Wednesday 13th December 2017

Warning.  There may be spoilers ahead.

I’ve seen every Star Wars movie on opening night since Episode 1 in 1999.  In that case, given that it came out about a month before the UK, I flew all the way to Texas just to see it.

But a combination of being busy and not knowing my on-call schedule with the day job meant that by the start of this week I’d still not booked tickets.  My brother made other plans and as a result I was left wondering when I would see it.

Luckily a friend stepped in at the last moment and I was able to secure tickets for a midnight screening.  They are awesome.

I wasn’t a bit fan of The Force Awakens.  I felt it paid lip service to Star Wars, trying to much to tick boxes rather than be its own thing.  For me at least, it failed where Rogue One totally succeeded.

But I accept that this is the course of the new trilogy and it just might not be for me.  Except, watching it again last night, I realise that my issues are less about being a sacred fanboy, and more to do with craft.

The revelation about Kylo Ren’s identity feels totally wasted.  It’s given away without any tension or gravitas.  Personally, I think it would have been far better if Han Solo had walked out onto the bridge to face Kylo only for him to mutter the immortal line “No, I am your father”.  It would have fitted the pastiche nature of TFA and delivered a moment of great tension, that would have been followed up with the great sucker punch of Han’s death.

For me Star Wars is a three act story, broadly represented by the location.  Star Wars starts on Tatooine, moves to inside the Death Star, and finishes in the space surrounding it.  Empire starts on Hoth, has its middle section on Dagobah and then ends on Bespin.  Return of the Jedi starts on Tatooine, moves to the Rebel Fleet and then goes off to Endor (although you could argue it’s Endor and then Death Star 2).

I think this 3 act structure is pretty core to Star Wars and whilst I’m not against it being changed, I felt that Last Jedi spent too much time with the Resistance being chased by the First Order.  It felt like one large act with the fight at the end tacked on.  As a result, whilst a lot happened, it didn’t have the pace of other Star Wars movies.

I also think secondary characters really suffered in Last Jedi.  This trilogy reminds me of one of those cooking shows where they do a team cooking relay and one person comes in cooks for 20 mins before handing over to the next person without any instruction.  The first person might start making fish & chips but all too often the second person comes in and just throws out what the first person has done and starts making a fish stew instead.

The mystery of Snoke was a big part of fan theories post TFA.  Who was he?  How did he get so powerful in the force?  And yes, I like that it’s unexpected but he was woefully underdeveloped before being killed off.  Same with Phasma.  Even Rey’s backstory gets thrown under the bus.  Even Luke’s epic battle loses some of its intimacy due his force projection.

In many ways this felt like the end of a trilogy rather than the middle part, and whilst I’m not against killing off characters,  I have so little invested into them I do not care.  It feels like the threads that were set up in TFA have just been shut down whilst another creative follows their vision for Star Wars.

There was stuff I liked.  I really enjoyed the casino world of Canto Bight.  I liked Rose, but I think more could have been made of her character.

Thematically this movie wanted to talk about legacy and destiny.  And they could have explored that with Finn and Rose being nobodies and suddenly finding themselves thrown into the roles of heroes.  They touched on it, but it never gets developed.

Obviously making movies is hard.  It’s one of the reasons I like novels.  With a novel, I’m in control.  It’s pretty much solely my word and I don’t have to curtail to anyone if I don’t want to.  Movies have studios, and actors, and a crew.  That makes it infinitely more difficult.

But I did come out of the Last Jedi feeling like I could tell a better Star Wars story.  I always thought that sounded arrogant, but as I’ve developed as a writer, the more I’ve been convinced that I’m up to the task.

I want to write a Star wars novel one day, and given how my writing career is going (albeit slowly) it’s certainly not outside the realms of possibility in the years to come.  When I do, I hope I’ll show the world how Star Wars should be written.

But for now, the Last Jedi is an odd beast.  It tries a lot of things, but I don’t think it takes the sort of risks that Empire took.  Instead, it feels that it misses as often as it hits, which (whilst better than TFA) has left me feeling a little lukewarm to it.

If you want to follow more of my journey, then be sure to check me on my social channels.  Likewise, if you’d like me to expand on any point mentioned above, please say so in the comments.

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