MOVIE REVIEW: Star Wars: The Last Jedi [Spoiler-free]

NEW RELEASE – SPOILER FREE ZONE!

STAR WARS: The Last Jedi (2017)

Directed by Rian Johnson

Writer/Director Rian Johnson brings his own slant to Star Wars with Episode VIII: The Last Jedi.  JJ Abrams played it safely to fans of the Original Trilogy with The Force Awakens, and he did so successfully.  He did little to expand the mythos, but Rian Johnson has certainly stepped up in that regard.  Some fans are already going apeshit.  The old “George Lucas ruined my childhood” has been replaced by “Rian Johnson and Disney have ruined Star Wars”.  They’re also upset because just about every single fan theory…was wrong.

That’s bull.  But some fans will have difficulty accepting certain revelations about The Last Jedi.  There are also stylistic choices that are questionable, such as the return of lens flare, and lazy gimmicky slow motion.  Johnson also chose to tell parts of this story by use of flashbacks, something that Lucas generally avoided.  These factors, plus the recurring symbolic use of the colour red, make The Last Jedi feel like the odd man out of the saga.

Now, somebody hand Mark Hamill an Academy Award, because he earned it this time.  His curmudgeonly older and wiser Luke Skywalker is note-perfect.  Some fans have complained that this Luke is not the Luke they hoped for, based on the old Expanded Universe (EU) novels.  On the other hand, this previously unseen Luke rocks because it’s completely different from previously told stories, which is what the Sequel Trilogy needs to be.  Remember, Lucas never would have followed those old books any way.  He never has.  Regardless, Hamill has clearly done his best cinematic work in The Last Jedi, fulfilling the wishes of every fan who wanted to see the most powerful Jedi master in the history of the order.

This isn’t really a spoiler, but The Last Jedi does prove that Luke Skywalker has indeed fulfilled his destiny of becoming more powerful than any other.

Don’t worry, fanboys, there is lightsaber action to be seen; and don’t forget the original 1977 Star Wars had very little to start with.  Instead of prequel-esque lightsaber stupidity, Johnson gives us a more contemplative Skywalker.  The stories of Luke and his new student Rey (Daisy Ridley) are so compelling that other heroes are left by the wayside.  Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), Finn (John Boyega) and newcomer Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) have their own mission on the side, to cripple the evil First Order.  Unfortunately, and perhaps just due to the gravity of Luke’s story, these side missions only prolong the wait for more scenes with Luke.  Or, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), the Vader wannabe with the temper of his grandfather.  Ren has a strange connection through the Force with Rey, and the two are eventually brought together to face each other again.

The Last Jedi should satisfy some who thought The Force Awakens didn’t acknowledge the Prequel Trilogy enough.  There is a reference to Darth Sidious (better known as the Emperor) and the new setting of Canto Bight would fit in with Attack of the Clones.  Finn and Rose must find a master hacker in Canto Bight, a posh gambling centre frequented by rich weapons dealers making money off both sides in the war(s).  New character DJ (Benecio Del Toro) is sceptical of both sides, because he knows it doesn’t matter.  The same people are getting rich no matter what side wins.  This is a relatively new concept in Star Wars, although Darth Sidious did control both sides of the Clone Wars, he didn’t do it to get rich.

Poe, Finn and Rose are among those under the command of Princess Leia, still a badass, and so sad knowing that Carrie Fisher has gone.  Leia has her own moments in this movie, and we know that she was to be the main focus of Episode IX.  Now that Carrie is one with the Force, it is very unfortunate that she didn’t have a larger part of The Last Jedi.  She has a few good one-liners, and Carrie portrayed Leia as a strong and immediately charismatic leader.  There is also one Leia sequence that has fanboys destroying their action figures in anger.

Also noteworthy: Andy Serkis as Supreme Leader Snoke (via motion capture). Serkis makes Snoke more three-dimensional, and though his scenes are short, they satisfy. Laura Dern’s new character Admiral Holdo was memorable for the scenes she had. Unfortunately, Gwendoline Christie was wasted for a second time as Captain Phasma, in what was little more than a cameo. General Hux (Domnhall Gleeson) does a little better as the token second-in-command.

John Williams did it again with another fantastic score, although even here reviews are mixed.  Bass clarinettist and fan Kathryn Ladano was disappointed that there were not many new themes involved.  Radio personality Jason Drury on the other hand called the score “possibly the best of 2017” and “another triumph for John Williams”.  I was pleased to hear the return of Rey’s theme and a few other favourites from the olden days.

Expect the unexpected with Star Wars: The Last Jedi.  Don’t pay too much attention to the extremely negative or extremely positive reviews.  The truth is, as always, somewhere in the middle.  And that is part of the story of The Last Jedi.  The truth depends largely on your point of view.  The two other main themes here are hope, and the power of a symbol.  If the title wasn’t already used in another movie, you could have called it Episode VIII:  A New Hope.

3.5/5 stars

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35 comments

  1. “Somewhere in the middle” is exactly right. I was disappointed by some parts of it (the futility of Rose and Finn’s mission, Poe and Holdo’s dynamics, a waste of characters like DJ and Phasma), but the film didn’t deserve the vile reviews at all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agreed with everything you just said. [Spoiler] I was glad they showed a little bit of Gwendoline Christie’s face [end Spoiler] but she must feel so disappointed that her character was just an action figure to sell.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A fair appraisal of a solid (if not spectacular) film. We saw it Sunday afternoon and all emerged satisfied (if not totally buzzed)… the rabid (and non-critical) 12yo, the still-trying-to-sort-it-all-out Mum, the grizzled (though not as much as Mark H) Dad.

    Agree that the side story was overwhelmed by the Luke-Rey plot; unsure about the introduction of commerce as a theme (it seemed a bit contrived and tokenistic, raising more questions than it answered, like who the hell paid for decades of rebellion hardware that is scattered around the galaxy awaiting (a) destruction or (b) re-commissioning?)

    And I both loved and hated them for keeping us dangling – AGAIN – about Rey’s parentage. Kylo was just pulling her chain… wasn’t he?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think Kylo was lying, but maybe that’s part of the twist. Vader told the truth, so maybe Kylo did the reverse and lied. Who knows? We’ll find out in 2019.

      I always assumed that rick royals like Bail Organa had near limitless funds to support the Rebels. And then he recruited allies like the Mon Calamari with their massive ships. The commerce thing was a little prequel-esque. All they needed was some Trade Federation types.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for the spoiler free review, Mike. It’ll be January before I get to see it and, while I am a tad weary of it, I am still excited too (that’s how I’ve felt about them all – the prequilogy, Force Awakens, and even Rogue One. That’s what Star Wars does).

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Gotta say I loved the damned thing. Lol. I like the idea of taking this mythos in a new direction. Nothing will ever touch the OT for me…..those 3 films were MY Star Wars. But The Last Jedi built upon the overall story and leads us to ,what I consider to be, unknown territory for the finale. We don’t have 2 years to obsess over Snoke theories and paternity tests this time….and that might be a good thing as far as I’m concerned. Because,while some didn’t enjoy the movie on its own merits, I know quite a few that claim to dislike it because it throws the “head canon” they’ve been weaving since December 2015 ,totally out of the window. Maybe fan expectations will be lower come 2019 and no one will feel like they got trolled. But make no mistake, I thoroughly enjoyed this new installment. Great review by the way!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So much of What you say here is so good, I wanna quote you on social media. Head canon — that’s it exactly.

      Personally I don’t mind if my theories are shot. If one enjoys the animated series like Rebels or Clone Wars, you know there are force users everywhere. Snoke doesn’t need a huge backstory yet. He was a red herring and that’s fine!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Exactly right about Snoke there too. He’ll be explored and fleshed out in various media for years to come. The fact that he was a red herring was perfect to me. Simply because I kept thinking (since TFA) why does he HAVE to be someone from the past? Why can’t be just be some never before seen guy named Snoke? In the end ,it really didn’t matter to the story Johnson was telling anyway. But I’m sure he will be explored further down the line.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think it’s safe to assume everybody will be fleshed out in other media eventually.

      You know the old novels were FILLED with dark side users who came from nowhere. Snoke looks compelling. People want to know more. His scars, his power, his evil — it’s all in his design and I still think Snoke looked amazing.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I am not fanboy at all.
    I think being a fanboy and caring way too much about all the back details would ruin the experience for me.

    I just want a movie to take me away from reality for a few hours and hopefully this one will do that.

    As for the new character DJ. Does he introduce a futuristic device capable of reproducing music called a cassette?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. He does not. But like a true Benecio character, he mumbles!

      It was weird seeing Benecio is Star Wars. Actually same with Laura Dern. Laura Dern has a twang to her accent that isn’t common in Star Wars.

      The fanboys can suck me. They’re all upset that Luke didn’t turn out the way he did in the novels and video games. But fans like me, who have been following Star Wars for 40 years, know there is more to being a Jedi than fancy lightsaber moves.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I saw an interview with Benecio and he said he listened to Duke Ellinton, Myles Davis and some blues to get into that character.

        I found the British accents switched it up in previous episodes, so I guess these continue that trend. Plus I really like Dern and Del Torro.

        When I think of Star Wars fan boys I think of Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons.
        Too much time spent worrying about why the prequels do not turn out like they are expected to. Not enough time spent leaving moms basement or showering.

        ;)

        Like

  7. I was happy with the film. I felt there was a little too much time spent on the Finn/Rose side story, but it didn’t ruin the film for me. I really dug Benicio’s DJ character. I’m a big fan of Rian Johnson and I was pretty happy with what he did in the Star Wars universe. And of course the best part of the film was Mark Hamill. Absolutely stole the film for me.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. True, but as the voice of the Joker I feel he’s pretty much made up for any mistakes he’s made project-wise. He’s one of my favorite voice actors. I think it’s his calling(besides Luke, of course.)

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  8. I did not actually read this post until after I (eventually) see this. Here’s why…

    I’m on the fence about seeing this in the theater. All my life (I was three when A New Hope came out, so Ive seen Empire and onwards in theater) I felt that tingle of excitement and anticipation when a new SW flick came around. Last time (VII) was the first time I sort of went “Meh, I can wait for the DVD” but I still went to the theater (and had a horrible experience with people talking through the whole thing, of course I HATE THEATERS). Same thing with Rogue One. And this time the Meh is even stronger with this one (me). There’s less anticipation and excitement when they crank them out every year, now. Of course, I will see it. But will I be convinced by my sister and father (who will be going) to see it this holiday season? Or will I wait two months and see the DVD? We’ll see. Right now I highly doubt it will be the theater. Will have to see if my childhood nostalgia is strong enough to overcome the meh when the moment arrives.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t want to admit it but I’m worried about Star Wars fatigue too. By this time next year I’ll be posting about the Han Solo film. How much will be too much? Are we there now?

      Theaters are not my favourite either. I saw my radio buddy Jason Drury went to a half-empty theater and that’s the way I’d rather see it. And without children. So when do you go? I guess you wait for DVD!

      Like

      1. I think I’ve already kind of achieved Star Wars Fatigue (SWF). Now that they’re cranking them out every year, it just doesn’t feel as special anymore.

        Also: There’s a Han Solo film coming? The glut increases.

        Today I will tell you I’m avoiding the theater for this one, will wait for the DVD. When my family is packing up to go, I will see how I feel then about 2.5 hours amongst all the talking cell-phone farting scratching mouth-open-chewing kicking your seat people in the theater.

        Like

    1. I know dude but unless you can help me find a better way to watch it, I’m stuck! The stream on the site I use always freezes about 15 minutes into the first episode. So I have only seen 15 minutes of the show!!

      But you know me — American Dad fan — and Seth and Scott Grimes are both on Orville! Not to mention Norm McDonald, who you may remember from the very first Family Guy episode.

      Like

  9. Somewhere in the middle for sure. I enjoyed some of it but there was plenty about it I didn’t like. Everyone can focus on the geek stuff but, for me, it was crippled by poor storytelling. A lot of really boring stuff and story threads. Film picked up with the Rey/Ren sequences and Luke stuff was enjoyable but I thought this didn’t deliver on the promise of TFA at all. I thought TFA had heart and really likeable new characters. Here I couldn’t care less about most of them and I’m not sure I care what’s going to happen next. 2.5/5 for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Scott, I think your sentiments echo exactly those of my sister. She has seen it twice now, and the second time, she said almost exactly the same things.

      I have a feeling that when blu-ray comes out in April, even I may have a different take on it.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. K avoided Herr and all places related to Star Wars until I’d seen it, got back from seeing it tonight and only just reading through the threads…

    And I agree somewhere about the middle left the cinema thinking a 3 but after reflecting on the good stuff with my son reckon a 3.5 would be about right.

    SPOILER – Felt let down after the ‘fuck yeah Skywalker’ finale when it was revealed how he did what he did, and even moreso with what then ‘appeared’ to happen :( but not losing sleep over it LOL. And Mike what’s causing the anger towards Leia’s character? The near death floating scene perhaps? Would understand if so, cringed…

    HMO said above “I thought this didn’t deliver on the promise of TFA at all. I thought TFA had heart and really likeable new characters…” and I would mostly agree with that aside from the fact thought TLJ had heart, just not quite the level TFA did.(nor Rogue One for that matter which I still think the best of this last batch :)

    Didn’t hate the slow motion or some any the issues you suggested others had Mike, all the big scenes were fantastic and reckon will can’t wait for the DVD re-watch :)

    For a near 2.5hrs tory didn’t take things very far but regardless a 3.5 – Great fun

    Like

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