STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI
Running Time: 153 mins.
Premise: As the First Order closes in on the Resistance, Rey tries to convince Luke Skywalker to come out of hiding and join the fight.
Behind-the-Scenes: While other new Star Wars films have had troubled productions – firing directors, rewriting scripts, pushing back release dates – Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi shoot (he wrote and directed) seemed to go exceptionally smooth with radio silence on any issues. Indeed, several weeks before release, Disney/Lucasfilm announced that Johnson would be handling a whole new Star Wars trilogy, separate and apart from the Skywalker saga (Episodes I-IX). Johnson previously directed the well-received indie films Brick and The Brothers Bloom, before tackling a bigger budget like he did with Looper. He also helmed some of the best episodes of Breaking Bad, including the penultimate one, “Ozymandias.”
The Good: This is an exceptional sequel to J.J. Abrams’ The Force Awakens. It continues to deepen and develop the antagonistic (maybe romantic?) relationship between Rey and Kylo Ren. Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver give fantastic performances. It jettisons many of the red herrings from the prior film and answers the questions everyone was asking in clever, totally unexpected ways. Johnson is an excellent director, and uses shots we’ve never seen in a Star Wars movie before, most noticeably in the opening action sequence. The Last Jedi is visually dynamic throughout and makes great use of the color red. The cast continues to grow more diverse, with new additions like Kelly Marie Tran (as Rose) and Laura Dern (as Vice Admiral Holdo) making a solid impression, which only adds to the thematic richness of the story. The script, while certainly not as tight as it should be (at 2.5 hours, this is the longest Star Wars yet), approaches the characters’ use of the Force and the idea of hope in the face of unrelenting darkness in really interesting ways. Old favorites Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher are both aces, with Hamill really giving Luke’s character arc his all. The fan service moments (of which there are many) are more organically integrated than they were in Force Awakens. John Williams’ score is a standout – expertly weaving in and out of all the memorable themes he’s created since 1977. The movie really kicks into high gear around the midpoint, and never lets up after that, delivering one outstanding sequence after another that will undoubtedly get a positive rouse out of your audience and make you go, “Whoa.” The second half is simply SPECTACULAR. Also, porgs.
The Bad: There are definitely nitpicks to be had. The first half is pretty shaky. Johnson takes his time on the island with Rey and Luke, and seems especially fond (maybe too fond?) of aerial shots of the island geography. It’s beautiful, but also pointless and pads the running time. The Luke and Rey mentor relationship is not as satisfying as it should be. When Rey leaves that island, the movie improves considerably. Finn (John Boyega) is saddled with a lackluster B-story that keeps him away from the action and other main characters, and doesn’t get as many laughs this time around. I could have done without the whole casino sequence and ensuing animal escape that occurs on Canto Bight, which seemed like something out of the prequels. Benicio Del Toro pops up as a stuttering “Code Breaker” and doesn’t really fit in.
Should You See It?: It’s a new Star Wars movie. Yes, the answer is always yes.
Star Rating: ****1/2 out of 5 stars
Better Than: Return of the Jedi, Rogue One
Worse Than: The Force Awakens, Empire Strikes Back
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