Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) – Review

If there is one take away from Star Wars:The Last Jedi it’s that heroism has a cost, and sometimes that cost is pretty high. That we’ve had eight chapters, nine movies counting Rogue One, and yet we are still discovering new themes and characters is a bigger surprise to me than something like “Luke, I am your father. Where J.J. Abrams treaded familiar ground with The Force Awakens here in this film director Rian Johnson takes all the cool toys from the Star Wars universe and really shakes things up.

The heaviest criticism of The Force Awakens was that too many beats had been lifted from A New Hope, and not many people can argue with that, and this had many fans a little concerned that The Last Jedi could end up being a retread of The Empire Strikes Back, but I’m happy to say that this is certainly not the case. Sure there are a couple call backs to chapter five, and the tone is as dark if not darker than the one found in Empire, but overall the two film’s couldn’t be more different. Now like The Empire Strikes Back this film does have characters split-off in various directions but it’s more a war movie than space drama that Empire  was, and my only minor quibble is that The Last Jedi fractures into not two but three storylines, and one of them wasn’t always that engaging.

“We are so engaging, you take that back!”

Not to get into spoiler territory here but the basic plot of the movie is that the remains of the rebellion is fleeing the forces of The First Order while Rey (Daisy Ridley) confronts Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) in the hopes of enlisting his aid in the fight. Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and Finn (John Boyega) are with Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) as they attempt to escape the clutches of First Order’s fleet of destroyers and dreadnaughts, and along the way Finn will hook up with rebel mechanic Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) and the two of them will have to slip away with BB-8 to find some way to stop the bad guys from tracking them. It’s this third fracture that is something that may bother a few viewers as it does take up a good portion of the film’s two and a half running time, and though it does lead to a pretty solid pay-off at the end I’m not quite sold on the amount valuable screen time spent at a rich man’s Mos Eisley when we’d could have spent more time with Rey and Luke instead.

“Have I ever told you about the scum and villainy I’ve seen?”

What works so well in this film is the amount of character development we do get in between all that action, from new and old characters alike, and I was stunned with how my expectations were turned on their head time again and time again. One has come to assume that in these sorts of films our heroes will find themselves in some sort of peril, but then they or some deus ex machina will get them out of said trouble, and that is simply not the case here. In fact one of the biggest surprises is that one of our heroes repeatedly makes the same “mistake” and there are consequences to them, dire ones.

The Last Jedi not only plays with the conventions of the genre but also explores the depths of our characters in startling ways. Klyo Ren (Adam Driver) was the angry young man in the last film but his emotional conflict with Ren, as well as with himself, in this film it becomes an integral part of the franchise, making a character that at first looked to be nothing but a spoiled brat who turned evil into something else entirely.

“I will not take a time out.”

Of course the biggest question fans wanted to know was “Who are Ren’s parents?” and though this film does answer that question it’s her moments training with Luke, who had basically shut himself off from The Force, and her belief that Kylo Ren can be turned to the light side, as Luke had done with his father, are far more important to the story than who got knocked up by whom. The wrinkle in her plan isn’t that Kylo Ren had just murdered his father and is possibly irredeemable, and one must admit that is a hard thing to overlook, but that Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) could be a sharper cookie than Emperor Palpatine ever was.

Snoke also has a better eye for interior decorating.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a balls-to-the wall action movie which director Rian Johnson marries with great story telling and fantastic visuals, the lightsaber battles in this movie are simply stunning and possibly the best in the series.  The performances are stellar across the board, special shout out to Mark Hamill and the late Carrie Fisher who gives us the best performances of their careers, and not only do we see our favorite characters return but we are taken on a journey with them that is as fun as it is surprising. This movie gets my highest recommends.

Stray Thoughts:

  • You could have a drinking game revolving around characters saying the word “hope” in these movies.
  • We have heroic moments from nameless rebel pilots and soldiers that manage to really tug at our heart strings.
  • Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) is given more to do this time out but she still kind of falls into the Boba Fett category of big build up with not so great pay-off.
  • I like that the Jedi Island Luke is hiding out on follows the Dagaboh rule of having one area that consists of the Dark Side of the Force.
  • The salt flats that make up the location for the film’s final battle is nice nod to Empire but is even more visually striking.
  • Flying the Millennium Falcon through an obstacle course is cool but by now is kind of becoming a little overused.
  • The porgs are about the cutest things ever but luckily they never become annoying nor are they that big of a part.

If scientists are not trying to create these things I’ll be very disappointed.

 

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