Review: Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Director Rian Johnson is given the keys to the Star Wars kingdom and despite the long runtime and the hope-you-saw-the-other-films-because-we-ain’t-explaining-shit-vibe, he made a damn fine film, one that completely understands the heart that makes these films eternal. The Rebels are always out gunned and on the run, desperate to make a dent in the enemy forces. As seen most recently in Rogue One, often times this is met with catastrophic failure, but the fight must never stop, no matter the cost. Against all hope, you rebel against the great evil or die trying.
The Last Jedi is a never-lose-hope story with a dash of redemption, showcasing characters from the original trilogy and new saga in a harmonious blend. The Force Awakens gave us a vital introduction and The Last Jedi makes true to its promise to make these new characters irreplaceable gears in the Star Wars machine; it’s now impossible to remove Rey, Kylo Ren, and Finn from the Star Wars story because well, they matter just as much as our legendary characters. I truly believe that 20 years down the line we will all look at the new trilogy as an important run, one that care about its origins while still carving a new path for the evergreen space opera.
The Last Jedi nails The Rebels and why they will always have us rooting for them. Beyond the hope they inspire, they also have very important seeds to plant into the hearts and minds of children, and the adults like me who are basically still kids at heart. You fight for family, love, and a simple ideal: evil cannot win. Nothing drives this home more than our newest character Rose Tico played by Kelly Marie Tran. Rose is both beautiful and strong; even when The Rebels are at their lowest, even after the loss of family, she risks her life to get the job done. By the time we get to the second act on the planet of Cantonica, we are full on cheering her along. Her performance is warm enough for children of all ages, yet the role deals with the representation for Asian actors seriously, along with the ideals that make Star Wars awesome. She blends in perfectly to the lore and will be cherished for years to come, mark my words. Never tell The Rebels the odds, because backed against a wall they will attack until the last person is standing.
Of course, this latest chapter deals with both Kylo Ren and Rey’s journey. The two are on a similar path, new pages are turned, and juicy discoveries sweeten the pot but there are still unanswered questions that need to be resolved by the film’s end and I appreciate the long game. Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley really embraced their roles in this and shine because of it. There is a scene with both of them in Supreme Leader Snoke’s chamber that will go down as an all-timer Star Wars moment. It’s proof that their incredible introductions in The Force Awakens were no fluke and you’ll be grateful once again for their casting.
Obviously, it can’t be Star Wars without your favorite characters from the original trilogy coming back and the big deal here is the long-awaited return of Luke Skywalker. And let me tell you, Mark Hamill is on fire in this movie. With so much to do and with decades of cinematic history behind him, Hamill makes Skywalker eternal, a legend. His defeated man performance is haunted and poignant yet is still capable of carrying the entire film, if needed. Rian Johnson and Mark Hamill absolutely knew what they had to do here, and they delivered. Fully understanding his purpose in this franchise, Hamill expertly handles a spectrum of emotions, making Skywalker’s return essential and not tacked on. He is magic in this and I cannot stress his brilliant take on Luke enough. Which brings me to the irreplaceable Carrie Fisher as Leia. She too understood the heft of it all and has several moment that will reduce fans to sobbing messes. One scene, in particular, moved me so much that my heart was beating so fast, with tears streaming down my face. No other Star Wars chapter has hit me like that. Carrie brought so much to Leia throughout the saga and all the filmmakers knew it. They give her scenes of such importance throughout, allowing her to drive that legacy home. Luke and Leia, the ultimate brother and sister in a grand adventure that spans the cosmos, they make you feel the weight of Star Wars all over again with staggering effect.
Now, I do not think this film is perfect despite my raves. It does have a few snags that kind of hurt the overall vibe. The common consensus at my screening and on social media feedback is the runtime. I, for one, could watch a 10-hour cut of anything Star Wars but I do not represent those who are not fully invested in the saga. This film feels very long and despite my tears and adulation, I did feel bad for any soul being dragged to this by a kid or loved one who is completely down for Star Wars, while they themselves feel blah about the franchise. Also, Supreme Leader Snoke is kind of a lame character that feels out of place. In terms of this new saga, he is a big heavy but once you finally see his true form, and not that Wizard of Oz homage from The Force Awakens, he was quite underwhelming. A digital character that felt out of step with the practical magic around him. It also ranks dead last in Andy Serkis’ mocap roles, with the problem being the character and not Andy’s performance. Snoke does not make the film crash to a halt, but he’s just not too memorable alongside Kylo, Rey, Finn, Poe or even the best addition to the franchise, BB-8.
Star Wars should be fun and endearing. Thankfully, Rian Johnson and company get so much right that you can’t help but feel they made one of the better chapters in the series overall. Granted, they had years of history to lean on, backing their every play; it’s what they do with that history that makes it so special. The past is respected, while the new characters and stories are carving a path so effortlessly that children will be inspired and dazzled for years to come. There is so much more to discuss, but that would be spoiler-heavy territory, and people that cannot help themselves with spoilers deserve to have their arm ripped off by a Wookie and their carcasses devoured by Porgs. Just know that The Last Jedi will sweep Star Wars fans away yet again and will also make you fiend for Episode IX once the credits roll.