The latest installment in the legendary saga proves to be worth the hype
January 11, 2018
Another “Star Wars” that’s full of explosions, intergalactic flight and alien creatures. But in “The Last Jedi,” we also see the reality of war casualties, poignant revelations about how the past affects us and scenes that beg the question of the nature of good and evil.
Drawing in over one billion dollars at the box office, Rian Johnson’s film raked in more than just the title of 2017’s highest grossing film. It gained surprisingly high reviews from critics, despite a mixed reactions from the audience, reactions which rooted its distaste for the film in much of what the critics found appealing (like its deliberate pacing).
The film, in spite of its clichéd one-liners and some one-dimensional characters, is a more mature piece. It moves deliberately, focusing instead on meticulous, character-driven conflict rather than ostentatious battle scenes typical of big-budget blockbusters. This is appealing in a series often associated with binaries, simplistic characterizations and style over substance filmmaking.
Johnson’s characters, mostly static, rely heavily on “Star Wars” nostalgia, rather than their own complex characterizations or unique storylines in order to remain relevant.
There is enough of the late Carrie Fisher and bearded Mark Hamill to satisfy dedicated “Star Wars” fans. The audience even gets a surprise cameo from everyone’s favorite green Jedi master, but this only goes so far in a story that is not centered around their legacy.
However, the script unfortunately does little to bolster most of the newer characters to the same level as their esteemed predecessors. Much of the dialogue—like Rose Tico’s mantra of, “We’re going to win this war not by fighting what we hate, but saving what we love”—will make anyone older than fourteen shudder.
In the face of more mature themes like abandonment, war and sacrifice, these kinds of melodramatic declarations serve as a reminder that this is not intended to be a serious film.
Despite these flaws, Johnson effectively redeems himself with his discernibly clear grasp on visual storytelling. He utilizes brilliant, thoughtful cinematography, amidst the abundance of CGI sequences expected of a project with a $200 million budget.
Of course, there are spectacular scenes of space travel and battle thanks to the level of CGI available. This includes a jaw-dropping sequence in which temporary Resistance leader Vice Admiral Holdo, played by actress Laura Dern, sacrifices herself in a captain-goes-downwith-the-ship moment—pulling a u-turn and activating light-speed in the Rebellion’s main space vessel—slicing through the monstrous First Order spaceship that is chasing after them. Johnson does a terrific job of creating an emotionally heavy and more mature film than expected.
Beyond exploding space vessels are the intense shots of Kylo Ren and Rey communicating through their minds.
These are conveyed separately on screen in each character’s own setting, only shown in frame together during their final telepathic scene when they reach out across the galaxy and grip hands.
This one moment of connection seems even more significant with Johnson’s distinct style of filming, showing that in one powerful moment they are connected beyond the limits of their previous bond.
Their battle scene features an intense struggle to out Force each other, breaking the old Skywalker lightsaber in a beautiful shot that perfectly illustrates their equal, balanced power.
Most fascinating is the development and insight into Kylo Ren.
Maskless and exposed, actor Adam Driver does a fantastic job conveying the torment and multi-faceted nature of the not-so-typical villain.
His scenes with Rey, compellingly played by actress Daisy Ridley, display deeper dimensions than the simple conflict of good versus evil.
They suck the viewer into conversations fraught with tension as both characters struggle to reconcile with their pasts, question the present and look to their futures.
“The Last Jedi” does not disappoint. It caters to a more sensitive audience that may still cringe at its one-liners but will feel satisfied by the escalating tension and character development of its two young Force-users.
Despite exploring the complicated nature of war and morality more closely than usual, it stays true to the classic good versus evil thread that has lined the saga for the past forty years.
Like the previous installment, “The Force Awakens,” “The Last Jedi” also redeems the series from the unstable prequels and proudly carves itself a place in the “Star Wars” legacy beside classics like “A New Hope” and “The Empire Strikes Back.” “The Last Jedi” is indeed a Force to be reckoned with, even in the face of its flaws.
Contact Jane Mezzino at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.