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, but the problem with this comes in the form of a question, “Does he actually have a point to what he is doing, or is he just throwing shit against the wall to see what sticks?”
The heaviest criticism of The Force Awakens was that too many beats had been lifted from A New Hope, and not many people could 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 that this is certainly not the case, this movie actually combines both Empire and Return of the Jedi. There many scenes that are direct call backs to chapter five six, but the tone is as quite dark, if not darker than which was found in Empire. Now like The Empire Strikes Back this film does have characters split-off in various directions, but it’s more a war movie than the 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.
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 against galactic oppression. 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), who quickly develops a thing for the young hero, 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, not when we’d could have spent more time with Rey and Luke instead.
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, though not always in the direction I would have liked. One has come to assume that in these sorts of films our heroes will find themselves in some sort of peril, and then they, or some deus ex machina, will get them out of said trouble, but 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. Clever subversion of expectations or lazy writing, you be the judge.
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, 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.
Of course the biggest question fans wanted to know was “Who are Ren’s parents?” and though this film does kind of answer that question – much to many a fan’s chagrin – 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 – 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, sadly don’t expect to learn much about Snoke.
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 some great visuals – the lightsaber battles in this movie are simply stunning. The performances are stellar across the board, special shout out to Mark Hamill and the late Carrie Fisher, who give us some very fine performances, and not only do we see our favorite characters return but we are taken on a journey with them is a little surprising. This movie may not get everything right, often not making any sense at all, but it does manage to entertain us at times.
- 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.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)
This latest chapter in the Star Wars saga is a blisteringly fun ride and has me more than eager to see the next installment, well not so eager for the Han Solo movie, but I’m dying to see chapter nine as I honestly have no idea where they are going with the story, and that has me more excited than anything else.