#MOVIEREVIEWMONDAYS: Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
“Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi” (2017) is written and directed by Rian Johnson, and takes place immediately after the events of “The Force Awakens” (2015), following Rey (Daisy Ridley) as she trains under lost Jedi Master Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). Meanwhile, remaining Resistance forces, led by Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) are pursued by the villainous First Order across the galaxy.
First let’s sum up the overall story: is it good? As Skywalker said in the second trailer for the film, “This is not going to go the way you think”. This film marks a bold new direction for Star Wars. This film will surprise you. There are a great many things you will not expect, with plenty of shocks and twists that will keep you on the edge of your seat. That is all I will say in order to avoid any possible spoilers.
The acting in “The Last Jedi” is some of the best presented in the entire Star Wars saga thus far. The return of Mark Hamill has been long awaited, and it is safe to say that this may be his finest live-action role in his entire career. Hamill portrays a broken, traumatized old man who show great reluctance of returning to a path which he believes he has failed before. Every scene with Hamill is wonderful. The sudden passing of Carrie Fisher was hard hitting for many fans, but in the final role of her career, she shines as the princess we all know and love, and is a pure joy to see on screen.
The new characters from “The Force Awakens” also hold up among their veteran counterparts. Adam Driver as Kylo Ren in particular proves to be a major actor in the rise. He brilliantly embodies inner conflict and pain, conveying it both emotionally and physically. While the character of Ren has been decisive for some, Driver’s performance makes the villain one of the most developed and interesting of the 21st Century. Ridley’s performance as Jedi-in-training Rey also holds up alongside Hamill’s, and shows great chemistry with those around her. Oscar Isaac and John Boyega return as Poe Dameron and Finn respectively, and are a delight on screen. There really isn’t a bad performance in the film.
Director-writer Rian Johnson deserves a huge amount of credit for shaking up the Star Wars vision. If you are a fan of his previous work, such as “Brick” (2005) and “Looper” (2012), you will be glad to see that Rian Johnson preserves his own unique style of storytelling in “The Last Jedi”. His vision of Star Wars isn’t demolished by the machine that is Disney. He preserves his interpretations, and is able to bring expert filmmaking to the table.
This is quite possible the best Star Wars film, technical-wise, of the entire saga. The cinematography is breathtaking, and the production design is mesmerizing. It is clear that Johnson’s love of Star Wars has made him eager to present pure brilliance on the screen.
Action has been a staple of Star Wars since its foundation. “The Last Jedi” grants fans the battles we’ve always known and love… only better. The very first scene of the film is a marvelous space battle, that is one of the best-looking in the franchise. There are risks, there is loss, everything needed in a brilliant action movie. Now let’s talk about the one lightsaber combat sequence in the film. My god is it phenomenal. The combination of prestige choreography and camerawork, the lightsaber sequence is one of the best and most innovative in the franchise.
This is the longest Star Wars film to date, clocking in at around two and a half hours. One may enter a theater with the expectation of getting bored. You won’t. Because of the film’s masterful pacing and editing, the runtime doesn’t tire, but runs along smoothly.
John Williams, of course, returns to compose the electrifying and iconic soundtrack, and shows much improvement over the score over “The Force Awakens”.
Now let’s get into the divisive aspects of the film. Firstly, like “The Force Awakens”, there is comedy in the film. While it is executed rather well and doesn’t sacrifice storytelling, those who did not like the comedy of the previous film will not enjoy the funny quips of “The Last Jedi”.
Next revolves a major portion of the story. There is an arc revolved around Finn and Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), another new character, that takes place on a casino planet. Like I said, the acting is fine, but this sequence is simply unnecessary. All it does is bring the main story to a screeching halt, and really serves only as filler. While there are implications for this sequence towards the end of the film, this entire sequence could have been cut from the film, and the story would not have changed.
“Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi” is arguably the best film of the series since “Empire Strikes Back” (1980). And while there is much that can’t be said due to spoilers, the emotional story, amazing characters, mesmerizing action scenes, and plot twists that will keep audiences talking for years, “Episode VIII” is an absolute must-see for fans and movie-lovers alike.