Volume Six, Issue 49!
“Movie Review: Star Wars: The Last Jedi”
The wait for the next “Saga Movie” in the newly reinstated Star Wars franchise has been a long one, full of Rey “Mary Sue” debates, Snoke theories, and complaints about why Luke was only seen in the last few minutes of The Force Awakens. Well, the wait is finally over, and one thing is definitely for certain, nothing will ever be the same now that Star Wars: The Last Jedi has hit theaters. Director Rian Johnson delivers a movie that’s not only a satisfying installment in the franchise, but one that leaves it in a place that makes me genuinely curious and excited to see what comes next.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. The Last Jedi picks up immediately after the events of The Force Awakens (a first for the franchise), and finds the members of the Resistance attempting to make an escape from The First Order, who are righteously pissed about the destruction of Starkiller Base. At the same time, Rey (Daisy Ridley) has made her way to Luke Skywalker (a stellar Mark Hamill) in an attempt to convince him to come out of hiding to help the Resistance (and also train her to become a Jedi).
If that sounds like a small plot for this movie, let me tell that it couldn’t be further from the truth. At two and a half hours, The Last Jedi isn’t just the longest movie in the Star Wars franchise, it’s also the most dense. There’s so much that happens in this movie that you’d wouldn’t be surprised if you thought this was the last film in the new trilogy. That denseness is arguably one of the Last Jedi’s few flaws, and there are some major points of the film that drag a little (especially in the middle act), but when Jedi gets cracking, holy crap does it deliver.
All of your new favorites from Force Awakens are back, and have some pretty big character moments. Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) is still the suave and swaggering ace pilot, with a small, but still really great arc in the film. Finn (John Boyega) encounters a mechanic for the Resistance named Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), and takes on a mission that could mean life or death for the Resistance. Rey discovers more about herself as a person and what it means to be a Jedi.
As good as the new characters are, the standout is Kylo Ren, played masterfully by Adam Driver, is given more nuance and grace than in Force Awakens. Driver steals nearly every scene he’s in, and makes you wholeheartedly believe in his performance. Honestly it’s hard to call Kylo Ren a straight up villain, because Last Jedi really makes you feel for him and his struggle to find himself, which is an amazing feat since this guy killed Han friggin’ Solo in the previous movie. It makes you wish that Disney had remade the prequels and cast Driver as Anakin Skywalker, as his struggles with the dark and light side of the Force are not only incredibly done, but one of the highlights of the film.
Speaking of the Force, The Last Jedi finally gives us Luke Skywalker again after thirty years of not seeing him. Mark Hamill plays Luke as a broken and bitter old man, not wanting to get in touch with The Force after it destroyed everything around him. With Luke, Mark Hamill brings a sad weariness that is difficult to watch for fans of the original trilogy, but it grounds the saga in a humanity that is all too real. Sometimes your heroes will fail you, but it’s what they do after that failure that really shows you their worth.
Luke isn’t the only Skywalker who makes an appearance, though. General Leia Organa is back, and Carrie Fisher displays more grace, poise, and incredible leadership here than in Force Awakens. She’s so good in this film that it’s very bittersweet: you’re happy that her final performance is a worthy one, but sad that we won’t get to see her take a larger role in Episode IX. It’s also a little disappointing that she’s sidelined for a good chunk of the middle of the movie, but that’s largely not Johnson’s fault, as no one could have predicted her untimely passing last year. Still though, there are plenty of surprises regarding her character that are extremely cool, and deserve to be saved to see on the big screen.
As I mentioned earlier, The Last Jedi has a LOT of ground to cover, and without giving anything away, I will say that there isn’t a lot of room for many characters, both old an new. Some have to be taken off the board for while, and others are reduced to mere background characters so we can meet new ones like Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) and the mysterious codebreaker “DJ” (an awesome if underused Benicio Del Toro). But Rian Johnson never lets the plot get too unwieldy, regardless of the crazy amount of action that takes place within this movie. There are stunning space battles, a great amount of emotional character moments, and one of the best lightsaber fights in the series. It’s no wonder that Disney and Lucasfilm have given Rian Johnson a whole damn trilogy of his own to create next.
But what Last Jedi does best is set the stage for the future of the Star Wars franchise. There are actual risks taken here that I really didn’t expect, and I highly suggest going in as cold as you can. There are a lot of detractors to Force Awakens that claim that it just copied A New Hope. But with Last Jedi I really don’t think you can make the claim that it rips off Empire Strikes Back at all. Sure, it has some similar beats, but this is a Star Wars movie that is full of surprises. Full of action, humor, emotion, and stunning reveals, Last Jedi is the first Star Wars film since the original trilogy that really captures the feeling of seeing a Star Wars film for the first time.
VERDICT : A-