With the release of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” old and new fans alike once again find themselves split down the seam when it comes to the franchise’s newest entry. While many believe that the previous entry, “The Force Awakens,” borrowed a little too much from the saga’s roots, fans are now experiencing a variety of concerned and intrigued feelings with director Rian Johnson’s new film.
My honest opinion after two viewings? This is the best Star Wars film since the original trilogy.
While that may not carry much weight considering the utter failure of the prequel trilogy, “The Last Jedi” does everything to it can to make it stand out from every other Star Wars movie in existence. Following the famous opening crawl, fans will notice that Johnson has made his mark on a franchise that had grown somewhat stale with rehashes.
The action sequences are handled better with a better mixture of long, medium and tight shots. This paints a better picture for the audience, as it allows viewers to better grasp what is happening on screen and it isn’t jarring to the human eye as some movies are nowadays. It also contains more practical uses of CGI, or at least as practical as a movie that is primarily set in space can be.
One thing Rian Johnson managed to do that George Lucas almost refused to do was shoot on location instead of just on a green screen. While the space battles are obviously impossible to create away from a green screen, the island where main characters Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) interact looks great and isn’t filled with unnecessary CGI. The movie’s practical feel does a lot to make it different from the other movies in the franchise.
As far as the story goes, the entire movie is a pretty wild ride. It starts with the Resistance fleeing the First Order, as General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) pursues them with the hopes to crush them. New fan-favorite Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) comes to the rescue and after a terrific opening battle sequence, the Resistance has bought themselves a brief reprieve.
The movie then switches over to the other main arc of the story, the one where Rey continues her efforts to bring Skywalker out of his exile. These two are clearly the stars of the film, and their interactions on the island are some of the best parts of the movie. After Kylo Ren’s (Adam Driver) turn to the dark side drives him away from everyone, Skywalker is now confronted by another young pupil who wishes to bring back the nearly extinct Jedi.
Naturally, after what he has seen, Skywalker is hesitant. Surprisingly, he stays that way for most of the movie despite showing Rey some of what he has learned. He also sheds some light onto Ren’s turn and what it was that drove him to the Dark Side. Fans will see this story told a couple times more in the film, and when the accurate version comes to light, it’s in a scene that has some of the most emotion the saga has ever seen.
While the story may not be perfect, it is one that is going to keep you interested and engaged from beginning to end. It’s also a story that borrows from the original movies, while also adding new and unique aspects to a franchise in need of a spark. That mixture leads to one of the best films under the Star Wars name.
One of the most satisfying parts of this movie is Hamill. After two viewings, this is one of the best performances he has given in the Star Wars canon. He manages to pull off the stern, impossible-to-impress teacher after three movies that made him one of the biggest heroes in the franchise. It works as a passing of the torch to Ridley’s character, who sees even more character growth from the last movie. The decision to cast her continues to work wonders, as she is excellent once again in this film.
Most of the same could be said of the newer cast, as Isaac, Driver and John Boyega each stand out in new ways this movie. Driver, in particular, sees the most growth of anyone and it will be really interesting to see where the next movie takes his character.
The best parts of the movie are easily the interactions between Ridley and Driver. As they both grow stronger in the ways of “the Force,” they begin to communicate with each other through it. What starts in anger and name-calling ends in the two beginning to trust each other and that growth is what makes this work. You feel as if they genuinely hate each other at the start, but then that slowly but surely changes to trust.
That element made every moment in which the two were together in a scene gripping and when they are united in the movie’s third act, you are really unsure of what will happen.
Speaking of the third act, it is the most unpredictable part of the movie and that makes it work. With the Resistance on its last legs, they launch a desperate, last resort plan to escape, while Rey is on a First Order ship confronting Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis). As everything unfolds, there is twist upon twist, and you can never really get a feel for where the story is going to go.
That is what makes this movie so good, the fact that it isn’t predictable like “The Force Awakens.” There are many moments in which you will fear for the life of a character and there are events that transpire that will make your jaws drop.
While the movie is really good as a whole, it is not without its flaws. One of the worst story arcs of the movie is the one that takes place is the one between Finn (Boyega) and Rose (Kelly Marie Tran). With the Resistance needing an elite-level hacker to escape the First Order, the two embark on a journey to this world that feels a little too much like Earth.
The reason why that doesn’t work is simply because it plays against the idea of “a galaxy far, far away.” It doesn’t feel like this is a movie that takes place in an unknown world, rather it takes place in a smaller, more compact Las Vegas. In addition to that, the entirety of their time there is used for a political statement that has become all too familiar in movies today. While it works in some, it feels very forced here and it doesn’t work to the film’s advantage.
Another negativity is in the main villain, Snoke. His presence in the movie is very disappointing and it feels almost like J.J. Abrams had a different plan for him compared to Johnson. This is one of the issues that comes with having a different director for each movie. When one has a plan for one movie, the next director may not agree with him. That is likely the case here, and it is a shame because Snoke could’ve been so much more than what this movie allowed him to be.
There are two more things that stick out as far as negatives go, and they are the porgs and the humor. While porgs are clearly a cash-grab merchandise-seller, the humor is a really odd part of the movie. While there are moments where it works, the laughs that you will give are relatively jarring when they occur. A serious moment is made funny when it probably shouldn’t have been, and the slap-stick comedy that exists can be pretty detrimental to the movie.
While there are negatives that exist in the film, the positives far outweigh them and “The Last Jedi” is easily one of the best movies that the franchise has given its fans. At the very least, it is the best movie since the original trilogy and it lays the groundwork for a very interesting conclusion that will occur when Episode Nine is released.
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