The wait is finally over and everyone will get to see The Last Jedi this weekend. I guess the question is will everyone collectively love the film, or will it turn into one of the most divisive of the Star Wars franchise? The prequels were not divisive, and everyone can generally agree that they sucked, while the original trilogy has stood the test of time to be beloved by fans old and new. The Last Jedi is something new to us, and who would expect any less with director Rian Johnson at the helm? The director of the modern noir cult hit Brick, and the exceptionally well-received sci-fi genre entry Looper, Rian Johnson isn’t known for his cheery feel-good movies or bright vibrant colors. That’s not to say his films don’t have some humor added to them, and Last Jedi has plenty of that and a good bit of visual flare. The movie itself is beautiful, but there are some missed opportunities and pacing issues that it couldn’t avoid.
The Last Jedi picks up immediately from where The Force Awakens left off, with the Resistance needing to pick up the pieces of the Republic, after basically being annihilated by Starkiller Base, and with Rey presenting Anakin’s old lightsaber to Luke on Ahch-To. It’s always difficult to not compare the new trilogy with the old trilogy, but The Last Jedi feels like a Star Wars movie, contrary to what a lot of fanboys are currently whining about. It seemed like a blend of Empire and Return of the Jedi in certain parts. The film takes chances where a lot of people probably didn’t expect it to, and had me gripping my armrest in more than one spot.
It takes a lot to get Star Wars fans out of their comfort zone and anyone who has seen a Rian Johnson film had to know going in that this movie was going to be different from anything we’ve seen from the past films. The Last Jedi does some pretty amazing and never before seen things with the Force in this movie and it holds true to a statement from Master Skywalker that the Force isn’t about moving rocks, it’s so much bigger.
One of my major gripes about the film is the pacing from the Resistance part of the narrative, and you’ll know what portion that is once you see the movie. Though they were able to spice things up in the midst of it, it felt a bit discombobulated and repetitive. A plus and a negative were the amounts of answers we get throughout the lengthy 148 minute run time, but that is almost balanced out by a couple unanswered questions that may or may not be revisited in Episode IX. So you get closure on plenty of aspects laid out from The Force Awakens, but depending on the person you may feel let down or unsatisfied.
The biggest strength of the film is its returning cast of actors and a wave of new ones that joined the saga. Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Adam Driver all come back in good form and at times better than ever. (Domnhall Gleeson, you could use some work this time around.) With the newcomers of Benecio Del Toro, Laura Dern and Kelly Marie Tran, it gave us some fresh entertainment and story dynamics. While I wasn’t the biggest fan of Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose character, she is a brilliant actress with a bit of future ahead of her. The MVP of the movie in my eyes is Poe Dameron, who is essentially the new hotshot pilot/scoundrel type in the saga. A lot of people will say he is filling the void of Han Solo’s character, but Poe Dameron is his own character completely, his character struggling to be the guy who blows things up in an X-Wing or emerge as a leader of the resistance. For a character that was supposed to die in the first 20 minutes in Force Awakens, Oscar Issac has turned Poe Dameron into one of the best characters in the saga at this point.
Overall The Last Jedi is a positive entry into the saga of Star Wars, though it may fail to attract a lot of old time fans wanting to stay comfortably rooted in the past of the old trilogy as they did with a good portion of The Force Awakens. Though Rian Johnson did something new with The Last Jedi, I still feel like there is a director who has yet to expand the universe literally instead of internalizing it as two factions fighting for control of a galaxy that is content to sit back and essentially watch. Can the first order really maintain control of the whole galaxy when they were just an Outer Rim threat? Was the Republic only as strong as it’s leadership that was destroyed on Hosnian Prime? Let’s see if JJ Abrams has the answers in Episode IX.
GEEK Grade: B-