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December 12, 2017

Last Jedi Far From Least Jedi

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Written by: Rodney Brown
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I have one serious issue after seeing Star Wars: The Last Jedi: Rian Johnson won’t be back to write and direct the next one. I am going to find it challenging to keep my review below spoiler-free, because so much is different in this movie from previous movies in the franchise that saying anything about it might be a spoiler itself. As Luke says in the trailer, “This is not going to go the way you think.”

But I’ll keep any details out, beyond what you have seen in trailers and commercials.

 

I almost named this review The Last Jedi: Even the Porgs Make Sense. Almost every story element or even background element in Last Jedi makes sense from a story standpoint. That is one thing that is consistent throughout most of this movie, with one or two glaring exceptions. OK, one really glaring one that means absolutely nothing to the movie but is completely jarring. But the story moves you past that incredulity very quickly.

Thankfully not even close to a Jar-Jar.

Thankfully not even close to a Jar-Jar.

The most surprising thing about Last Jedi is the humor. And I mean real humor, not the forced dad joke humor that George Lucas thinks is funny, or the cheesy sitcom reaction shots that permeate J.J. Abrams movies. Real, funny situations and funny situational dialogue presented by a writer and director that can handle it.

The complete disregard for even basic science found in Star Wars: The Force Awakens has been toned down, although not eliminated. There are a few head-scratcher moments but nothing like the awful presentation of watching multiple planets light years away get blown up in your own sky in real time, as in TFA.

Last Jedi does have one important element near the beginning that would make an elementary school science teacher shudder, but it is a testament to how low Abrams has set that bar that I let it pass with barely an eye twitch.

But what you really want to know is, how are the leads? Under Johnson’s direction, everyone steps up their game. Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron), all deliver much more emotional moments than in TFA with skill. Adam Driver (Kylo Ren) shows his real skill as an actor, finally. As does Mark Hamill. No big surprise, Luke Skywalker has a bigger role in Last Jedi than the few seconds he had in TFA. And after years of hamming it up as hard as he could as various comic book villains, Hamill shows real emotional depth.

And our princess, Carrie Fisher, is even better as General Leia than she was in TFA. Watching her on screen brings up serious feelings, but she plays Leia as such a great character you’ll get past it quickly.

Among the new cast additions, Kelly Marie Tran is the most interesting as Rose. I won’t mention any of the others since they were all surprises to me and I’ve watched every trailer, teaser and commercial out there.

The script is sharp and full of surprises. Just when it seems like characters might get out of trouble through a deus ex machina, an actual solution is used. When you think characters are going to do something, they often don’t — but when they do the expected, it is a moment that you really wanted to see that expected thing. And Johnson and his cast deliver.

Believable back stories
Most importantly, as we discover more about the past of our main characters, and their motivation is revealed, it is believable. And, more importantly, exists in the first place. Luke in A New Hope is basically driven by teen angst, boredom, and a generally unfocused desire for revenge for his step-parents. Not exactly high drama motivations. In Last Jedi, when we find out why Luke is on a porg-filled island on a remote planet, the reason is both complex and believable.

Complexity — not something one associates with the Star Wars franchise, and let’s be clear, Last Jedi isn’t complex like Blade Runner 2049. But it is light years more complex than anything in the franchise except Rogue One, which comes in just behind Last Jedi in that regard.

At 2 hours, 32 minutes, Last Jedi is really long but moves forward with good pacing. Unlike TFA, the bouncing around from the stories of the different characters while they are separated isn’t confusing and muddled.

There are a slew of nods, call backs and references to previous movies in the franchise, which will please Star Wars fans. I’m sure I missed a few of them, but I’ll look out for them the next time I see Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Because I certainly plan to.

That said, while the nods to previous episodes will satisfy many fans, some of the reveals and story points will surely disappoint or even anger many others. Let me say this, even if it is itself a type of spoiler: I left the theater going 0-for-0 with my own theories. And that kind of surprise I enjoy even more than Easter eggs.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (153 minutes, Lucasfilm Ltd., PG-13) 4.5 out of 5 stars.

 

 

 



About the Author

Rodney Brown





 
 

 
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