connecting the old with the new, Luke meeting Trans-Luke, in a touching scene.
The metanarrative of The Last Jedi is a question: What relation should the present have to the past, what do you do with the inheritance, the kingdom, of your father? This theme is very much a part of Return of the Jedi. In the original trilogy, the answer was neither destruction nor submission to the corrupted father, but salvation, a restoration, through the self-sacrifice of the son.
Through the confused plot of The Last Jedi, however, no answer is finally given. Now, some stories exist to ask, not answer, a question, but The Last Jedi knew no such discretion. Instead, the movie gives conflicting answers. The assassination of Snoke, and the whole character of Kilo Ren, supports the answer of destruction. The magical flying Leia seems to suggest we should incorporate ourselves into the pre-extant structure. And a bevy of views follow: Abandon the whole mess (DJ), Fix the failing structure (Poe), awaken the father (Rey and Luke), shot everything (BB-8), self-sacrifice (Fin), spastic confused gibberish about love (Rose). The list probably goes on.
The first and last question I ask, however, is whether or not the movie was entertaining. Anything can be forgiven if that end is achieved. This movie failed to entertain, which is the real crime. Thor Ragnarok had similar problems to The Last Jedi, but it was fun to watch. This movie, was an insulting turd.