Director: Rian Johnson
Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Mark Hamill
Review Authors: Shaun, Adam, Tony
Due to the fact that nearly everyone and their aunty has a The Last Jedi review finished at this point and the late nature of ours, we will be delving into full spoilers so…
Episode VIII picks up right where The Force Awakens left off. Rey has found Luke Skywalker, and the Resistance is still desperately fleeing from the First Order. The new trio of characters introduced in the last film is explored in greater detail, with more time dedicated to each hero and their own quest. Rey is still the lead protagonist, but The Last Jedi is much more of an ensemble piece than The Force Awakens was. We get to see Poe and BB-8 zooming around in some fast-paced space battles, Finn and his new mechanic friend, Rose, together on a mission, and, of course, Rey on a remote island with Luke, hoping to bring him back to assist the Resistance in their struggle.
While Han was the most prominently featured original cast member in The Force Awakens, both Leia and Luke are given plenty of time to shine in The Last Jedi. The late Carrie Fisher, in her final film role, gives a fantastic performance, as does Mark Hamill as a grizzled and grumpy Luke Skywalker. His character’s relationship with Rey is fun to watch, and it’s classic Star Wars writing.
The dynamic between Rey and Kylo Ren is another relationship that gives this movie an incredible complexity. They have scenes together that honestly gave me chills because it’s so well written, and the conflict between the two (and also the internal struggle within each one of them) is fascinating and adds depth and a feeling of emotional intensity to the story.
Even with that depth and complexity, the film still features the exhilarating Star Wars action that we all love. We get to be a part of everything from the expansive space battles to the more personal, one-on-one combat. The Last Jedi is packed with excitement, and some of it is some of the best action I’ve ever seen in a Star Wars movie thanks to the immersive cinematography, believable fight choreography, and gorgeous, practical art design. All things that the prequels seriously lacked and that J.J. Abrams reintroduced to the saga with his installment.
Finn and Rose arch in the casino city of Canto Bight, located on the planet Cantonica is my biggest issue with the film. For a few sequences lasting about thirty minutes altogether, Finn and Rose explore the strange city in search of something, but it hardly mattered to the plot at all and it was difficult to get invested in that subplot. This is where Benicio del Toro’s character comes in, and while his performance was phoned-in, in which he added virtually nothing to the story. The sequence also didn’t feel all that much like Star Wars. Every time it cut to them on Canto Bight, I just wanted to get back to Rey and Luke, or Poe and the Resistance, but it kept going on and I feel it overstayed its welcome.
This is the longest Star Wars film by a few minutes, and I felt it sometimes. The last half of the movie is much smoother, much more fast-paced, and overall much better written. If it weren’t for the Canto Bight sequence, it would have been the perfect length, the story would have been just a bit tighter, and I would have walked out of the theatre even more enthusiastic. That’s not saying I wasn’t gushing about the movie the rest of the night and most of the day after. Rian Johnson has made the most different Star Wars film yet, both in tone and storytelling and also in the direction it takes its storyline and characters. I was surprised but can understand the fan backlash over how questions from the previous installment were resolved, and how new ones arose.
Shaun’s rating: 3.9 / 5 suicide missions
I haven’t seen the Internet this divided since that dress popped up last year. Upon reading reviews for The Last Jedi you would be forgiven in thinking that the film flip-flops between amazing and putrid, but the issue isn’t with the film, which blew what little mind I have left out of my skull. The issue is the members of the cult of Star Wars and this objective memory that seeks to create a pedestal for anything containing a lightsabre. The issue we are faced is one of the mismanaged expectations on the fans part. Conveniently forgetting how goofy the OT was, and the underlying humour that’s always been present it’s strange seeing people throw their toys out of the pram over Luke dusting his shoulder off and Poe’s phone call.
Because we left TFA with no idea how Luke would be, brooding, insane, pensive master Jedi or hermit; this means that people went away and formed their own idea of how he would be. Forgetting that he still remains the same childish and wise Jedi he was when the OT ended, now with a hint of the playful Yoda that comes with age.
I’m also seeing fans moaning about the lack of Snoke info, again, consider the dynamics of storytelling. We view this arc through Rey’s eyes and always have, she doesn’t know who Snoke is, and doesn’t need to. When she is dragged into a room with him it’s her first time even perceiving the idea that he exists and a 30 min ‘hi I’m Snoke’ monologue would have been out of place. Again, the issue people are having is an entitled assumption that the film is for them and them only. It’s telling a story, and the story isn’t over, and the story isn’t about you.
But let’s get to the film, this fantastically paced film. One of the things I credit the OT with is managing multiple storylines, the idea of ‘meanwhile back at the ranch’ was executed perfectly in the originals. This is the structure of storytelling that instructs a director to let one story build to a peak, then cut to the side story where you left off. Thus keeping both arcs fresh and ensuring more depth to the screenplay. Well, that’s one thing that Johnson managed like a Jedi editing master. Each story had a lot going on, and a lot of rises and lulls, all of which were kept fresh in our heads, set up together and peaked together. This is what gave us a third act that had me bringing my recliner back out of the 180 degrees position and darting my eyes around every scene.
Adam’s Rating: 4 / 5 Alien titty milk
It’s pretty insane that the most polarizing film of the year is a Star Wars film, one that has divided fans and cinemagoers down the middle. The original series was before my time but I still grew up on repeated viewings to my parent’s chagrin. It was a massive part of my childhood and I’ve always been proud to announce myself as a Star Wars fan. A fandom that in my experience entailed getting the toys, wearing Darth Vader slippers and broing out with fellow enthusiasts during first encounters. I’m not oblivious to the fact that most fandoms devolve into ravenous children competing for the title of true fan which usually leads to a divide (see Rick and Morty fans during the sauce incident). That Star Wars celebration event this year was an eye-opener as to how unhinged this fanbase has become.
The Last Jedi delivered exactly the type of Star Wars film I wanted. The franchise has become creatively stagnant, sure there’s a whole galaxy to explore but there’s not much capacity outside of stormtroopers, X-Wings, and lightsabres. It was about time that the lore and ideologies received a shake-up so the Luke, Rey and Kylo Ren storyline was orgasmic to witness as a logically bitter Luke (The existence of this trilogy is a result of his actions meaning nothing) lays out the failings and arrogance of the Jedi Order. Themes of letting the past die and failure feature prominently and it’s exciting that Rian Johnson is ready to move the series in a new direction. The throne room sequence is worth the admission price alone.
The Rebel escape subplot was just as strong with Poe Dameron receiving far more screen time and some real personal development, he appears now ready for a leadership role. Having the rebel cruiser speeding just out of range of the star destroyers gave this plot a sense of immediacy and certainly rose the stakes. The depleting fuel reserves was an intelligent way to justify a running against the clock plotline (a trope I usually take issue with when its just numbers on a screen). Laura Dern as Admiral Holdo was a fine addition to the cast and will be remembered for that amazing sequence of self-sacrifice.
The film is not without its flaws and I’m certainly in the camp that the Finn storyline felt out of place and derivative. I feel that and infiltration story with Finn, Rose and a handful of nameless rebels sneaking onto Snoke’s ship would have felt more focused and could have added a fun shootout sequence at its conclusion that still ends with Finn and Phasma facing off. The Casino sequence knocks the pacing out of kilter which doesn’t pick up until the third act. Also, half of the humour fell flat for me, it’s an infinitely darker film than The Force Awakens so I saw no reason to double down on the laughs.
After much reflection, I can confidently say I’m happy with nearly every direction Johnson has gone with. The Last Jedi contains a weak subplot, a few pacing issues, and some silly humour but more than makes up for these flaws with strong character development and some lasting consequences. I have no idea where the franchise goes from here and to me, that’s an exciting prospect.
Tony’s Review: 4 / 5 space flying Leia’s