Movie Review: ‘The Last Jedi’ (SPOILER FREE!)
Plot: Following the destruction of Star Killer Base, the Resistance find themselves pursued by the full force of the First Order. Led by General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) and intrepid Commander Poe Dameron (Oscar Issac), the Resistance’s situation remains dire. Former Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) and Resistance member Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) must find a way to save the Resistance from certain destruction. Meanwhile, Rey (Daisy Ridley) travels to the island of Ahch-To in hopes of bringing Jedi Master Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) back to the fold. Together they must face the Dark Side user Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and his mysterious master Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis).
Review: I deliberately waited a few days (and two viewings) to write my review of The Last Jedi. As a lifelong Star Wars fan I’m just as susceptible to the hype and tendency for blind reaction to these films. I think it’s damn near impossible to write an honest critique of a Star Wars film without some distance. You need to allow some time to process these movies before giving a fair assessment. And believe me there is a LOT to process when it comes to The Last Jedi. So, keeping in mind this is just my opinion,* after a few days of distance I can say three things with absolutely certainty:
- The Last Jedi will be divisive as Hell among Star Wars fans. In fact if you’ve gone on the Internet at all in the last few days you know that’s already true.
- The Last Jedi makes bold and unexpected choices that expands the Star Wars universe and has severe ramifications on the future of the franchise.
- The Last Jedi is flawed but still a masterpiece.
Audacious, thrilling, and totally unexpected, The Last Jedi is a resounding success for director Rian Johnson and crew. It’s a bold new chapter in the Star Wars universe that pushes the franchise in new directions. In the trailers and television promos leading up to this movie, you hear Luke Skywalker say, “This is not going to go the way that you think!” That’s 100% on point, as The Last Jedi subverts any and all possible expectations you might have had.
The phrase “this is a studio project” gets thrown around a lot in Hollywood especially with big tent pole movies like Star Wars. There’s a pervasive notion that these movies are film by committee. To some extent that’s true. Justice League was certainly a studio product as (to some degree) was The Force Awakens. However, this movie is through and through Rian Johnson’s. Not only did Johnson direct the film he wrote it as well. With The Last Jedi, Johnson breathes new life into a franchise some fans have come to believe was wrapped up in its own nostalgia. For those of you who wanted something different in a Star Wars movie, this is it.
From the opening scenes to the final perfect shot, The Last Jedi Force chokes you and doesn’t let you go for two plus hours. I don’t understand the people saying this movie is too long. If anything I wanted more. I wanted to time travel two years into the future to see what’s next. What’s great is that despite the sound and fury of space battles and lightsabers, Johnson gives The Last Jedi plenty of breathing room and some emotionally resonant scenes, especially between Rey and Luke. Additionally, there are two very powerful moments that happen completely in silence, something both unexpected and beautiful. Johnson manages to have The Last Jedi feel like a Star Wars movie while simultaneously putting his own unique directorial spin on the film. As always John Williams’ score impresses and there’s an outside shot he gets another Oscar nod for best score. At times rousing and at other times heartfelt, it’s sad to think that someday soon, Williams will no longer be able to score a Star Wars film.
I’ve always been of the opinion that characters you care about are, for the most part, more important than plot. That’s why Rogue One left me cold. While the plot was decent I ultimately didn’t care about Jyn Erso and her companions. If there’s no emotional attachment to the characters, someone I can empathize and relate to, then I couldn’t care less about the movie. For whatever issues The Force Awakens had, I legitimately cared about all the characters.
The same holds true for The Last Jedi. I found the dynamic between Rey, Kylo Ren, and Luke fascinating. And the fact that all three grew as characters made this movie all the more enjoyable. John Boyega continues to impress as Finn. His actions show that while a greater cause is important, people are ultimately people, and can sometimes be wrapped up in saving their friends. Finn grows as well however, learning that sometimes you have to put aside the personal for the greater good. Even Poe Dameron learns that you can’t always solve the problems of the galaxy from the cockpit of an X-Wing, something Leia teaches him. Speaking of Leia, Carrie Fisher excels as Leia. The Last Jedi proves to be a great send-off for her and it’s hard not to get emotional when she’s on screen if you’re a Star Wars fan.
Regarding the two major newcomers to the franchise, I flat-out loved Rose, Finn’s companion on a side mission to Canto Bight. Tran brings a spunkiness, purpose, and cautious optimism that added value to The Last Jedi. The same can be said for Del Toro’s character DJ. His quirky personality is distinct and reminiscent of Fred Fenster from The Usual Suspects. As a character who caters to both the “good” and “bad” sides of the opposing forces, he represents how some don’t always choose sides-or have to. Some people are just trying to get by day-to-day and aren’t caught up in politics or social justice.
I have to give credit to Mark Hamill as well. Although he by all outward appearances seems like an amazing human being, I never thought he was a particularly good actor. That’s why I can say unequivocally that this is the best I’ve ever seen him in a performance. The fact that he takes Luke Skywalker, the bright-eyed idealistic farm boy and eventual Jedi and evolves him into a weathered, disheartened, and bitter Jedi Master, is no small feat. Wisdom is where time and experience intersect and Hamill brings a pathos and depth I wasn’t expecting. If it wasn’t for this being a very tough year in the category, I would say he had a shot at an Oscar nod for Best Supporting Actor.
Now The Last Jedi does contain some flaws. Occasionally the pacing was off and there was one part (just about two sentences) where there was some unnecessary exposition. Additionally, they lean a little too heavily on the humor at times. There’s a joke early on that while funny felt out-of-place. I also would have liked to have seen more Chewie and R2D2. Anyone who is afraid of the Porgs killing this movie fear not. They are hilarious, especially a great sight gag between them and Chewbacca that had me dying.
As great as The Last Jedi was, the last third of Johnson’s movie was mind-blowing. There are so many bold and surprising moments that I didn’t see coming. Some may take umbrage with a few of the choices but I personally was a fan of them all. One moment had me fanboying out like you would not believe.
Ultimately, The Last Jedi is a welcome addition to the franchise. It’s probably the most complex and nuanced Star Wars film we’ve ever had. The mark of a 10 for me is not if it’s a perfect film (even The Dark Knight isn’t perfect), but whether I’m thinking about the movie days after the fact. That holds true for The Last Jedi. I feel that as the years progress fans of the series will come to like this movie more and more. The Last Jedi demands multiple viewings. Indeed I’ve found people who didn’t particularly care for the movie wanting to see it again. I am in awe of what Rian Johnson accomplished with The Last Jedi.
My rating System:
0-1 God Awful Blind Yourself With Acid Bad
2 Straight Garbage
4 Sub Par
8 Very Good
10 A Must See
The Last Jedi: 10/10
*On a personal note, I implore people to stop with the reprehensible rhetoric regarding this film. I’ve seen some really vitriolic and ridiculous, sometimes personal attacks over the last few days and it disgusts me. No one has the right to act like an elitist prick on either side and shit on other people’s joy. We’ve got enough toxic fandom out there already. At the end of the day all art is subjective and the only opinion that counts is your own.
You can follow me on Twitter at @DarthGandalf1