“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is directed by Rian Johnson and it’s the eighth installment in the Star Wars Saga, continuing right off where “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” left off. Rey has found Luke Skywalker on the isolated planet of Ahch-To and she wishes to learn the ways of the Force from him and possibly even learn more about his past as well as her own. Meanwhile, the Resistance continues its fight against the First Order and heroes in Finn, Poe Dameron, and General Leia Organa try their very best to weaken Supreme Leader Snoke in his attempts to rule the galaxy and locate Luke.
Since it hasn’t been said on this new site already, I’ll go ahead and go on the record of saying that I’m a ginormous Star Wars fan. The original trilogy is my personal favorite movie trilogy and even though I very much dislike the prequel trilogy, I still can bring myself to watch them any time I decide to marathon these movies, just out of loyalty to the sage. I also enjoy “Rogue One” just fine, and I loved “The Force Awakens”, having just reviewed it recently on this blog. So naturally, I was excited to see this movie, it being my most anticipated film of the year. And as is the case with movies, there’s a mix of things in “The Last Jedi” that I like and dislike, so here’s my completely spoiler-free review.
Starting out with the things I like, I want to talk about finally seeing Luke Skywalker in these new movies. Sure, he was in “The Force Awakens” for a minute with no dialogue, but now we actually get to see him as a character and how far he’s come in the series. I honestly really liked Luke’s depiction in this film. He’s very weathered, depressed, and acts a curmudgeon for a majority of the movie. His reluctance to teach Rey the Force is greater than that of Yoda’s in “The Empire Strikes Back” and even though he himself has his own issues because of his past, he still shares an interesting dynamic with Rey in teaching her the Force. And Mark Hamill is excellent in the role, conveying all of the pain and frustration that we’ve never seen in this character before.
Another character that I found myself really invested in was Kylo Ren. I liked his portrayal in Episode VII and in here, he’s twice as compelling. This movie really gives you a look into his head and how conflicted he is given the events of the previous movie. To me, Kylo Ren is the perfect example of what Anakin Skywalker should’ve been in the prequels. He’s conflicted about his feelings on the light and dark side and he’s clearly trying to prove himself, but he does so without coming off as whiny or annoying. You understand why he does what he does and he continues to be one of the entire saga’s most interesting antagonists.
From a directing standpoint, Rian Johnson did a genuinely good job. This is the guy who has made some great movies in “Looper” and “Brick”, and he’s also made the masterpiece of a TV episode in the “Breaking Bad” episode, Ozymandias. He’s a talent behind the camera and in terms of a visual look, “The Last Jedi” is something else. There are some space battles and ground assaults in this movie that look fantastic and are genuinely a lot of fun to watch, and the cinematography is truly stunning. Some shots in this movie legitimately had me sitting in the theater with a grin on my face because of how great they looked.
I also think that this movie has the most humor of any Star Wars film we’ve seen at this point. Honestly, I’d say that roughly 80-85% of the jokes in this movie were funny, whereas the other 15-20% didn’t stick their landing very well. Some of the jokes that didn’t work were either jokes that undercut a serious moment, or had no place being in a Star Wars movie. Sure, they could’ve worked in any other movie, but they certainly didn’t need to be in this movie, or the saga as a whole.
This movie also deserves some credit for taking a walk on the risky side. There’s certain things that happen in this movie that I didn’t see coming and it makes for a very different Star Wars viewing experience. These directions taken can pertain to certain characters or questions that were raised in Episode VII. The point is that this movie makes some bold decisions and I think that most of them pay off.
Now it’s time to talk about the things in this movie that I didn’t like. I praised Rian Johnson earlier in this review for his talent behind the camera, but that same talent doesn’t exactly apply to his abilities as a writer. For one thing, there are certain things that happen in this movie that makes me think that Johnson doesn’t fully understand how the Force has been set up in previous movies. Granted, I’m all for expanding the Force and exploring more of what it does and how it works. This movie has moments where it delves deeper into the Force and sometimes it’s genuinely interesting to watch and I liked the direction it was going. Other times, though, I didn’t like what was happening and it felt like a contradiction to what the Force has been set up as.
With returning characters like Finn and Poe, they’re both great to see in the sense that they’re entertaining characters who are played really well by their respective actors. But the problem is that they’re both given subplots that I wasn’t interested in at all. Finn is teamed up with a new character named Rose and their goal is to go to another planet to find someone in particular. Finn and Rose have OK chemistry, but their entire side story disinterested me for a myriad of reasons. It features an annoying new character that I didn’t care for and it even has the overall feel of something that would’ve been in the prequels. Granted, it’s still relevant to the plot, but the execution is what hurts it.
With Poe’s storyline, it’s not as boring as the Finn/Rose quest, but I still felt like it could’ve been cut from the movie entirely, or at least clean up some of the writing. Again, it suffers from a new character who isn’t very interesting and it just feels like unnecessary drama. Once again, it’s integral to how the story plays out, but it all comes down to execution and in both of these subplots, it didn’t pan out the way it should have.
Overall, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is a movie that I’m mixed on, though I am leaning in the positive side of things. It’s a well directed movie that makes bold choices in its story and it has some great character moments that will live on in Star Wars legacy, but it suffers from a writing standpoint. Its overall structure comes off as choppy and there were some of these aforementioned bold decisions that didn’t have good payoff. There’s a great film hidden somewhere in “The Last Jedi”. Some moments are truly incredible and made me giddy as a Star Wars fan. Other moments simply made me feel like I was plowing through the prequels again and it made for a strange viewing experience. In the end, I enjoyed this movie and I look forward to seeing it again to better formulate my thoughts and write a spoiler-filled blog this weekend, though the word “disappointed” does come to mind at the moment.