SPOILERS for The Last Jedi ahead.
Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi has taken a good deal of flak for its use of humor within the more serious second act of the sequel trilogy, a criticism that doesn't hold up against the history of Star Wars, or what the director is actually trying to do.
Much like the Jedi, who seek balance, the same can be said for any film. The best comedies have dark, wrenching moments at their core, while the most tempestuous dramas aren’t afraid to laugh at just the right moments. Even viewers of the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre, which followed the slaughter of four young naifs, caught welcome relief when the family patriarch, or "Old Man," berates Leatherface to his other son, The Hitchhiker, saying: “Look what your brother did to the door! Ain't he got no pride in his home?”
Star Wars is no different, at least when it comes to humor. Its most well-loved entries, such as The Empire Strikes Back lace droll moments between painful events. To give The Last Jedi a poor grade for being too humorous (which it wasn’t), fails to consider the sweeping thematic and dramatic storytelling within it. Not only are peace and freedom at risk in the galaxy, but the very nature of the Force is in flux. Plus, the legacy of the Skywalker family is on the line.
Rather than detracting from the Star Wars saga, these moments complement George Lucas’ hallowed original trilogy, as well as follow-ups like the prequels and J.J. Abrams’ The Force Awakens.
Star Wars Was Always Funny (This Page)
Star Wars Was Always Funny
One of the hallmarks of the original trilogy, which endeared it to millions, was its tonal blend. In particular, Empire Strikes Back stood out due to its ability to skip from a tense battle scene to a tender moment to a witticism and back again. The film served up a hearty dose of emotional satisfaction and also kept audiences off-balance: would Han, that scruffy-looking nerf herder, and her royal worshipfulness, Leia, bicker endlessly or just get it over with and kiss? Was Yoda pulling Luke’s leg or the greatest Jedi mentor in the cosmos? Most of all, do Tauntauns really smell worse on the inside than out?
Some of the original trilogy’s best moments involve levity under duress. Leia and Han’s infamous “I love you” - “I know” exchange is both heartbreaking and amusingly in-character. Amusing exchanges between protagonists, such as Threepio railing against Artoo’s astromech philosophy in A New Hope, defined the middle three episodes. Lucas and crew weren’t shy about including gags in key moments either, such as R2-D2 plugging his interface into a power outlet by mistake or the Sarlacc belching after gulping down Boba Fett.
A blend of high and low comedy is a hallmark of the saga, one the prequels failed to capture as adroitly but still maintained. Not all of it worked perfectly, either, even in the OG trilogy, but there's no avoiding it.
Taking inspiration from the source, Rian Johnson stoked The Last Jedi with many of the same rapid transitions from humor to pathos. His love for the original stories and even the prequels pushed him to emulate their crackling banter and, for the most part, his efforts succeed. At the same time, Johnson didn’t make his entry in 1980 but 2016. As a result, he was given the unenviable task of bringing Star Wars' laugh track into the modern era and paying homage to its humorous history.
- Star Wars 8/Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) release date: Dec 15, 2017
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018