So about two weeks ago I wrote a post concerning some of The Last Jedi‘s flaws and how they could have been fixed.
Suffice it to say that some disagreed with my view on things. One reader, in particular, made a long, lengthy, passionate comment about how I was incorrect, and how they felt I needed to go back and give things a second look.
So you know what? I did. And I went all in.
First, I sat down and watched The Empire Strikes back. Oft regarded as the series’ best film, ESB is usually the golden standard of “Hey, this is a great Star Wars flick.” To the degree that the director of TLJ has stated many times that TLJ was to be compared to ESB, both in tone and in what it did for the series. Many have made the case that if one wanted to criticize TLJ, they needed to do so through the lens of ESB, based on the director’s comments.
So I did. I sat down and watched ESB, enjoying it, and then I switched to TLJ, coming at it anew with what I’d just seen and the admonition from said reader that it deserved a second chance. And, by the end, I’d reached a new conclusion.
The Last Jedi is even worse than I’d thought.
Harsh, I know, but man, watching it back-to-back against ESB? It’s like night and day how aburptly different the two films are. TLJ … watching it after watching ESB was like watching a cover band take the stage after a global sensation has just left and attempt to play covers of their same songs. But instead of rock, they’re playing oh, Nirvana, as country-western.
The whole tone is different, from start to finish. The humor is different. The one-liners are delivered in an entirely different style. Crud, even the way the story is shown to the audience is … different.
Again. Jarring. It’s the cover-band thing.
Let me go back to the humor for a moment. Humor in ESB comes from the characters. You know the kind. “I’d sooner kiss a wookie” meets “I can arrange that!” Or Luke’s smug look at Han after Leia storms off. The classic “I know.” We laugh at what the characters say, and laugh with them.
TLJ? It doesn’t do that. The jokes are at the characters or from the absurd. The humor comes from “Look at this awkward, ridiculous thing we just had this character do. Isn’t this funny?” Or “Hey, slapstick!” Worse, when the characters are given jokes and one-liners, they’re cynical. Gone is the character-held humor of lines like “I can arrange that.” Instead we have empty, often depreciating humor in it’s place.
It’s not that it isn’t humor, it is. But it’s like watching … Okay, here’s how it is. C-3PO from the beginning of the series has been full of self-depreciating moments. He’s a bit of a “butt-monkey” character.
Okay, now lay that style of humor across every character. That’s TLJ.
These differences aren’t limited to humor either. The whole tone of the movie is completely different. It’s a million little things at once.
Take scenery shots, for example. The original Star Wars is full of them. ESB is part of that. There are plenty of grand shots of cool alien worlds. TLJ does this as well. What’s different?
In TLJ, all those shots are static. They’re just scenery for 5-10 seconds, with nothing going on so that the audience can go “Wow.” In ESB, there are plenty of scenery shots, but there’s always something going on in them. The Millennium Falcon swooping through clouds to head back to Vespin. Star Destroyers crumbling under asteroids. Snowspeeders darting over the hills. There’s always something moving things forward. TLJ by comparison doesn’t do this. It just gives you empty shots that last way longer than norma for the series. They’re cool, yes, but they’re not in line with the rest of the series.
In fact, those extra scenes Lucas added to the remasters? In ESB, the only one that stands out (that wasn’t a clean-up) is a long scenery shot that stands out like sore thumb.
The abrupt differences between the two films don’t stop there. TLJ seems to completely eschew the traditional transition styles preferred by the classic series, and also has a lot more abrupt jerks and cuts that feel stilted compared to ESB.
And then there’s the plot. Look, I won’t get into it, but TLJ on a second viewing starts showing off some rather unwelcome plot holes. Inconsistencies. Other issues. And yes, those could be forgiven if TLJ had the same tone as what had come before, but …
It just doesn’t. Didn’t. Won’t. The humor is a jarring 180 from prior films, the shots and style … it’s just not Star Wars.
Which I think is why so many who don’t like the other Star Wars films like this film so much. It’s not a Star Wars film in tone, outlook, or anything but setting. If it wasn’t a Star Wars film I’d probably have come to a completely different conclusion than I did.
Again, it does have some highlights. The fight with Praetorian Guard is great. And Yoda, despite his lines being mostly lifted from ESB (boy was that obvious watching them back-to-back) is still a joy. And old man Luke, while very inconsistent with his character from 4-6, is amusing in a cranky way.
But I gave it another shot, and still came away shaking my head. It simply doesn’t stand up when placed next to a core Star Wars film. Not when placed side by side, which again, I only did because so many have demanded that detractors of TLJ do exactly that with ESB.
So I did. And it measures up even less.
What more can I say?