Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last Jedi ★★★

The eighth episode of Star Wars begins with a blistering battle in space, and ends with an all out frenzied war on land. What happens in between these two bookends is a sprawling, gorgeously messy chain of events that results in an experience that is vexing, surely, but also satisfying in its completeness.

I have to commend Rian Johnson for not only his sense of world building but his treatment towards many of the heroes/villains here. Rarely, if ever, has a Star Wars film felt this intimate in its approach to characterization. The frequent use of close-ups let us not only take a personal look at the faces of Rey, Luke Kylo, Finn, Poe, etc, but allow us to feel their emotion through the many twists and turns presented. We are not being told or explained their pathos, but shown instead, which greatly aids in the connection we need to make to these characters.

And with that being said, this is a film that has more to do with character and the challenges they face than the actual plot, the latter being the glaring weak point of the film. Johnson's screenplay bounces briskly all over the galaxy, from the distant island of Ahch-To, to the seedy streets of Canto Bight, which while being somewhat of an unnecessary excursion is also not without some semblance of merit.

In fact, I would go on to say that Canto Bight is one of the more tactile pieces of setting we encounter, it's just that what Finn and Rose go through here ultimately does not tie into the narrative all too well. Once again, I admire Johnson for using this section as a vessel to explore real world issues like corruption and greed. However, there's not too much of a reward when our lower class characters (an ex stormtrooper and maintenance worker) stampede, on the backs of Falthiers, through the high brow environments and city streets, leaving carnage in their wake. What should be an enthralling moment falls flat on its face and results in a subplot that sticks out like a sore thumb amidst the real sense of urgency this film tends to have.

But besides the aforementioned misstep, The Last Jedi mostly succeeds in the balance of its multiple ongoing stories. Rey's training and identity crisis and Kylo Ren's internal struggle between dark and light come off as being just as important as the increasingly climatic cat and mouse chase between The First Order and The Resistance. When all of our characters collide on the staggering battle upon Crait, what with the brief kiss between Finn and Rose in the midst of war, and Kylo and Luke's brief yet metaphorical lightsaber skirmish, we are reminded that the film, like other Star Wars features before it, has much to do with human and moral concerns.

I would even go on to say that humanity, which the film is brimming with at times, is the idea examined here that I have taken away with me the most. And its all shown wonderfully through Johnson's camera, that moves and zooms to capture an abundant amount of what are the most dazzling shots this saga has seen.

And problems be damned, the film still manages to hit the mark more than it misses. There are some brash, left field decisions, certainly, but they are shown with a confidence that is apparent in just about all of Johnson's work. Unlike The Force Awakens which tasked Abrams with the herculean assignment of correcting the wrongs of a certain three movies, The Last Jedi allowed Johnson to be much less constrictive in what he chose and had to say, and for the most part, it was a risk worth taking. All eyes are on you now, J.J...


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