Star Wars: The Last Jedi FILM REVIEW
STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI
Director: Rian Johnson
Story & Screenplay: Rian Johnson
Starring: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, Domhnall Gleeson, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, Gwendoline Christie, Andy Serkis, Anthony Daniels, Benicio Del Toro
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence.
Running Time: 2 hours 32 minutes
****1/2 out of *****
Photo: Lucasfilm Ltd.
Master Jedi Luke Skywalker begins training Rey in the ways of the Force in Rian Johnson's STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI.
With character introductions out of the way writer and director Rian Johnson was left to his own devices to craft the next entry in the STAR WARS saga. Johnson takes viewers on a journey through both the Light Side and the Dark Side of the Force in what is easily the most compelling entry in the saga since THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and the most satisfying entry since STAR WARS EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH. The Force is strong with STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI and it delivers everything promised in THE FORCE AWAKENS without getting bogged down in overt nostalgic feels nor underdeveloped and underutilized characters.
THE LAST JEDI picks up right where THE FORCE AWAKENS left off. Rey has found reclusive Jedi Master Luke Skywalker and the Resistance must now escape the clutches of the incensed First Order. In the film and its trailer, Luke says "this is not going to go the way you think." In the Jedi tradition, from a certain point of view those words couldn't be more true. From one perspective the twists and turns taken in this film are bold and unexpected while from another they perhaps have gone too far into the dark side. When a long running franchise injects something new or takes a different approach to what has previously existed it is certainly something worth noting. However, when said action actually reinvigorates it and makes it feel fresh and exciting that is something to be embraced and exalted.
After THE FORCE AWAKENS and ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY, it began to feel like the magic was gone or that there was simply no way to recapture those good times and happy feelings of yesterday. While the films were entertaining at best they simply lacked the feels many fans hoped to experience. This viewer actually felt nothing when his favorite character met his demise in the previous chapter. The moment was so telegraphed it ultimately felt like a mere plot point and the event was robbed of any emotional significance which was unfortunate. By comparison, it was quite satisfying having those feelings, good and bad, upon exiting the theatre after viewing THE LAST JEDI.
Amidst all the action the latest film is a very story and character driven piece on all levels. Johnson provides the new characters introduced in THE FORCE AWAKENS with meaningful arcs which make them more interesting and engaging than when they first appeared. He evolves the classic characters in unexpected and exciting ways which truly develop and expand these beloved icons beyond what we have come to know. He introduces new characters who not only serve a purpose to the overall story but will leave a memorable impression. It certainly is a daunting task to create new characters who are expected to be as iconic as those that came before and though it may have taken until the second film for them to ingratiate themselves optimism certainly proved rewarding.
At just over two and a half hours, the film never feels as such. While it may not speed along at a breakneck pace it never felt slow or as long as the running time would imply. There are many great moments in the film but discussing them would often require spoilers to set up so none shall be mentioned here. That being said, the action set pieces are often exciting and the quieter moments are frequently deep and introspective. Easily the most eagerly awaited scenes were those involving Rey, played by Daisy Ridley, and Luke Skywalker, played by Mark Hamill, and they do not disappoint. Every character in the film has their moment and often times it would elicit a giddy, exciting feeling which EPISODE VII tried to do but came up short.
Overall performances are much better this time around. Adam Driver really shines in this one as there is so much more depth to his character than the previous film would seem to imply. Daisy Ridley is equally strong as her character grows by leaps and bounds. Mark Hamill IS the Master Jedi we've been longing to see since the end of RETURN OF THE JEDI. In her swan song, Carrie Fisher gives a subdued but rich final performance as Leia; a dedication to her appears during the end credits. Laura Dern, Benicio Del Toro and Kelly Marie Tran are the newest characters in the STAR WARS saga and they elevate their seemingly minor yet major roles in the film.
STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI isn't perfect but it certainly is one of the best STAR WARS films and best science fiction films out there. It has some particularly silly moments throughout and occasionally touches upon that nostalgia button that in many ways hindered J.J. Abrams' film but the overall good feelings which come from it pretty much brush those quibbles aside and leaves one with the urge to get right back in line and see it again. This was the STAR WARS film we've been looking for. Smiles were broken. Edges of seats were met. A new hope for the next installment and the franchise's future have, for now, returned; J.J. Abrams is writing and directing EPISODE IX while Johnson will be the creative force behind a new trilogy of STAR WARS films. For a brief period we were taken back to that galaxy from long ago and so far away. A universe we grew up with. In the end, that's all that really matters.
May the Force be with you.
***** = Outstanding ****1/2 = Excellent **** = Very Good ***1/2 = Above Average
*** = Good **1/2 = Mediocre ** = Fair *1/2 = Poor * = Bad 1/2* = Abysmal