My problem with Last Jedi was that that’s exactly what they did with this film as well. It’s too familiar. I forgave Force Awakens for being a loose retread of A New Hope because the film had real heart and character, and because I felt Star Wars needed to feel like Star Wars again.
After the prequels the Star Wars franchise was on life support – Disney needed to demonstrate that it could make a film that felt like it was connected to the original trilogy, not the rubbery cartoons that Lucas slopped together. I felt The Force Awakens was exactly the right move and I forgave it for going over old ground. But that tolerance came with the implicit condition that The Last Jedi had to show us something new.
I have to say when I sat down to watch it I was fairly crushed at how straightforwardly it remade The Empire Strikes Back. Sequence after sequence seemed lifted from that film, dusted off, spun around and presented as if it was new. And, depressingly, so many people have fallen for it.
However – unlike Force Awakens – it’s a bad remake that doesn’t offer a single coherent thought or satisfying storyline. Your piece, I’m afraid, is like so many others I’ve read, which seem to conclude that the film is good simply because it confounded your expectations. I’m sorry, but a film doesn’t get a free pass just for doing that – especially if it comes at the cost of coherent storytelling.
For example, the Jedi texts. I think everything about this film can be summed up in this poorly written & executed half-idea:
Rian’s message is that we need to let go of the past of Star Wars in order to move forward, just as Luke needs to look beyond the failed Jedi Order. He needs to burn the tree and the texts to free himself from the past, but he just can’t bring himself to do it – in the same way that fans can’t bring themselves to let go of the original trilogy. That’s a fine message. Rian is our Yoda here, stepping in to set it alight and set us free.
However, Johnson wants to have it both ways. He also wants Rey to be the first of a new line of Jedi, and he likes lightsabers and lifting rocks and all that stuff, so he has Luke declare that – far from the Jedi Order being dead, Rey will revive the order. How will she do so? With the old books that were not actually in the tree when it burned. Even though Yoda apparently thought they were. Because, completely out of character, Rey had already stolen them. For some reason. And the conclusion of Luke’s character arc in the film was a joke because those boring old books are safe and sound and stashed on the Falcon. What?
While Johnson sees himself as Yoda, burning everything down, he’s actually Luke – not able to bring himself to actually do it. The film is a cheat.
So, we’re back to Jedi vs Sith, Rebels vs Empire, goodies vs baddies. Far from a bold new direction, or even setting the stage for a definitive conclusion to the saga, The Last Jedi is a giant franchise reset button.