Owen Gleiberman‘s latest Variety essay, “Four Reasons Why Star Wars: The Last Jedi Isn’t One for the Ages“, is (what else?) highly perceptive and sharply written. If you haven’t time to read the whole thing…
Excerpt #1: “Something happens” at the end of a climactic lightsaber duel in Jedi “that echoes a famous death from the original 1977 Star Wars. It’s a ‘whoa!’ kind of moment, but…turns out to be merely the set-up for a much bigger ‘whoa!” moment.
“That mega, super-ultra ‘whoa!’ is designed to blow our minds, and in one sense it does. It leaves the audience with popped eyes and dropped jaws, going ‘Geez, I didn’t know the Jedi could do that!’
“But approximately two seconds after you’ve taken the moment in, it also leaves you with the feeling that the reason you didn’t know they could do that is that the film is making up its rules as it goes along. The moment is arbitrary, breathless but superimposed — spectacular in a monkeys-might-fly-out-of-my-butt sort of way. It seals the experience of The Last Jedi, a movie in which stuff keeps happening, and sometimes that stuff is staggering, and occasionally it’s quite exciting, but too often it feels like the bedazzled version of treading water.
“Yet you hang on and go with it, because you’re yearning for something great, and this is what the Star Wars universe, in its sleek retro-fitted corporate efficiency, has come down to: Making stuff up as it goes along.”
Excerpt #2: “Remember the good old days, when there was order in the universe? Reviewers would grouse about a new Star Wars installment, and fans would then grouse about them. What a difference half a dozen sequels and the cultural shrinking of criticism makes!
“It’s not just that The Last Jedi has been breathlessly raved about by film critics and, I dare say, more than a touch overpraised (with rare exceptions, like the trenchant and fearless analysis offered by Peter Debruge in his Variety review). It’s that the critics…are doing their impersonation of egghead fanboys; you can feel how much they want to be on the film’s side. Whereas audiences have come down from the high, taking in the experience of The Last Jedi, even on opening weekend, from a place of relative levelheadedness.
“My own admittedly unscientific anecdotal survey is that the average person I’ve talked to feels underwhelmed by the movie, though in ways they’re not always sure how to define. (The most consistent idea I’ve heard is: It’s no Empire Strikes Back.) I’ve seen countless movies I’ve loved more than audiences, but when critics start to sound like fans and fans starts to sound like critics, we may finally have reached a moment when the Star Wars galaxy, even in the hyperspace of its success, needs a realignment.”