Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last Jedi ★★★★½

If Force Awakens is the Star Wars Textbook, The Last Jedi is the novel.
This is a step up in every category from Force Awakens, truly in every way.

Force Awakens had to do what it did to jump start the franchise, and it did it swimmingly. The Last Jedi is inheriting a lot of amazing aspects from JJ Abrams film, most importantly the amazing cast. Everyone here is absolutely amazing including Mark Hamill who is shockingly and unexpectedly multi-dimensional and powerful. Like I said it's shocking because Hamill in the original trilogy was playing a pretty one dimensional character, but doing it well. With Last Jedi he is in command of every scene in a way that he never was in the original trilogy. He is truly giving a powerhouse performance, nothing feels forced or out of place and this didn't have to work out so well because Fisher and Ford were not great in Force Awakens, they just functioned well and didn't fail. The fan boys that are complaining about this movie all got chills when Luke walks through a huge flaming door in Last Jedi, that moment should be etched in all of star wars lore as one of the most iconic moments.

The rest of the cast are all exceptionally better here than in Force Awakens, whether that's the script or Rian Johnson or just more comfort in their roles is debatable. But there's no debating how incredible Adam Driver is here, he has created a truly unique and original villain that is what every villain should be, sympathetic while also frightening. Multiple times in Last Jedi he is overtaken by pure rage and it is absolutely incredible to watch this not to mention every interaction he has with Rey. Daisy Ridley is profoundly more mature and complicated here than in Force Awakens. Rian Johnson has a lot of close ups in this movie on all the characters and Rey is always conveying so much turmoil in her moments. Oscar Isaac is really filling out Po's role well, and I love the way he interacts with Leia and how Leia and Laura Dern's character interact with him. John Boyega doesn't have as much to do here but he's watchable and his relationship with Kelly Marie Tran's character is solid. I sure wish we had more of Benicio but I'm sure he'll be a major character in Ep IX. The biggest upgrade here is Domhnall Gleeson who is bordering on bad in Force Awakens but Rian Johnson pries humanity out of him and uses him the exact way he should be used. And his interactions with Adam Driver are amazing, I think that developing relationship is really exciting for the next film.

Beyond the cast the story here is unique and is constantly zig zagging in ways I didn't expect. I like the slow burn nature of Rian's storytelling, I think by building character and plot the big explosion of action towards the end of the film feel that much more important and exciting. The stand out action sequence is obviously Driver and Ridley's thing. Once again every fan boy can complain about this movie but I know they got goose bumps during that scene.

One massive difference between this film and all the other Star Wars films is Rian Johnson's camera language. This movie feels so organic in terms of the camera, the big emotional scenes are covered beautifully, you have an incredible Kubrickian esque set piece, the opening action sequence is so wonderfully shot and unique that it really makes Force Awakens seem like a textbook where this is a novel. The visuals on the final world and the subsequent battle are amazing, the red and white contrast, the way the AT-ATs are framed overlooking our human characters. Even the way he deals with Lupita Ny'ongo's character is very unqiue and idiosyncratic, how she just pops up in this hilarious little Star Wars facetime way is funny and cool looking. And of course all the creature designs are unique and mysterious.

There are some negative aspects to the movie as is often the case with massive blockbuster franchise movie making. The movie is long but doesn't feel over long, I think there could've been more build up on the island with Rey and Luke, we just kinda jump to it. I also think there are some odd jumps in logic in terms of characters getting to places. Like Rey somehow getting onto the Falcon near the end, or Benicio showing up randomly on a ship. Finn and Rose riding weird creatures or a destroyed AT-ST feel very cartoony. And the big complaint that most people are having is the side mission on the Casino world, but I will say that set and character design elements are really funny and cool and you can justify that section existing because of certain characters showing up. I do agree that the whole section was lacking something.

The real key for me though as to why this is so much better than Force Awakens is the mythology exploration of Luke and the Jedi as a whole. An amazing unexpected cameo from the original trilogy is really the highlight of the movie, that character during Ep1-3 is a joke and caricature of himself but here Johnson and the filmmakers create him perfectly and use him for what he should be used for. I loved all the stuff involving the Jedi Books and the idea that the force isn't hereditary, which is what Lucas was trying to say, but is seemingly random. I really loved that misdirection and the way it's used. And of course how Luke's recent history has defined him, and how nihilistic he is makes for a much more profound character arc.

I don't really want to compare this to the other Star Wars films because we all kind of know the ranking and placement on the hierarchy. But I will say it's pretty obvious to me that this is one of the best if not the best. Time will tell but I think it's a good thing that a huge blockbuster of this caliber can be so divisive. In an age of market strategy filmmaking and making sure not to offend the target audience it's refreshing to see risks taken and a guy like Rian Johnson succeeding in his vision and for Disney to allow those idiosyncrasies in their franchise. I think he did exactly what I expected, tell a great story in a unique way with a lot of Rian Johnson like flourishes and getting great performances out of his actors(which he and JJ Abrams both share a talent for).

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