‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Review: Cap_N_Jack Spoils Everything… After a Jump

 

 

Hello everyone. I can’t review this bad boy without spoilers. That said, I have no interest in spoiling anyone so don’t read this review until you’ve seen the movie. Maybe wait a while after seeing the movie to read it. Maybe don’t read it at all and see the movie again. You do you.

 

The Last Jedi is a complicated beast, following up the plot-light Rogue One an largely re-hashed Force Awakens, episode VII finds director Rian Johnson charging forwards with a new energy and fervor. This is a film that is indebted to the original trilogy (specifically the Empire Strikes Back) but can never be mistaken for a tribute act. For better and for worse (mostly for better in my humble opinion), things get weird and ambitious here in a way that is guaranteed to irritate purists but thrilled me to my core. More on that in a little.

Let’s start with some of the flaws of the movie. It’s too long and has too many endings. A series of thrilling battles in the third act become less thrilling as they pile on top of eachother without really building to a crescendo. Also, the middle of the movie is weighed down by a trip to a casino planet that never really feels fully developed (it’s heavy on social commentary and light on atmosphere…not a good fit for Star Wars). Some plot beats are over-sentimental or clunkily obvious (special mention goes to the kindergarten lessen that Poe goes through and a really awful moment between Finn and Rose in the finale). Most of these flaws are hallmarks of the franchise though and don’t quite hurt the film enough to dampen its madcap energy.

Far outweighing these flaws though are some of the highest highs the franchise has yet achieved. Rian Johnson brings a visual creativity and plot ambition to the Last Jedi that’s hard to deny. Moments like blindingly silent hyperspeed crash or a kamikaze mission on red and white mineral planet are indelible addition to a mythos that has desperately in need of new life.

In the same vein, Johnson seems to have taken JJ Abrams signature puzzle box plot elements and recognized them as burdens instead of strengths, choosing to charge off in a new direction that works in the case of Rey’s Parentage but makes certain other plot elements feel like red herrings or anti-climaxes.

The character work here is on-point. Poe Dameron gets a bit more to do and and Oscar Isaacs delivers on raw charisma even where his sunday school lesson character arc feels a bit forced (most of the tension would be removed if the resistance just told their plans to eachother). Rey is developed a bit more and her innate talent is explored and deconstructed a bit, retroactively justifying her over-perfect role in Force Awakens. Finn feels a bit out of place here but his plot is bolstered by newcomer Rose Tico who counterpoints his enthusiasm with surly world-weariness. And a new character played by Benecio Del Toro is slight but significant as a stuttery amoral criminal.

But the heart of the film lies in two inextricably linked characters: Kylo Ren and Luke Skywalker. Adam Driver continues to bring a weird, sympathetic depth to his bi-polar Sith Lord. In moments where he’s at his most snarlingly nasty, a vulnerable sadness is still visible behind his eyes, making him feel like he is, deep down, a scared child…and all the more dangerous for it. Luke Skywalker meanwhile has dropped his boyish original trilogy optimism for the world weary cynicism of a man whose grown past his own legend. I questioned occasionally his arc only to find, with a brilliant third act twist, that it all fit together into a beautiful sendoff for the franchises second most iconic character.

And the third act is, in general, where the pieces come together. A series of incredibly smart twists cover-up some of the pacing issues I mentioned before, leading to a final ten minutes that rivals anything the series has produced before. For a number of reasons (ambition, additions and changes to the mythos, sudden swerves, and character changes) the film is destined to be divisive for longtime fans (a quick google search shows this already to be the case), but for this casual Star Wars fan it’s an injection of new life into a franchise that desperately needs it.

Lastly, Laura Dern still can’t act.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 stars out of 4.0

 

 

  • 1 2 3 4

    I thought Admiral Ackbar could’ve done everything Laura Dern’s character did, I don’t understand why they created a whole new admiral character and gave the backseat to an established character loved by the fans.

  • Cap_N_Jack

    Well Blade Runner 2049 was a masterpiece. This was just a solid adventure film.

  • Blade Runner 2049 did it better

  • ResonanceCascade

    Dern smoked so many cigarettes in The Return that you can actually hear it in her voice in this movie.

  • Cap_N_Jack

    *nods
    quite so

  • DropYourLinen
  • ResonanceCascade

    Laura Dern is great! In Twin Peaks: The Return, that is.

    I thought she was OK in this. Her character arc, if you can call it that, was kind of strange. It’s easy to imagine a version of this movie where Leia played that role and went out with a bang, but obviously no one could have predicted that Carrie Fisher would pass away.

  • Cap_N_Jack

    Haha, I’m just proud of Johnson for making something that took some risks (most of which paid off) instead of just penning a love letter to the original trilogy. He also subverts a bunch of Abram’s dumber tropes which made me really happy.

  • Cap_N_Jack

    i’m not a big Star Wars guy so I likely won’t see it again, but it’s the first movie in the franchise since the original trilogy that feels like it has enough content and a challenging enough plot to warrant multiple watches.

    I will say I am reveling a bit in how much fans are upset with it.

  • I really liked it. I’ll see it in IMAX Sunday, but might need to knock it out again tonight or tomorrow too.

  • Cap_N_Jack

    That was actually lighter on spoilers than I planned. Force of habit kept me from spelling things out. I’ll do that now.

    Rey’s parents being nameless junkies was a brilliant subversion of the tired chosen one trope that Abrams set up.

    Snoke being offed summarily was odder though I think the instinct to do away with an emperor knockoff and focus on the more original elements is smart. It feels weird after all the buildup but I think that’s more a quality of Johnson wanting to do something different than Abrams had set up. I’ll see how that one works upon repeat viewings.

    Luke’s final act was brilliant to me. I was questioning how he could have possibly gotten off the island without a ship, gotten a new lightsaber, found his way into the rebel base, and survived a barrage of blaster shots, and yet somehow I didn’t see the reveal coming, making it a fist-pumping moment. The last moment of him staring at another twin-suns, mirroring his iconic introduction, made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

    Yoda being back is also something I am mulling over, but I think I like that he was a puppet again.