Star Wars: The Last Jedi ★★★★½

90

Hint: if you haven't seen the movie, maybe don't read this? Just a thought.

In over 4,232 cinemas across the united states and countless more around the world, a fire is burning. It is not an inferno of danger or sustainability, although it'll attack anyone who dares to confront its path, but a flame ignited by the exhaustible practices of Myth, the complicity of idols, and the truth gained in learning, listening, breathing. In and out. In and out. Slow and steady. Peaceful and tranquil. Star Wars: The Last Jedi, written and directed by Rian Johnson, provides a start for tossing fandom aside - letting the past die, giving in to the inevitability of change, and wiping the slate clean. J.J. Abram's fantastical jump-start is now revealed as a mystery box of fluff; an entry which mythologized its surface just so The Last Jedi can toss it off the side of a cliff.

Johnson complicates escapism's clear-cut designs and properties by almost entirely tossing his band of characters, good and evil, into separate arenas of conflict, judging each other by appearance, rumors, legend, and other routines of perception. Its structure, then, is similarly confused and frustrated, maneuvering just as these larger-than-life figures are roaming the frame; in a perpetual state of "now what!?!?". Johnson, in a feat of ingenuity not out of line with other works in his oeuvre, injects purpose into their minute-by-minute struggles (so much of TLJ is either comprised of squabbling on ships or desperately trying a plan to buy them an extra hour of survival), evoking the fright in an unknown future. It is a film intensely fascinated with a universe where the post-war clean-up has been shed, and there's very little left of that pesky history.

What remains, however, isn't what it seems, and the revelations are humbling and personal, bewildering and satisfying, although to say how unconventional it all is would be an understatement. This movie battles the idea of heroes becoming masters, and masters losing their grasp on what is best for themselves, for the next generation, and for the greater good of the galaxy. Mark Hamill, as famed Luke Skywalker, is the central source of this, and it's an astonishing performance in all the ways you didn't think you needed. His isolated home away from the realities of the world allows for a visual metaphor of the ways people close off from us, and how when we travel and make the effort to see a glimpse of their integrity, the actuality can be crushing.

But in this defeat of a realization is a larger hope, and the most genuine one in any space opera in a long, long time: that giving into the future, letting the younger generation tell our stories, and leaving the sky open for them to dream, accomplish, and thrive is the ultimate call to revolution. Sometimes, it's best to sit back, admire the view, and learn, listen, breathe. Johnson, in all his pop-genre swiftness and visual fluidity, bursts fully into hyperspace towards the future, to wherever Disney and Lucasfilm might take us. And in that, The Last Jedi is a warning and a sweeping, delicate coda, maybe even calling it 'balance' if we're being cute. It may be time to let go, but we never stop learning.

Random notes:

- I may or may not have laughed a half-dozen times at visual cues and exchanges that were so completely, defiantly 'Rian Johnson'. I think people in my theater thought I was crazy for enjoying a close-up of a steam-iron as much as I did. Many are going to confuse these moments for flaws rather than idiosyncrasies, and that's a shame.

- Also: People complaining about the 'casino' sub-plot is the 'rathtar' sequence all over again. Detail, detail, detail!

- I was internally screaming throughout the second-half of this movie. The first half was mostly awe in the fact that Johnson was really doing what I secretly wanted him to do.

- Laura Dern, please order me off the bridge.

- Porgs are cool, snow critters are cooler.

- Honestly, this could be the last Star Wars I'll ever watch. Obviously that won't happen (cinematic gluttony is in fashion, right?), but you know, just saying.

- MVP: General Hux, who somehow fell into the eternal punishment of being in his own involuntary Jackass spin-off entry. Just hysterical.

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