There’s an underlying kernel of irony at the center of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The film is the freshest film in the Star Wars franchise since George Lucas decided to add to the original trilogy. For all its flaws, it pushes the boundaries of the universe in many different directions, intent on being something new. At the same time, it is the tenth film in the franchise (three originals, three prequels plus the Clone Wars animated film, and the two Disney films). The routine solution for the tension between old and new has always been to side with the established lore of the franchise, occasionally to ridiculous levels. To the chagrin of many fans of the franchise, writer-director Rian Johnson (Brick, Looper) bucks this trend violently.
You can’t really call Star Wars Episode VII– The Force Awakens a bad film with a straight face. The script is entirely serviceable with few logical inconsistencies or plot holes. Almost every character is well-established (Captain Phasma notwithstanding), and the performances are certainly on par with the original trilogy (especially with regards to the leads). Thematically, this is nothing that surprises us: it is the Light side vs. the Dark side, an allegorical simplification of the struggle between good and evil. But, from the get-go, there is a haunting echo: this doesn’t merely remind of the original trilogy, it outright pilfers its structure in hopes of re-capturing its magic. As plotpoint after familiar plotpoint falls into place, it becomes clear that this new trilogy is just calculated nostalgia.