Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Episode VIII) Movie Review
I know, I know – I’m a few days late with this. And I don’t really have a great excuse for the procrastination, except that I really felt like I needed to see this again after my initial viewing on Thursday night. But to absolutely no surprise, Star Wars: The Last Jedi has been sold out for every showing all weekend wherever I checked. So I guess my initial feelings on this are going to have to suffice.
Written and directed by Rian Johnson, The Last Jedi essentially picks up immediately from the end of The Force Awakens. Rey has followed the map to legendary Jedi Master – and now ultimate recluse – Luke Skywalker in hopes of being trained in the ways of the Force, while the rest of the crew are on the run from the First Order after evacuating from an attack on one of their bases. Sounds exactly like The Empire Strikes Back, right? Well, it’s not quite that. While it does share some of the same story beats and plot points of that other much beloved middle chapter, The Last Jedi will bring just enough familiarity to make you worry (especially if you felt The Force Awakens was too similar to A New Hope) and then goes it’s own way.
That’s not to say I like everything this movie does. Far from it, as there were a few times I rolled my eyes at something I felt was forced or unneccesary (like the damn Porgs). And at 2 hours and 32 minutes, I felt it a bit over long. I even checked my watch a few times, as things dragged in some places. There’s a McGuffin in the film that has a threat level that changes due to how much room the story needs to breathe. That was kind of off-putting, and a bit frustrating from a simple narrative perspective. But taking some of those bits aside, and discounting some of the forced humor, the story that Rian Johnson tells is actually a pretty damn intricate and layered one!
As for the cast, I’ll say this: If you didn’t like them in the last installment, you probably won’t here. Though Oscar Isaac is given a lot more screen time this go around as hot shot pilot Poe Dameron, and he drives more of the story than he did previous. John Boyega is still the over the top, annoyingly manic ex-Storm Trooper. Carrie Fisher returns as the Princess General Leia, and she gives a great final performance. Mark Hamill finally fully returns as Luke Skywalker! Except he isn’t the Skywalker we remember – he’s reclusive and cantankerous, but it was fun to see him essentially take up the Yoda role for this film. But I think it’s the two main characters (Daisy Ridley as Rey and Adam Driver as Ben Solo/Kylo Ren) of this whole saga that should get the bulk of attention here, as they both seem to have grown as actors in between installments and manage to give much more nuanced performances, which is really necessary given Johnson’s writing. And Domhnall Gleeson as well continues his great performance of politically conniving General Hux, and the back and forth tit for tat with Kylo Ren is a bit fun to watch.
There are a few new faces to round out the cast as well! Benicio del Toro shows up as hacker, who’s recruited for his cloak and dagger methods. As always, Benicio brings something special to every performance. Laura Dern (Jurassic Park) makes an appearance as Admiral Holdo. While she does great in her role, the greatest weakness to her character is that she ends up being pivotally important to the story but just shows up out of nowhere. But, she also has probably the coolest scene in the film, bar none. And then there’s quite possibly my least favorite character in the film (besides the Porgs), Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico, who embarks with Finn on a mission to aid the Resistance ships evade First Order tracking.
For a film like this, top notch special effects are a must, and I have to say that although impressive as they mostly were, there were a few scenes here and there that looked a bit dodgy. Admittedly, the scope and attempt for The Last Jedi is a bit bigger than The Force Awakens, but you can definitely feel the difference between the practical effects focus of the previous installment and this one. However, there is one scene involving a starship battle at light speed that is probably one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. I actually want a still shot to frame and hang on my wall!
And finally, we can’t NOT talk about John Williams’ score. Williams once again proves why he is the best in the business of film scores by creating a whole new tone and style for The Last Jedi while keeping us grounded in that beloved galaxy far, far away by using varied leitmotifs of “The Imperial March” and “Duel of the Fates”, which were unexpected, yet pleasant surprises.
As much as I found myself unsure about how to feel about this film when I first walked out Thursday night, the more I think about it, the more I begin to appreciate what was done. And even though the weekend box office for it reached more than $450 million, the audience score on Rotten Tomatoes of 56% shows there are many people who clearly didn’t quite love what they saw. At release, it’s probably the most divisive of the franchise, but I think I would recommend a second viewing if you find yourself on the fence. And if you haven’t, try to go in with an open mind. Either way, it’s still a solid movie, now I’m interested to see what Rian Johnson does with a whole new trilogy.
Latest posts by Mathew Gruman (see all)
- Den of Thieves Movie Review - January 19, 2018
- Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Episode VIII) Movie Review - December 18, 2017
- Avengers Infinity War Trailer is Here! - November 29, 2017