Quick Take: Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a dynamic Episode VIII and damn near everything a space opera should be.
It’s a perfect balance of heroes, martyrs, intrigue, double-crosses, crushing defeats and bittersweet victories. The overall story arc’s built on complex characters and driven by high drama and action.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi relies humor and well-crafted storytelling that weaves the loose threads left dangling in The Force Awakens together into a film that more than stands on its own.
Writer/Director Rian Johnson reinvigorated the action with a unique approach to Star Wars Canon. He pulls off a superb hat-tip to the original trilogy without rehashing iconic moments to drive character development.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi opens with a bang, fulfills its promise, then teases great things to come in subtle but epic ways. It’s 2 hours and 32 minutes of sublime visual storytelling.
There are no spoilers in the details. 1) I don’t like hate mail and 2) I’ve stabbed a spoiler-prone person in the back of the hand with a fork before. So have no fear if you chose to read on…
For those of you who feel you’re not watching a Star Wars movie without the opening crawl rest easy, it’s back. I never understood the complaint about it not being in Rogue One seeing as Rouge One IS “the crawl” but how about we just let that debate lie hmm?
The set design, special effects, physical locations, and model creation for Star Wars: The Last Jedi coupled with Steve Yedlin‘s masterful cinematography creates a picturesque and expansive landscape. You believe every second in space, on the ground and in-between. This is “light and magic” at its sci-fi film best.
Episode VIII is the passing of the torch, the beginning of a saga and the end of an era…
The Jedi Arc
This film picks up simultaneously with the Republic in ruins and chaos descending on the Rebel base and Rey’s efforts to spur Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) back into action on behalf of the Resistance. But, Star Wars: The Last Jedi isn’t Luke Skywalker’s story it’s about hope, darkness, death, and learning what real leadership means.
Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) are the penultimate manifestations of the Force.
Their story interwoven with Rey’s journey in search of Luke and his tutelage is emotional and ominous. Star Wars: The Last Jedi unfolds at a steady, compelling pace. Johnson navigates canon to demonstrate the Force’s resurgence and push towards balance. A skillful use of dialogue, visuals, and inference builds the tension on all sides and keeps you guessing from one moment to the next.
Mark Hamill gives an absorbing performance grounded in his trademark deadpan wit and quintessential tunnel vision he never grew out of as a young Jedi. He’s still got baggage and it’s still getting in his way. There are surprises and Easter eggs to be had in this storyline.
New creatures, a glimpse into the Jedi’s past (that makes me long for a film set in the time of the Old Republic even more) and Rey’s strides towards finding her place drive this story arc to a captivating climax that will dismay even as it delights. I’m never mad when I have to stop myself from blurting out something during a movie.
The Resistance Arc
The Last Jedi is far more than just Rey’s immersion into the ways of the Jedi or Kylo Ren’s conflicted (whiny ass) journey into the dark side of the Force. The Resistance is in serious jeopardy. The rebel forces are in full retreat (btw this is NOT a film you should see until you’re current on your Star Wars cinematic lore) every step of the way.
In Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, there are no throwaway moments, no characters present just for kicks, or moments that aren’t pivotal to the overall storyline. The Rebel forces are facing steep odds and the time for reckless maneuvers and short-sighted goals is long past. How this plays out onscreen brings to mind more than one moment between Han, Luke, and Leia in the original trilogy. But Johnson aptly utilizes new characters and heightens the danger and daring necessary to persevere. There are plans within plans and red herrings galore. You’ll be pulled in and nothing will jar you out of this one until the credits roll.
This story arc has more than a few twists and turns that add depth to both the old and new characters. Star Wars: The Last Jedi handles the necessity of passing the torch to a new generation of fighters with graceful and gritty realism. There’s no real way to discuss this larger arc without spoiling something so I won’t try.
All of the battle scenes in Star Wars: The Last Jedi are fiery and unpredictable. The acting is so seamless (and emotively spot on) there’s an edge and flair to the story progression. And in true Star Wars fashion, it’s morals and message(s) are well blended. You’ll find yourself questioning what you think you’ve figured out. There are no loose ends; there are no haphazard attempts to do more than the story needs.
This entire cast brought enthusiasm and skill to their roles. They formed a believable coalition fighting on behalf of a downtrodden populous. Johnson’s screenplay highlights the expected highs and lows of a hierarchical society with sharp dialogue, biting visuals, and an evocative and well-plotted score that casual fans and diehards alike should applaud.
Our General and Princess is now and forever a badass.
Carrie Fisher’s final General Leia is a more than fitting tribute to both Leia and Fisher herself.
I have no idea how they’re going to handle things going forward but the General anchored this team with grace and fortitude. The urgency with which she acted and the lessons she imparted to her protegés along the way is a – more than – solid foundation for this saga to continue.
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5
Star Wars: The Last Jedi opens in U.S. theaters on December 15, 2017. In the meantime, here are cast members answering google search questions: