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Review: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last Jedi
12.12.2017
9 10

PLOT: Now that she's found Luke, Rey must convince him come out of hiding and join the Resistance. Meanwhile, General Leia Organa and the dwindling members of the Resistance find themselves chased across the galaxy by Supreme Leader Snoke and the First Order.

REVIEW: STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI is a terrific piece of large scale entertainment that is a very welcome addition to the Star Wars franchise. I do not foresee many longtime or new Star Wars fans walking away disappointed.

Obviously, we have to get that out of the way right off the bat. This review is (like just about every review) all about first impressions and trying to parse through a great deal of emotions as pragmatically as possible. Not easy to do with a STAR WARS movie. In my experience, STAR WARS movies - save the prequels - get richer and richer with each subsequent viewing, so to attempt to successfully navigate your thoughts for them mere hours after you've seen it is a little daunting. Nevertheless, I know that THE LAST JEDI had me locked in its grip almost entirely throughout its 150 minute runtime; it felt like my heart was beating double-time during most of it. Like THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, this second chapter raises the stakes and complicates the journeys of its heroes and villains, and when it's over you have that glorious feeling of "I can't wait to see what happens next!" This is a frustrating feeling as well, because we have to wait so long.

This review will just about be completely spoiler-free, as per the request of the studio, but also because it's the kind of movie you really don't want to know anything about before you sit down for it. I hadn't really watched the trailers before the seeing the film, and I'm glad that was the case, because THE LAST JEDI has so many exciting twists, turns and reveals that I felt constantly on edge. In a good way, of course. The film certainly takes on the structure of a roller coaster, scaring you, invigorating you, giving you pockets of moments to breath before whipping you around again. It's a movie that is very much in charge of its audience's emotions.

The script is intense and complex, with writer director Rian Johnson successfully juggling several different storylines and giving ample screen-time to a really impressive amount of characters. There are so many different people and aliens populating the film, and Johnson ensures no one gets lost in the shuffle. (Well, except for Chewbacca and R2-D2. I regret to say I wish they had been featured more.) A large number of the main characters get moments to shine, from returning new favorites Rey, Finn, Poe and Kylo Ren, to of course the legends Luke and Leia. We also get much better looks at FORCE AWAKENS' minor antagonists Supreme Leader Snoke and General Hux (more on him later). Several new characters pop up, the most significant ones played by Laura Dern, Kelly Marie Tran and Benicio del Toro, but I won't tell you much about them, other than to say Dern's character a very interesting arc and also features in one of the movie's most memorable, gasp-inducing moments.

As you would expect from the second installment in a STAR WARS trilogy, THE LAST JEDI goes some dark places, but it doesn't go EMPIRE dark. While the atmosphere can be ominous at times and things frequently look hopeless for our heroes, the overall the tone is just plain fun and, I would say, often heartwarming. What really stands out is how funny THE LAST JEDI is. The STAR WARS movies have always had plenty of humor in them, but Johnson really isn't afraid to go all out with the comedy, with a lot of the humor stemming from pristinely-timed sight gags and reaction shots. Even Luke, shockingly, has several amusing moments, so he's not always the gloomy figure the promo material has made him out to be. (That said, Luke has the weight of the world on his shoulders here; his brooding isn't unearned.)

The movie is likely to be especially refreshing to the people who thought THE FORCE AWAKENS relied too heavily on memories of A NEW HOPE to tell its story. That's not to say this one doesn't call back to the OT - yes, EMPIRE especially - but it's able to mix in its fan service without being too on the nose and beholden to our fondness for STAR WARS movies past. As much as I admire and enjoy J.J. Abrams' STAR WARS film, there's no doubt that it suffers greatly from the faux-remake issue so many blockbuster sequels have had in the last few years (looking at you, JURASSIC WORLD and TERMINATOR GENISYS). THE LAST JEDI is able to carve out its own niche in a more distinct way, while still displaying plenty of recognizable hallmarks that longtime fans of the franchise will nod their heads at with a smile.

The cast is, unsurprisingly, very good, with Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher being two very note-worthy stand outs. Hamill has many fine, poignant moments, as does Fisher. Leia is a much more entertaining character in THE LAST JEDI than she was in the prior film and, frankly, it's really hard not to get emotional whenever she's on the screen. Also making an impression is Oscar Isaac, who gets to do more here than he did in THE FORCE AWAKENS. Daisy Ridley is just as delightful to watch as she was the last time around, and Adam Driver gets to add some rich complexity to the character of Kylo Ren, who is still a temperamental bastard but one with more shades of gray than previously hinted at. I will say that John Boyega's Finn is, while still engaging to watch, the only character who doesn't really grow much beyond what has already been established. Maybe it's just that Boyega and Finn were such revelations last time; it's a tough act to follow.

Can I tell you who the surprise MVP is for me? Domhnall Gleeson as scowling, growling General Hux. Gleeson didn't have much to do in THE FORCE AWAKENS, but in THE LAST JEDI he chews up the scenery and spits it out with relish. There's a sequence very early on in the film where he engages in a surprisingly funny conversation with a member of the Resistance, and Gleeson's face alone makes the scene appealingly absurd. If he was at 10 in THE FORCE AWAKENS, Gleeson is absolutely at 11 in THE LAST JEDI.

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I do have a few issues. There's a long sequence in the second act that feels pretty unnecessary overall and it introduces a new character I wasn't crazy about, but this is a first impression, so maybe my opinion will change upon repeated viewings. I also think some of the Rey-Luke stuff gets repetitive, and spending so much time on that beautiful island isn't always a ton of fun. This is the longest STAR WARS movie and it does begin to feel like it; I think a handful of scenes could have been, if not cut, then trimmed down. Thankfully, there's usually so much going on that your attention won't stray for long, and the entire second half of the movie feels like one long nail-biting third act.

Oh yes, in case you were wondering, the porgs are just fine. Not in it too much, not distracting, just cute enough. They're not as cute as BB-8, who is still as adorable as ever and possibly even more helpful to his friends this time around. It is refreshing to see the little bot is still a major crowd-pleaser.

I will not rank THE LAST JEDI among the other STAR WARS films - or at the very least, the new ones - just yet, it's too early for that. I'll be seeing this film several more times in the theater, and after that will I be able to suss out where it lands. But it is a very good STAR WARS movie, I'm positive of that much, and I must say you can't ask for more than that.


Source: JoBlo.com

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