Welcome to Watch “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” simply didn’t work for me, which basically boiled down to this: Whether you like “The Last Jedi” will depend on whether you simply want to surrender to its pleasures, or whether you want to think hard about it. It’s hard to explain exactly what frustrated me so deeply about “The Last Jedi” without talking about the details of the movie, so that’s what I want to do today. I don’t intend to spoil it for you in the traditional sense of making it impossible for you to continue to enjoy something that you’ve loved.
So, uh, how’s your day been?
Rian Johnson: It’s good. It’s been really good. It feels weird to finally be talking about the movie. You know, it’s so odd, you don’t test-screen these movies because of the secrecy. The first time I saw the movie with a real audience was at the LA premiere, which was nerve-wracking but wonderful because there was this huge enthusiastic response.
With The Last Jedi, you’re in the Empire Strikes Back part of the trilogy. You have to pick up where The Force Awakensleft off and set up the next one. What’s the process?
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is in theaters, and you all have to go see it or it might not make the $800 million it needs to break even. Presumably, most of the movie’s profits will be made over the holiday vacation from families who need a break from each other. I saw it last night since I don’t have a family.
The Last Jedi is a long, bewildering movie with too many characters and an overall message that’s either unclear or just stupid. It’s also funny, visually pretty, and surprisingly weird—but the plot is too cluttered, feeling like the product of dozens of very talented people disagreeing with each other and making bad compromises.
I don’t know if the movie can be described as having a plot, but here’s what happens: General Leia—once Princess Leia—is evacuating her troops from their secret base as the bad guys close in. (Her sideways promotion from Princess to General is the kind of fake promotion that people give instead of giving raises. Leia was always a boss.) Poe Dameron prank-calls the bad guys to distract them, and proceeds to blow up some evil spaceship turrets. It looks great, like the dog fight at the end of Star Wars: a New Hope.
Then, Poe disobeys orders to return to base and calls in a squadron of bomber ships, which fly in and explode like a domino effect. This sequence pulled me out of the movie: The Rebels have been at war for many decades and they haven’t learned to fly far enough apart so they wouldn’t blow each other up? It might seem like nitpicking, but The Last Jedi is full of moments where things don’t make sense and supposedly smart characters make dumb choices.
Meanwhile, Finn unceremoniously awakens from the coma he was in at the end of The Force Awakens and runs around in a see-through plastic suit, squirting liquid in all directions. At this point, it was the strangest thing I’d seen in a Star Wars movie (wait until later), which was pretty cool. He asks where Rey is, and we cut to her on that Irish island holding out Luke’s old lightsaber to the man himself. After a long pause, he takes it and throws it over his shoulder, which caused the audience to laugh and released some tension.
For some reason, Luke now acts like a jaded, pessimistic dick who wants to forget about all the Jedi stuff. Mark Hamill has publicly said that he thinks his character was written badly, and I agree, but he’s still a lot of fun to watch. Rey bugs him to train her, he curmudgeonly refuses, but eventually gives in.
The main villain is still Kylo Ren, and when we first see him he’s talking to his evil boss Snoke. In The Force Awakens, we only saw Snoke projected on a giant scale, and a popular fan theory arose that he was actually teeny; in The Last Jedi, though, we find out that he’s just a normal-sized, bad-CGI-looking video-game guy who hangs out in a beautiful throne room.