*Review contains NO SPOILERS!*
Not Going to Go the Way You Think
Different. Different perfectly encapsulates The Last Jedi. With Rian Johnson at the helm, The Last Jedi comes across as not just an extension of The Force Awakens, but a fresh take on ideas and themes previous episodes established.
Kicking off immediately after The Force Awakens; Leia (Carrie Fischer), Finn (John Boyega), and Poe (Oscar Isaac), and The Resistance are on the run from The First Order and Rey (Daisy Ridley) seeks-out Luke Skywalker’s (Mark Hamill) help in finding her place in this world (or galaxy). The end result is a film that is very different in terms of tone and structure from that of any previous film. Upon first viewing, it may seem disjointed at times due to a fast bouncing of 3 to 4 storylines, but the end result is coherent. Fans may be wondering if this film is a retread of Empire Strikes Back? The answer: No. Although, there are some story beats that may be reminiscent of that film. In terms of a story as a whole, The Last Jedi might be as big of a game changer as that of Empire Strikes Back.
It’s a film that made me think more than any other Star Wars film. From Luke Skywalkers conflicting choices about the state of the Jedi order to Rey and Kylo Ren’s (Adam Driver) personal stories. The Last Jedi may take a couple of viewing’s to digest every scene in its 2-hour thirty-minute runtime, but the reward is great. The old guard and the new bring their A-game in terms of acting. Laura Dern as Vice Admiral Holdo and Benicio Del Toro as “D.J.” – a hacker for hire – as well as Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) – a Resistance maintenance worker who befriends Finn – are fresh additions in The Last Jedi.
There’s depth to certain characters that probably hasn’t been seen in a previous movie thus far. Particularly Luke and Leia. Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher are knockout’s in this film. Luke may rub some people the wrong way, as his character is more conflicted and hermit-like, but Hamill arguably gives the performance of his career; let alone of Luke. Even Carrie Fisher, who I have to admit felt a little rusty in terms of acting in The Force Awakens; but in The Last Jedi, she’s a scene-steeler. This isn’t just out of respect to her untimely passing last year; she’s just that good. It definitely felt like an older – yet wiser – Leia; one that’s used to being in charge.
There’s a sense of dread and uncertainty lingering throughout. Johnson plays on our expectations, leading viewers toward a pivotal moment only to switch things up by defying what our expectations entail. Fan’s – myself included – may or may not like these changes in overarching structure. But if you thought Force Awakens was a retread of A New Hope, then you’re in for a surprise; The Last Jedi shakes things up drastically.
The Last Jedi isn’t perfect, but then again what film is? I found two instances that didn’t sit tight with me. The first being Finn and Rose’s subplot that happens halfway through the film, in which they seek out a hacker. To me it tonally didn’t work; it also seemed unnecessary or overlong. The other instance being a big twist that happens early on, but I won’t spoil. All I’ll say is that it’s somewhat corny, and the intention was good, it just could’ve been executed better.
This might be controversial, as not every lingering question is answered. Instead, the film tackles subjects – such as the force – in greater depth, bringing a new view on different aspects of the galaxy. When it doesn’t fully answer questions, it brings up new ones; ones that made me have a whole new perspective on all the film’s that came before, and ones that have yet to come.
Rian Johnson takes Star Wars into surprising new places with The Last Jedi. A move that’s both bold and risky; and maybe somewhat divisive.