The Last Jedi (2017)

The Last Jedi CLEAN

I think your reaction to this movie hinges on your attitude towards this whole new Star Wars thing. I choose not to look at these new movies as literal sequels to Return of the Jedi. RotJ didn’t really leave the door open to this story (plot-wise, character-wise, or thematically), and if you need these movies to work as direct continuations of RotJ, you’ll end up frustrated and disappointed. (The people I see struggling with The Last Jedi are the people that can’t get over the political/historical leap from RotJ to TFA.) The characters here treat RotJ as more of a legend than a thing that actually happened, and that’s how I look at this series’ relationship with the original trilogy. As such, I’m able to enjoy these movies quite a bit. In fact, The Last Jedi is probably my favorite of the new slate so far.

SPOILERS FOLLOW

First and foremost, this movie works really well as an action/adventure film. It’s actually intense! The Force Awakens plays out in a pretty predictable way, but The Last Jedi does a good job of making you feel like everything is in play and an unexpected, horrible, Game of Thrones-esque death might await at the end of every scene. That’s a remarkable feat for a movie with big PG13 corporate expectations.

Rian Johnson gives us the first real expansion of the force since the Emperor shot lightning from his fingers at the end of RotJ. A lot of new force capabilities pop up here, and they all work. They feel like natural, logical extensions of what we’ve seen before, and they remain unburdened by unnecessary scientific explanation. (I even liked the Leia in space moment.)

The movie’s biggest strength? Rey and Ren. Their interactions steal the show. They have the most interesting relationship and carry this movie with aplomb. Their throne room scene is far and away the best thing in this movie. It’s so good, in fact, that it’s a bit of a letdown when you realize it wasn’t actually positioned as the movie’s climax. As a result, the movie peaks a little early (even considering the greatness of Luke’s final sequence).

It’s a real testament to this movie/series that I feel more investment/interest in the new characters than the ones I have a lifetime of experience with.

Of course, the movie isn’t perfect. It suffers most from keeping the main characters separate. We follow three separate threads throughout the vast majority of this film, a pratfall common to Star Wars since The Empire Strikes Back first sent Han/Leia and Luke off on separate adventures. Fin suffers the most from the split. The movie doesn’t know what to do with him, plain and simple. Future installments might give him more purpose, but right now I can’t think of any reason why the series’ architects didn’t consolidate Poe and Fin into a single character. They have similar personalities and functions within this movie, yet only one (Poe) has any kind of arc. For what it amounted to, you could cut Fin’s entire side quest (though I admittedly liked the allusion to the idea of the military industrial complex in such a mainstream movie).

Overall, I really dug The Last Jedi, and I find myself more excited for this series after TLJ than I found myself going in. Good show!

One comment

  1. Although we discussed this in the staff offices of Byting Reviews, located in the abandoned Soviet space station Mir (it never left orbit, don’t let those brainiacs at NASA or the Washington Post lie to you), I never shared my thoughts with the adoring public.

    The movie is a hot mess for the first 2/3 of the feature, but it comes together for some really nice excitement in the last 1/3. Even ignoring that this is part of a massive franchise that is supposed to tie together – which is a generous gift given that this film repeatedly hammers home that fact – the film is very sloppy, story-wise. Characters and plotlines are often given short shrift on motivation and lack depth.

    While the film seemed to jam in a lot of cute animals and funny one-liners, I actually LIKED those things. I liked the sword fights. I liked the star ship fights. I just didn’t like the stuff in between. Unfortunately, the stuff in between was character development.

    The diversion to the casino planet was complete and utter nonsense, except we got to spend time with Finn and Rose, and I liked their relationship. Maybe if we had 47 less characters, we could have given them proper attention. Luke was a complete waste in this movie. I wish he was never brought back. Rae was fucking wasted in this movie. She could have been way more kick ass and was instead used as a vehicle to drive other characters stupid and uninteresting plot lines.

    I spent a good portion of this movie throwing up my hands (not literally) and asking “What?” incredulously. I don’t mind necessarily that the entire movie is basically traveling from one planet to the other. I do mind that scenes rarely last long enough to build tension or story, and instead bounce too much.

    Perhaps my biggest gripe is how lazy and uninspired this movie was. The First Order and the rebellion is just a rehash of the Empire and…the rebellion. How The First Order rose from the ashes of the Empire is never explained, which wouldn’t necessarily be required if the First Order was interesting, but it appears it is just run by Emperor Palpatine clone and two man-children with emotional problems. The Jedi are apparently so incompetent that it can never rebuild to a fully operational practice due to its adherents constantly being lured to the dark side. The movie was so long and half-assed it had to teach Poe a lesson not once but twice.

    In its attempt to build on the original trilogy, The Last Jedi took the easy way out and started borrowing way too many ideas from previous films. In the 50s and 60s, Batman and Superman comics would re-use old stories from years prior, because they figured the previous readers grew up and stopped reading the comics, so no one would cry foul if ideas were recycled. Well, since the birth of Star Wars, us geeks and fanboys/fangirls have grown up in body but not spirit, and we remember. Today’s audiences demand fresh ideas…

    *checks movie listings, sees a bunch of reboots, sequels, and remakes*

    …damn it.

    Like

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