Now that Star Wars is back on its feet with The Force Awakens there’s room to try new things after initially being criticized for replicating A New Hope. And I’m happy to report that Rian Johnson, who directed some iconic episodes of Breaking Bad, succeeded in going in new directions even with nods to the original trilogy. All you need to know is that Rey and company are back to take on Supreme Leader, Snoke and his apprentice, Kylo Ren. I realize that’s too simple a summary, but it’s become blasphemy to give away even one detail about a new Star Wars movie these days. For an in depth analysis, check out the spoiler-corner past Luke Skywalker’s stunned reaction bellow.
Put all your worries to rest as this isn’t just a remake of Empire Strikes Back. The story goes in new directions with some forks in the road to keep you guessing. There was never a moment where I felt safe even when things became predictable. For all the grand epic space and land battles, the small details stand out just as much like the animals and especially the clear, wide landscapes encompassing the locations. The mix of live action and computer animation is blurred even more with the improvements in the digital department. It’s like being at a hybrid of a theme park and a zoo. And like a fine wine, John Williams’ score gets better with age, never failing to excite with every violin and French horn. Not even the prequels were immune to his notes.
The whole cast, old and new, are just as strong. Mark Hamill? The best! Carrie Fisher? A brilliant swan song. Daisy Ridley? An amazing lead. Adam Driver’s? More than just your average Twihard.
With that said, the twists and new plot lines distract from the established characters that should’ve gotten more attention. While the lore is expanded upon, it also leaves questions unanswered or at a disappointing conclusion. Other than that, The Last Jedi is a worthy continuation of the new trilogy, even if it doesn’t surpass the retread despite the new material.
The Last Jedi (Spoiler Corner)
Rey (Daisy Ridley) is stunned to find that Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) has become a recluse after tossing her light-saber off a cliff. He fishes with a 300 foot pole-vaulting harpoon, milks a alien creature for nourishment, but absolutely refuses to teach Rey the ways of the force. On the resistance side, Finn (John Boyega) has recovered from his light saber spinal operation. Meanwhile, Poe (Oscar Isaac) is getting too cocky for his own good, much to the annoyance of General Leia (the late Carrie Fisher). It doesn’t help that Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) and his apprentice, Kylo Ren Solo (Adam Driver) are closing in on their retreating fleet.
That’s a lot of story to juggle, but for the most part it’s very balanced. Rey and Luke’s relationship is the center of attention. She might be the main character, but it’s Mark Hamill who stands out the as the supporting player. The weight of his failure shows through his actions, expressions and even comedy, having learned a thing or two for playing the Joker for 20 years. And yes, I did shed a few tears when he passed on at the end, but at least he went out in a peaceful mindset balanced by the force rather than a violent like Han Solo. Although with the expansion on the force with Leia and Yoda, there are so many questions to be asked concerning Deus Ex Machinas.
Captain Phasma gets the short end of the light-saber once again, but at least she went out on a more badass note than Bobba Fett’s Wile E. Coyote curtain call. Too bad Snoke has an even shorter end, being killed off by Kylo Ren before we even know where he came from or who he even was. Now he’s just another generic Sith that makes the prequel villains better for actually being fleshed out before their execution. There’s a lot of potential to flesh out the cast, but this movie feels more concerned about shoving in new ideas instead of resolving their current ones. What’s the story behind Rey’s parents? They sold her off for drinking money and are now buried in the desert? This wouldn’t be a problem if it wasn’t such a big deal before, but now it’s pointless in both entries.
Then the casino shows up and it really slows down. It’s not distinct enough to be grounded in its own reality and serves the least purpose compared to everything else. Granted there’s a fun chase with one of the many enjoyable animals, but that whole half hour ends up as filler. Makes you wish you were watching Olaf’s Frozen Adventure instead. It doesn’t help that John Boyega’s charisma is wasted on this along with a forced romantic relationship that not at all convincing.
If J.J. Abrams’ comedy bugged you before, be warned that there’s no shortage here. Out of all the animals, the Porgs on are a clear sign that Disney has caught the Minion flu. While they’re not that annoying, they don’t serve any purpose compared to the icicle fox other than to say Buy me! to all the toy collectors.
Thankfully, a lot of the action in space and on the ground equal the shortcomings. Especially when one of them has that iconic recreation of the TIE fighter track when Rey and Chewie are blasting away in the Millennium Flacon. And let’s not forget when sound itself held a moment of silence when one ship made a lightspeed sacrifice that literally tore the new order in half.
Overall, there were a lot of stand out moments in Star Wars: The Last Jedi: the amazing action, the mixing effects and the new direction. So why is there so much hate surrounding what should’ve been the definitive entry? Because a retread had better structure than sequel with an original direction. With all the set pieces and revelations, even one misstep could’ve made it inferior and unfortunately, it fell into said trap before Admiral Ackbar could warn anyone. It also sheds light on this trilogy as something only here to make money and not advance the mythos any further than repeating the past. People spent so much time tolerating what they already saw in the first movie just so they could get some satisfying answers in the next and unfortunately not all of it paid off. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t anything great along the way. If you can stomach some of the shortcomings here, then you’ll have a great time. But if you want to really ponder all the decisions I have one question: does this mean you like The Force Awakens now? Whatever the case there’s still one more chance to learn from both sides for the finale.
Note: Definitely check this out in IMAX if only to pay one giant farewell to Carrie Fisher who sadly passed away shortly after the release of Rogue One. She will always be Leia.
Pros: Mark Hamill, returning cast, new material, John Williams’ Score, wide action locations, plenty of comedy
Cons: Distracting sub-plot, trashed conflicts, confusing plot-holes