Director: Rian Johnson
Cast: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fischer, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Issac, Gwendoline Christie, Kelly Marie Tran, Benicio Del Toro, Laura Dern, Andy Serkis
With such a insanely popular movie, it’s difficult to write a satisfactory review without touching on any spoilers. Star Wars: The Last Jedi is going to be a movie that is celebrated, discussed, and debated for a long time. Luke has a line in the movie that was absolutely spot on: “This is not going to go the way you think.” Director Rian Johnson has refused to “play it safe” and crafted one of the most complex and suspenseful Star Wars movies to date, pushing the boundaries of what we expect from the franchise.
My initial reaction included shock and even slight disappointment during some of the big moments. However, thinking about the movie the last few days I’ve realized the feelings of disappointment weren’t due to the movie being “bad”, more so that it didn’t fit into the box I had already made for the movie.
The best advice I can give is try to go into it with as few expectations as possible. Let the movie take you where it wants and then see how it makes you feel. That is a daunting task, considering we’ve all had 2 years to speculate and theorize on all the answers we want to specific questions raised in Force Awakens. If you go into The Last Jedi, expecting it to follow certain paths, you will most likely be disappointed. The degree to which you can go into the movie with an open mind will determine how much you enjoy it. It’s also a movie that will most likely need a couple viewings to catch and understand all the nuances packed into the movie.
Characters: more flawed and complex this time around.
Almost every returning character from the last film is shown from a slightly different angle in this movie. Many of the traditional character tropes have been ignored: good guys make mistakes and are uncertain of what they should do. Plans fail. People jump to wrong assumptions. The characters are refreshingly more flawed, which causes an uncertainty that makes for great storytelling.
Mark Hamill is phenomenal as Luke Skywalker. It’s great to see him progress from naïve farm boy in A New Hope to the seasoned, yet disillusioned Jedi Master.
Adam Driver as Kylo Ren is still one of the most interesting characters. His conflicted motivations create much of the suspense, as well as a couple surprises along the way.
Daisy Ridley as Rey continues with another strong performance; grappling with her new abilities, what they mean, and where she belongs.
I was a little disappointed with the arc of John Boyega’s Finn; it seemed like a bit of a repeat of The Force Awakens in some ways.
Carrie Fisher’s Leia gets much more screen time this time around and doesn’t disappoint. We still aren’t sure how the studio will end Leia’s story, after Carrie’s tragic death. It’s clear after watching this movie, she was originally intended to continue having a large role in the finale of the trilogy.
There’s also a strong cast of supporting characters. Rose, played by Kelly Marie Tran, brings an innocent determination to the group. Laura Dern’s purple haired Vice Admiral Holdo is fantastic. Oscar Issac returns as Captain Poe Damron, whose hot shot piloting skills are looked at in a surprisingly different light. Benicio del Toro played an interesting role as well, but I won’t talk about it here to prevent spoilers
Of course I have to mention the porgs. They are as adorable as they’re meant to be, and are a cute addition to the Star Wars Universe. I’m also glad Johnson continued with the decision to use as many practical and puppet effects for the different creatures as they could. It always gives a pleasant reminder of the original trilogy (before Lucas updated them).
Story: A little disjointed at times, but still groundbreaking.
The story was excellent for the most part: it’s very much a story driven by its character development. There were some parts in the middle, specifically with Finn and Rose that felt a little out of place at times with the rest of the film. However it all does come full circle by the end. Their arcs could have been better, but there were still some interesting new places and characters explored.
Ironically, this is a darker film than the previous, but there is also more humor. For the most part the funny moments aren’t overpowering and worked well with the exception of maybe 1 or 2 times.
The action was intense and well done, and there are two fight scenes: one in the middle and one at the end, that are some of the best in the franchise. I absolutely love the way the nature and application of the Force is expanded upon in The Last Jedi. That’s all I’ll say here…
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a departure from franchise norms in several ways. Some of departures were excellent choices, while others will require more time to mull over. Ultimately, what happens in the next movie will be the deciding factor on how the decisions made here will pay off. One thing that is true is with Rian Johnson at the helm of the next trilogy, Star Wars is sure to continue to tell new and unique stories, not held down by the pre-existing rules of the franchise…and that is an exciting thought.