Star Wars: The Last Jedi is just about two hours and 30 minutes long, and you feel every second of it.
Director Rian Johnson and his team had a lot of ideas about what they wanted to fit into this film in terms of scenes and locations, and it feels like they put in everything they wanted to see while working with what had to be an inexhaustible budget.
[Warning: This contains minor spoilers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.]
Every moment of the film is dazzling, and the combination of digital and practical effects is handled so well that it can be hard to tell which is which. But there were entire arcs that could have been cut without impacting the emotional weight and narrative of the film.
Removing Finn and Rose from the fleet in order to introduce a gambling world filled with arms dealers, only to have them return with a codebreaker who ended up being out for himself, was a waste. It may have allowed the film to make a point about existing outside of a conflict that felt all encompassing to those inside it, but those minutes of screen time felt more like padding than movement. We just saw the Star Wars equivalent of sending fan-favorite characters to Dorne for half a season, and it was a bummer.
Benicio del Toro plays a character that was defined by his physical and verbal tics; that character did just about what we expected and then disappeared from the story. That’s disappointing in a movie that clearly valued the act of defying your expectations.
We don’t need to be told that decadence is bad, and the idea that the only winners in war are arms dealers and those who play both sides isn’t exactly new or interesting. The Last Jedi has plenty of other things to say, and its lessons feel refreshing in 2017. But this particular arc treads water in a film that’s already running long.
Pacing issues also exist all over the movie. There are scenes where it seems like a ship is destroyed every few seconds during an escape that stretches one for hours. At times like these, it often feels as if everyone should be dead by now. That, or the time dilation between scenes needs to be better explained.
Rey and Luke spend a significant amount of time circling each other, speaking in platitudes and re-stating their positions without saying anything of note. Both of the characters learn something and grow from their interactions and relationship. The problem is that it’s all handled in the most self-indulgent way possible, while assuming that the audience has infinite patience for long shots of characters looking into the distance.
The editing team was probably right; the audience is going to be there for, and get, a lot of Star Wars. But fan service doesn’t excuse the fact that the film is loosely edited and paced in such a way that it seems to have six final scenes. I left the theater looking forward to a theoretical director’s cut that takes scenes and characters out to create a leaner, more confident film.
Johnson threw a lot of Star Wars at the wall, and it’s a testament to his skill that so much of it stuck. That doesn’t excuse the fact that the film can’t seem to let anything go, especially when one of its central themes is knowing how and when to move on. It’s a lesson the editor should have taken to heart.
The Last Jedi, overall, is a brilliant film. It just didn’t have to be this bloated.