Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi SPOILER-FREE Review
While I'm not as much of a Star Wars nut as some people are, I am very much a fan of the series. I love (most) of the original trilogy, and while I wasn't big on the prequels, I have been enjoying the return to Star Wars we've been witnessing for the past couple years. If you're interested in seeing how I would rank all of the Star Wars movies (prior to Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi), you can check that out here. But when it comes to Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, I liked it a lot. I didn't think it was the greatest thing since sliced bread like some people did, but I thought it was a quality return to the franchise. So naturally, I've been excited for the next installment. What I was most curious about was seeing how Rian Johnson would handle the film. Getting him to write and direct is a bold choice, and it showed that LucasFilm was looking to make a unique movie. And, of course, I couldn't wait to see Mark Hamill back as Luke Skywalker. So I went into the film really excited, and I loved the movie. Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi does have its flaws, but its sheer unpredictability is enough for me to appreciate what Johnson has delivered.
Picking right up after the events of The Force Awakens, Rey (Daisy Ridley) must convince Luke Skywalker (Hamill) to train her in the ways of the force.
This is an incredibly divisive film among fans. I have heard both extremes; some fans say it is the best Star Wars movie ever made, and others say it is the worst. I would personally rank it above The Force Awakens, but below Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. I'll reiterate something I posted on my Twitter account, because I think it really captures my thoughts on The Last Jedi's divisiveness. I believe this film is divisive because it's different. Some people like the risks it takes, and some people think it deviates from what Star Wars is. Personally, I appreciated its boldness and its willingness to take risks. One of my biggest problems with The Force Awakens was that it pretty much followed the Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope formula. In my eyes, it played it safe. But I do understand why some would be turned off by The Last Jedi. It does try new things, and that won't work for everyone. However, I personally found the good outweighed the bad, and there was a lot more good in the film than bad. But there will be people who disagree specifically on what are the good parts and what are the bad parts. The Last Jedi, moment by moment, asks itself what the complete opposite thing anyone would have expected them to do is, and then does it. But this isn't simply for the sake of doing so, but rather it all serves the story and the narrative Rian Johnson has crafted.
The things that happen in this film come completely out of left field. If you had told me what happens in this movie prior to my seeing it, I would have been angry. I would have thought that it ruined the movie, and it was a disservice to the characters and to the brand. However, upon seeing it in context, and seeing how every choice, no matter how different it may be, serves the story, I'm on board. It's not the story I would have chosen myself, but it ultimately works and I like the direction they are going in. It's not often that I get to sit in a movie theater and genuinely have zero idea of what is going to happen next. For the eighth (technically ninth) entry into a single franchise, having this level of unpredictability and originality is incredibly refreshing. This really comes into play with the character of Luke Skywalker. While the direction they take his character may be surprising at first, it actually falls in line with how every other secluded Jedi master has been portrayed in the previous films. In fact, a lot of what stands out as being shocking or different actually makes sense when you consider what has happened in the prequel and original trilogies, as well as within the larger Star Wars mythology. And that's why all of these "departures" work, because in reality they aren't really departures. Everything is in service to the story, and that is why I enjoy it so much. And Mark Hamill does give his best performance ever as Luke Skywalker, if not of his career, in this film.
The first and the third acts are the best. The second act struggles heavily, and I'll get more into that in a minute. But the first and third acts are filled to the brim with deep character development, spectacular action sequences, and intense emotional moments. The Last Jedi does a great job of making me care about characters from The Force Awakens that I didn't necessarily give a shit about before. The greatest example of this is Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac). I thought he was simply a throwaway character in The Force Awakens, but The Last Jedi makes me realize just how much of a badass he truly is. I liked Rey, but I didn't think she was the great protagonist in The Force Awakens. But here, I totally buy into the nuance and the confliction of her character. She goes through so much as the character, and it allows her to grow in really amazing ways. The same can be said for Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). I liked him in The Force Awakens, but I didn't think he was an outstanding villain. But The Last Jedi entirely convinces me of why Kylo Ren is such a compelling character, and why he deserves to be at the forefront of this new trilogy. Carrie Fisher is also fantastic as Leia. There are a couple moments where she doesn't say a single line of dialogue, but the look on her face says a thousand words, and that is the hallmark of a truly incredible actor.
My biggest problem with the movie is Finn (John Boyega) and Rose's (Kelly Marie Tran) storyline. I won't go into details, obviously, but I don't like the look of the Canto Bight planet, nor anything that happens on there. It feels out of place, and it slows the story down. There is an incredible amount of momentum built in the first act, and then it comes to a halt in the second act. While I do really like the third act, it does have a hard time regaining the momentum from the first act. Instead of the film escalating entirely through all three acts, it peaks in Act One, drops in Act Two, and then tries to get back up there in Act Three. This Canto Bight sequence just does not work for the story, and it should have been cut out. There is a specific reason why it is in there, which is revealed later, but it seems like an awfully big detour just for one moment of payoff. This sequence needed to be reworked, because it really brings the movie down. While his character ultimately grew on me, the film didn't really need Benicio Del Toro. He has some strange character quirks that are unnecessary, and feel out of place. He serves a larger purpose, and helps reinforce a larger theme that I did like. But I think his character should have been used differently, or taken out entirely. There are also little moments here and there throughout the film that I didn't exactly care for, but the whole Canto Bight sequence, and Del Toro's involvement in it, are my the biggest issues with the movie.
Overall, I enjoyed Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. If my review seems vague, it's because a lot of my specific thoughts on the film involve spoilers. I'm hoping to do some sort of spoiler talk about the movie, but I can't make any promises about that. While there are some bad parts I didn't care for, such as the Canto Bight sequence, the good far outweighs the bad. The film is entirely unpredictable, and goes in directions I never would have previously guessed. However, it all works for the story Rian Johnson is telling, and makes sense in terms of the larger Star Wars universe. The Last Jedi makes me care about characters I didn't give a shit about before, such as Poe, and gives more depth and nuance to characters I thought I found to be underwhelming in The Force Awakens, like Rey and Kylo Ren. Carrie Fisher is fantastic as Leia, and Mark Hamill gives one of the best performances of his career as Luke Skywalker. The first and third acts are both great, but the second act does slow the film down. The Canto Bight sequence really needed to be reworked, because it kills the pacing. However, I find I like most of the other parts of the movie. There are a couple key moments that I absolutely love, but they are giant spoilers, so unfortunately I can't talk about them here. In the end, Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi is a worthy entry into this new trilogy, and I honestly have no idea what will happen in Episode IX, which makes me all the more excited to see what J.J. Abrams does with it.
What do you think? Have you seen Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi? If not, are you planning on seeing it? Leave your (spoiler-free) thoughts in the comments section below.
Written by: Nathanael Molnár
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