Directed by: Rian Johnson
Premise: Picking up where The Force Awakens left off, Rey (Daisy Ridley) attempts to persuade Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to train her as a Jedi. Meanwhile, the First Order launches an attack on the last survivors of the Resistance.
What Works: The Last Jedi is another solidly entertaining Star Wars film since the transfer of Lucasfilm to Disney. It’s fun and exciting in the way that audiences expect from a Star Wars film and it continues many of the strengths of The Force Awakens while damping down some of that film’s weaknesses. The 2015 movie had a lot of comedy—a bit too much in places. The Last Jedi reins in the humor. It still has a few laughs but the overall tone of the new film is more focused. The Last Jedi moves the series forward conceptually and stylistically. That’s evident in the filmmaking. The Last Jedi has some impressive images and a creative use of sound; the movie does things cinematically that haven’t been seen in a Star Wars movie before and director Rian Johnson judiciously balances his innovations with the established Star Wars style. This is especially true of the production design which bridges the prequels and the classic films. The vehicles still have the practical and industrial look of the classic trilogy but a few set pieces in The Last Jedi, especially the casino sequence, are reminiscent of the expanded universe seen in Attack of the Clones and some of the spinoff Star Wars cartoons. The Force Awakens was stuck paying homage to the original Star Wars trilogy but The Last Jedi introduces new ideas and comments upon the existing mythology. The movie acknowledges that all this fighting, which is now in its third generation, is cyclical and different characters have varying ideas about how to break that cycle. The Last Jedi also suggests a degree of moral complexity seen in The Empire Strikes Back and Revenge of the Sith. A lot of this thematic material is integral to the relationship between Rey and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and Luke Skywalker and it’s no coincidence that these three have many of the best parts of The Last Jedi. Kylo Ren was Skywalker’s apprentice before he turned to The First Order but Rey discovers some nuance in the backstory that changes our understanding of who these characters are and what motivates them. The Last Jedi offers a different point of view about the Force that puts a new perspective on the films we’ve seen before especially the prequels. It also features Mark Hamill’s best performance in a Star Wars film and he has the most interesting arc of anyone in this series.
What Doesn’t: As much as there is that’s new in The Last Jedi there is also a lot that is familiar. This film isn’t as redundant as The Force Awakens or The Phantom Menace but The Last Jedi does repurpose some of the familiar scenarios seen in earlier Star Wars movies such as a throne room lightsaber duel and a ground battle that is awfully similar to the Hoth portion of The Empire Strikes Back. The pacing of The Last Jedi is sometimes choppy. Scenes in this movie are short and it lurches from one place to another with some inelegant transitions. The movie also suffers from flaws in the plotting. Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac), and new character Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) launch a plan to save the Resistance that ends anticlimactically. Other characters show up in places when it’s most convenient for the story or are dispatched too easily from this movie.
Bottom Line: The Last Jedi is one of the better installments of the Star Wars series. It suffers from a plot that juggles a lot of characters and pulls the audience in a lot of different directions but it is fun and one of the most entertaining and ambitious films in this franchise.
Episode: #678 (December 17, 2017)