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Star Wars: The Last Jedi Review

December 15, 2017 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
Star Wars: The Last Jedi Rey Daisy Ridley
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Star Wars: The Last Jedi Review  

Directed By: Rian Johnson
Written By: Rian Johnson; Based on the characters created by George Lucas
Runtime: 152 minutes
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence

Daisy Ridley – Rey
Mark Hamill – Luke Skywalker
Adam Driver – Kylo Ren
John Boyega – Finn
Andy Serkis – Supreme Leader Snoke
Oscar Isaac – Poe Dameron
Carrie Fisher – General Leia Organa
Domhnall Gleeson – General Brendol Hux
Gwendoline Christie – Captain Phasma
Benicio Del Toro – DJ
Kelly Marie Tran – Rose Tico
Laura Dern – Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo
Peter Mayhew – Chewbacca
Anthony Daniels – C-3PO
Lupita Nyong’o – Maz Kanata
Jimmy Vee – R2-D2

Author’s Note: This is a spoiler-free review.

The Star Wars franchise continues with Episode VIII, The Last Jedi. After filmmaker J.J. Abrams successfully started a new era of live-action Star Wars films with The Force Awakens, writer-director Rian Johnson takes over for the adventures of the saga’s new younger heroes, while also servicing some of the classic icons of the original trilogy. Lucasfilm and filmmaker Rian Johnson come together for a riveting action-adventure film that will likely be highly argued and debated by the Star Wars fandom for years to come.

Shortly after the events of The Force Awakens, the First Order, led by Supreme Leader Snoke (Serkis) and General Brendol Hux (Gleeson), continues with its attack on the scrappy Resistance, led by General Leia Organa (Fisher in her final onscreen performance). Meanwhile, the new hero and Force wielder, Rey (Ridley), seeks the guidance of Jedi master Luke Skywalker (Hamill) on the remote planet of Ahch-to. However, the Jedi legend and hero of the Rebel Alliance may not be the great warrior she was searching for. Something has deeply scarred Skywalker into his self-imposed exile, making him believe that the time of the Jedi is now long over. Despite the loss of Starkiller Base, the threat of the First Order looms large, and Resistance fighters such as Poe Dameron (Isaac), Finn (Boyega) and the brave maintenance worker Rose Tico (Tran) seek to turn the tide in an epic battle where the fate of the galaxy hangs in the balance.

Johnson’s film, despite being the longest Star Wars movie in existence, is paced remarkably well throughout its two-and-a-half-hour running time. The film starts off with an intense sequence and shifts at a strong clip, so it never really lingers too much. Much like Abrams, Johnson also favors shooting on film, and succeeds very well in showcasing this amazing fantasy world with great practical setups, costumes and sets. There’s a lived-in and immersive quality for the Star Wars sequels that the prequel films always lacked. Johnson’s directing style really underscores dramatic, grand and awe-inspiring moments.

The Last Jedi is strongest with its characters. One of the best assets for The Force Awakens was the introduction of new and likable characters to dominate the story. Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron has one of the more interesting journeys and arcs throughout the film, as does Finn, who is without Rey on this adventure. Luke Skywalker, to the surprise and likely disappointment of some fans, had a very marginal appearance in The Force Awakens. In The Last Jedi, Luke again becomes a major part of the story, and his scenes and interactions with Rey provide the backbone of the story, along with some of its most satisfying moments.

The Last Jedi also provides a lot of exceptional further exploration for the mind and motivations of Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren, a subversion of the Sith Lord villains of yore. The Force Awakens showed a Kylo Ren who longs to emulate his grandfather Darth Vader, but his actions in the previous film have not dulled his conflict. Kylo Ren, or Ben Solo, is a swirling ball of emotions and raging id. Driver plays those feelings perfectly, expanding on one of the saga’s more interesting characters to date.

Unfortunately, The Last Jedi is not without its flaws. Johnson does well at juggling expectations and avoiding cliches. That’s good. There are storyline decisions here that are both surprising, and at times refreshing. However, there are turning points that are underwhelming and more than a little convoluted. At its best, The Last Jedi is a thrilling adventure. There are other times where it will cause confusion, disappointment and possibly even anger. It’s not really a comparable anger caused by the stilted, overly static and oftentimes dull Prequel Trilogy. Johnson and his production crew attempt some style and narrative choices that have never been used for a Star Wars film. More often than not, the break from the conventional style is to the benefit of The Last Jedi. There are other sequences of the film where Johnson really should have pulled back.

There is a sense that Johnson was eager to avoid making a chapter that would constantly be compared to the highly renowned middle chapter of the original trilogy, The Empire Strikes Back. More recently, The Force Awakens has come under constant criticism, sometimes unfairly, as being nothing more than a rehash of A New Hope. It’s a mystery whether Lucasfilm and The Last Jedi are an attempt to answer those complaints. Johnson has certainly succeeded in making a movie that is very different from any previous Star Wars movie. In some ways that’s good. In other areas, there are some major plot turns and developments that force unnecessary conflict.

To put this purely in ranking terms, The Force Awakens is a superior cinematic experience compared to The Last Jedi, but The Last Jedi is an exciting and interesting installment for the saga. The sequel trilogy for Star Wars continues to unfold and bring new characters and stories to the forefront rather than being mired in a past to connect existing dots. Ultimately, that’s the best place for the future of the Star Wars franchise. And it’s still better than Rogue One.

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
Star Wars: The Last Jedi continues the story and characters of The Force Awakens with some interesting developments and character arcs. Rian Johnson tells a sweeping, dramatic action-adventure with some great pacing, but some storyline decisions that are a little confusing and at times forced. Regardless, it's a good movie that will likely be debated and argued for years to come. Mark Hamill gets to shine once again as an older, wearier Luke. It's not as purely good of a movie as The Force Awakens, but it was a superior Star Wars adventure than Rogue One.