“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”- Movie Review
Ever since the news broke that George Lucas had surrendered the rights of his beloved Star Wars franchise to Disney, the world rejoiced. Casual fans and super-geeks alike, myself included, were optimistic. We were stoked about the possibility of revisiting the galaxy far far away, to see the characters we grew up with and loved and hopefully meet some new ones. Most importantly, the move opened the gates for something fresh. We got hints of newness in J.J. Abrams’s The Force Awakens. Though the real challenge was how to weave this thread into an epic tale.
Rian Johnson (Brick, Looper) steps into the director’s chair for this second installment of the new trilogy. The film picks up right where the first left off. Po Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and General Leia Organa (played by the late and great Carrie Fisher) accompany a team of resistance fighters in evading the wrath of the First Order. They seem to experience failure after failure until a newly healed Fin (John Boyega) and a maintenance worker named Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) decide to team up to find a way to attack the enemy from within. Meanwhile, Rey (Daisy Ridley) has found Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), whose pessimistic and reclusive behavior baffles her to no end. She’s determined to find answers and find them fast, as Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and the Dark Side grow stronger by the minute.
Now I’ll be completely honest- I didn’t love The Force Awakens. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very good movie. It was a fun return to the Star Wars universe and a nice introduction to a new generation of characters. Though in my opinion, its recycled story elements kept it from being great. And on the whole, I feel similarly about The Last Jedi. It’s a very good movie, with strong performances, great visuals, and a story that echoes beats from The Empire Strikes Back without totally repeating them. But it does have its major flaws.
In many respects the film does what a proper sequel should do- it expands on what was set up by its predecessor and deepens the emotional complexity of the characters. I didn’t go into this movie expecting a more light-hearted space adventure with Luke Skywalker getting into awesome light saber battles. Granted, it would’ve been nice to have seen more of the latter, but as a whole, the film succeeds in getting the message across. The Last Jedi is about letting go of the past. Doing so can be a good thing, but the film illustrates just how haunting the mistakes or assumptions of the past can truly be.
Ever actor brings their A-game- Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Domnhall Gleeson, Andy Serkis, and so on. Mark Hamill is especially fantastic as a grizzly, damaged and regretful Luke Skywalker. Seeing Carrie Fisher on the big screen for the final time as Leia was an emotional experience, and her scene with Hamill toward the end of the film serves as a sweet final goodbye. Adam Driver is another stand out, having the ability to convey so much rage and emotional confliction through simple actions and expressions. Kelly Marie Tran is a nice new addition as Rose, a maintenance worker, though the relationship she forms with Finn tip-toes into unnecessary territory toward the end.
Speaking of, there are a couple unnecessary aspects about The Last Jedi. For one, I never got a real sense of the stakes. Maybe it’s because the whole “stop the bad guys and save the galaxy” scenario feels too familiar thanks to it being the backbone of both the prequels and original trilogy. The action is there, so are the three-dimensional characters. But the weight of it all is something I’ve grown used to. There’s also a good chunk in the second act where Finn and Rose have to travel to a Vegas-like planet in search of a hacker played by Benicio del Toro (who really didn’t need to exist). For one, it’s not much of a creative world design. Secondly, the whole sequence feels like the film is stalling until it gets to the good stuff in its climatic third act. It loosens the tension and lessens any sense of urgency the film had been building up.
The Last Jedi had a lot of expectations to live up to. It had to be a good sequel without being a rehash. It had to recapture that original Star Wars magic while also being something new. For some audiences, the film succeeded in many levels. Though devoted members of the fandom declare it’s a bottom-of-the-bucket failure. No matter the argument, I will stay true to my opinion. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. Sure, it has some major flaws, but the good outweighs the bad in my opinion. The film adds a brand new layer to the Star Wars mythology, and personally, I couldn’t be happier about it.
Cosmic Grade: 3.9 out of 5 Stars