Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

Alasdair Padman, Staff Reporter

Rian Johnson’s “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” (2017) is the antithesis of J. J. Abrams’ “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (2015). “The Force Awakens” was a nostalgia trip for old fans and an easily digestible introduction for new fans. In 2015, audiences met new faces as well as old, but the shining stars of the show were Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac). While “The Force Awakens” did rekindle the global phenomenon of Star Wars, fans were distraught by its adherence to “Star Wars: A New Hope” (1977), as well as divided by the new villains: The First Order–a veritable rehash of the Empire armed with another variant of the Death Star–and Sith apprentice, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver).

Illustration by Catalina Burch

Rian Johnson’s “The Last Jedi” was teased over nine months ago with a short clip of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) bathed in shadow and saying, “It’s time for the Jedi to end.” Clips of a more thoughtful Star Wars film, one that was more interested in its characters than paying homage to its predecessors, preceded this. Of course, there were lightsabers, Jedi, Sith, rebels and stormtroopers–all quintessential parts of Star Wars–but within these tropes was a refreshing newness that “The Force Awakens” did not possess. Rian Johnson’s acknowledgment of the past movie’s faults are all channeled through Luke’s prophetic acknowledgment of the end of the Jedi. Fans then, will be happy to know that not only does Johnson remedy some of the most heinous failures of Abrams, but also tells a fresh and compelling Star Wars story.

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is a spectacular example of what the Star Wars universe and canon allows. The opening crawl is necessitated by design, but the star battle that follows manages to not only develop Isaac’s character, but also set the pace. The rebel fleet is on the run from the First Order, and Rey–a Force-user–seeks the training of Luke Skywalker, far from the reach of either side. The premise is decidedly simple for a film that goes on to break the standards set by J. J. Abrams. Not only is “The Last Jedi” a more mature and intricate film than its predecessor, but it is also more humorous. While Star Wars has toyed with humor in the past, this is the first time that the formula has truly succeeded. Hamill, with his quick wit and endless jabs at Rey, ends up being the origin of many of these on-screen laughs; this may also be his strongest on-screen performance.

The space battles are epic in scale and design, the story is tightly controlled by the differentiation between light and darkness, the special and practical effects are absolutely astounding and the lead actresses and actors fully engage the audience in the plights of their characters. This is a Star Wars film that fires on all cylinders for most of its run time.

The movie still possesses the occasional problem. The largest of these is found in the effort to cram one to many social critiques into the middle act. Finn and Rose (Kelly Marie Tran)–an engineer aboard the rebel fleet–go to a casino-like city known as Canto Bight to find a master code breaker. Not only does this feel like a rip-off of Jabba’s palace and the cantina, but it also forces the audience to endure an overwrought chase scene. On top of that, the film does its best to comment on the culture of war profiteering in which both the “good guys” and the “bad guys” are actually being played by the rich. To add insult to injury, “The Last Jedi” then wastes Benicio Del Toro’s character, a generic rogue who helps Finn and Rose to escape the cantina, to further the message. It is a small mistake in a joyous movie, but it does grate upon an otherwise polished experience.

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is an enormous amount of fun as well as a breath of fresh air for the franchise. Not only does it play upon the tried and true tropes, but it does so in an enriching way. Johnson’s film also boasts one of the greatest melees in Star Wars history, as well as a set piece that will surely have you poised on the edge of your seat. For fans of the new trilogies or the old, this is a must-watch. It might be more Star Wars, but it’s some of the best Star Wars to appear in the last few years.