Star Wars: The Last Jedi - 2017
Director(s): Rian Johnson
Writer(s): Rian Johnson
Cinematography by: Steve Yedlin
Editor(s): Bob Ducsay
Cast: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson and Benicio Del Toro
Synopsis: Having taken her first steps into the Jedi world, Rey joins Luke Skywalker on an adventure with Leia, Finn and Poe that unlocks mysteries of the Force and secrets of the past.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the second installment in the new trilogy that jump-started and revived the Star Wars franchise. I’ll show my cards, I truly enjoyed 2015’s The Force Awakens. It gave me enough intrigue into this new set of characters and circumstances, while recognizing that it followed a lot of the same beats established in the original trilogy. It was the spark needed to revitalize the fandom and the love George Lucas cultivated back in 1977. But, I knew I would be completely turned off by the franchise if this installment was another retreat of the same beats we saw in the original. Safe to say, for better or worse, this movie is one of the more unique installments in a franchise eight movies deep and, overall, I really enjoyed it. Fair warning, this review will be as vague as possible. I honestly don’t want to spoil this movie.
Director Rian Johnson (Looper) managed to fully leave his imprint on this movie. While it perfectly fit within the franchise many have come to love, his voice shone through each frame. He created a balanced tone throughout the movie. He didn’t shy away from the dread and despair the situation called for, but always kept shining the light at the end of the tunnel letting the audience know that there is always hope. One of the things that I was impressed by during the movie was the tension he created in many of the action sequences. I wasn’t comfortable - I didn’t think to myself that the heroes would escape always, since its established that anything can happen and anyone can die. The fight scenes are well-choreographed and well-shot. I never lost track of the action and I knew where the heroes were during the flow of the fight. I honestly think this movie has the best lightsaber fight since Luke versus Darth Vader in Empire Strikes back.
As for the script, I both love and hate how Johnson played with our expectations. More love than hate. He subverted many tropes that the franchise has relied on in the past, almost knocking that crutch right out from under it and letting it stand on its two feet. This, I feel, will be the biggest source of contention for many fans of the franchise. Many people don’t like change, especially when it comes to the things they love. But, if the biggest critique The Force Awakens got was that it was too familiar and that it leaned to heavily on past beats, it would be hypocritical if the biggest critique of The Last Jedi is that it’s too different. I was on the edge of my seat because he took it in a new direction. I honestly didn’t know where the movie was going, and that’s something I didn’t expect walking in to the 8th film in a “well-oiled” machine.
Quick note: I didn’t love ALL the changes made. It’s a movie you win some you lose some, but when I added up all he pluses in my head it came up positive.
This movie is also gorgeous to look at and it’s a huge notch on the belt of cinematographer Steve Yedlin. The use of red throughout this movie is a treat to the eyes. It also helps to give this installment a distinctive look that sets it apart from the rest, matching what Johnson did with his script. The lightsaber fight scene I mentioned above is set in a bright red room and it just helps ramp-up the gravitas of the moment you are watching. This movie also ventures to planets and locations not seen before in Star Wars. Some I liked more than others, but I appreciated the clear goal they set for themselves in given the fans new locations within this galaxy far far away.
Quick note: There is a moment in this movie. A moment I can’t explain without spoiling. A moment that made my jaw drop as to how beautiful both visually and in sound design it was. I felt like a kid as I thought to myself, “That was cool”.
The acting once again is top notch. Daisy Ridley as Rey continues to prove that she was the right choice to spearhead this new trilogy. She handled both the dramatic scenes and the action scenes perfectly and has great chemistry with both Mark Hamill as Luke and Adam Driver as Kylo. Let’s talk Hamill first. His performance as Luke Skywalker was great. You can see in his eyes how the horrors and weight of wars have weighed him down. You can hear in his voice his sadness as he sees himself as a failure, even when everyone in the galaxy sees him as a hero and a beacon of hope. Driver is stellar as Kylo; I honestly love how he continues to give his characters layers of emotions. He isn’t a mustache twirling bad guy set out to rule the world. His inner conflict and his sense of destiny is what both drives him and holds him back and that makes for an interesting and compelling character. Quick shout out to Domhnall Gleeson, he is having the time of his life playing this over the top villain.
Quick note: Carrie Fisher as Princes Leia was wonderful and sad. Her performance is the perfect sendoff for her career. She will be missed.
I do have what I would like to call “qualms” with this movie. Nobody is perfect and this movie never claimed it was. It seems like the math wasn’t strong with Johnson. We are presented with a limited number of rebels, but it seems like no matter how many ships are blown up or how many are just straight up killed, more arrive for the next action sequence. Look, I wouldn’t complain if one of the main plots of the movie wasn’t “we are the last of the rebels”. So, each death of the extras should hold weight because they are the last. The ways they use Lupita Nyong’o’s character was clunky and a little unnecessary. Also, Captain Phasma completely underwhelmed me and felt underutilized once again. There is a world that I both loved and hated. It’s an intergalactic casino that was awesome to see, but it dragged too long and I just wanted to get back to the main plot. There are some jokes that undercut certain moments that could’ve held more weight for me. Small qualms in the grand scheme, but didn’t want to close out my review without pointing them out.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a great movie. It played with my expectation and it took the franchise in a new, refreshing direction. The acting is top notch across the board, the music by John William is heart-pumping and the direction was fantastic. It sets up an intriguing finale that I honestly don’t fully know what it will be and I love that I feel this way about a franchise that many called retrospective and predictable. I love movies. I just do.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is currently playing in theaters. Go see it.
If you like this review let me know in the comment section down below. Also, follow me over at Twitter (@yILovemovies) or over on Facebook, so you can be up to date with all my reviews.