a STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI musing
*VERY MINOR PLOT POINTS FOLLOW. (I try to talk around them as much as possible, don't worry!) BUT READ AT YOUR OWN DISCRETION, OR COME BACK AFTER YOU'VE SEEN THIS! For more spoiler talk, look out for a Second Thoughts musing this weekend!*
Since the Disney acquisition of Lucasfilm, the Star Wars franchise has seen one addition to its oeuvre the past two years. THE FORCE AWAKENS (2015) brought back the nostalgia (up to you to decide if it was a good or bad kind), while ROGUE ONE (2016) was the first standalone movie, aka the first Star Wars movie not involving the Skywalkers (at least directly…). This Christmas season, we get to add one more to that list: THE LAST JEDI, just in time for family fun. And boy, do we get some family fun in this one.
Luke Skywalker’s nephew, Kylo Ren, is still on his journey to becoming a full fledged Sith under Supreme Leader Snoke, while Rey finally hands the hermetic Luke his lightsaber and begins her training. Leia and the Resistance are on the run from the attacking First Order. Finn and Poe, who have become more like family to us all, get their own adventures to gain any sort of advantage over the First Order. Luke, for the first time since RETURN OF THE JEDI in 1983, gets to actually speak on film, and Mark Hamill really gets to sink his teeth into the character we all know and love. The late Carrie Fisher does great work as the once-Princess and General Leia, too. But it really is the new blood that drive this installment.
It’s impressive to see that this is only Daisy Ridley’s third wide-released movie, and she is electric every time she’s on screen. John Boyega, playing Finn, does admirable work, although his storyline with Rose (newcomer Kelly Marie Tran) was a weaker part of the movie. Poe (Oscar Isaac) does what he can in his arc, but Isaac always turns in a great performance. The real MVP turns out to be Adam Driver, playing the childish, hyper-focused Kylo Ren with such brash but easy intensity to marvelous effect. Driver and Ridley get a few scenes in JEDI to really flex their acting muscles (and real muscles, in some cases), and the audience really gets to see why these two were cast in the first place.
Saying more would really ruin the twist and turns this movie takes, but it’s quite the journey they all go on. THE LAST JEDI really gets to dig deep into character (and societal studies if you look close enough), with plenty of themes to tackle.
THE LAST JEDI doesn’t get everything right, though. Along with the aforementioned Finn and Rose subplot, the film feels too long. It seems ready to end at at least 3 different points, then keeps going. Some characters pull the short stick in terms of character development (and generally having anything to do) and end up being a waste of talented actors. There are a lot of fake-outs that lessen the effect of some moments, too. Great tension is undercut by cuts to another storyline happening concurrently, then we go back to the apex of the original scene, and it loses its momentum. We don't need to see everything playing out in real time; let the moments breathe and play out.
Alas, the movie is beautifully made, and with director/writer Rian Johnson setting up each and every payoff, the second half of the film really picks up the pace. There are some shots that will need to be printed and framed on my walls, the score will be spinning endlessly on my vinyl player, and many moments that will live on in pop culture forever.
Although it stumbles through the first half, THE LAST JEDI really sets itself apart from the rest of the saga with its storytelling, magnificent cinematography and incredible action. The confidence that Disney and Lucasfilm put into Rian Johnson’s vision really paid off, and I genuinely don’t see where the franchise is heading in its episodic films. This movie really is about the cost of war, the privileged vs. the unprivileged, making your own destiny, and, just like all Star Wars films, what it means to be a hero. It took a lot of faith to take the risks THE LAST JEDI does, and the Star Wars universe is all the better for it.
[As stated before, I’ll definitely post a Second Thoughts musing with more in-depth thoughts and spoiler talk this weekend!]
RATING: BEST OF THE BEST
(I’m staying Luke-warm [ha…] and not jumping out of my pants for this so far, but am willing to [and will likely] change my rating after seeing it a second/third/fourth/…/hundredth time…)
(EDITOR'S NOTE: After seeing it a second time, I changed my rating for this from "Purchasing For My Collection" to its current rating.)
(Refer to my rating system HERE!)