Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

I love Star Wars. I'm a fan. Always have been. My love of film, science fiction, and movie merchandise can be traced back to the film that sprung from the mind of George Lucas. I mention this because, as a fan, it's not always easy to look critically at what you love. However, I will do my best (while avoiding spoilers).

Star Wars: The Force Awakens gave me a taste during its final moments, but Star Wars: The Last Jedi finally delivers on the Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) film I have been waiting impatiently for since 1983. Adding to my interest in the latest installment of the Star Wars franchise was the fact that a grizzled Luke would get paired with my favorite of the new characters introduced in the previous film. Those expecting Luke to jump immediately into action on behalf of Rey's (Daisy Ridley) plea might be initially disappointed, but (despite small complaints I have with the film) I think you'll agree that writer/director Rian Johnson succeeds in paying homage to what has come before while shading a bit more outside of the lines than J.J. Abrams was willing, or able, to do.

There are multiple storylines taking place in Johnson's script. Along with Rey's attempts to spur Luke into action on Ahch-To (while also searching for answers about the Force), we get the Resistance running from the First Order Fleet, a side-mission for Finn (John Boyega) on Cantonica, a growing connection between Rey and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) struggling with the chain of command (and getting far more character development this time around), and the introduction of new characters and creatures including the Porg, Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), and Benicio Del Toro as a galactic scoundrel.

Kylo Ren continues to be a weakness for the franchise, however the sequel (more aware of the character's failings) is able to use him more effectively than The Force Awakens. We will get much more of Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) this time around, stepping in for the Emperor (more successfully than Ren does for Vader). More threatening to our heroes that the Sith is the military might of the First Order which spends much of the movie closing in on the Rebels (in a sequences that makes sense only as long as you never question why they never call for reinforcements).

The Last Jedi delivers some great space battles between the Resistance and the First Order, and impressive lightsaber battle, more than a few nodes to both The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi, and Jedi Master Luke Skywalker. Rey and Luke's thread is my favorite piece of the film, but the other plot threads all tie back together for one hell of a climax Star Wars fans won't want to miss.

Is it everything I wanted? No, there's more than a little clunky dialogue, the Imperial plan is pretty damn flawed, Kylo Ren still bugs me, Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) continues to be one of the most worthless characters on screen, and the film runs a bit long needing time to tie all these characters and stories together. That said, what The Last Jedi does offer is Rey and Luke, Rebels vs. the Empire, a strong performance from Carrie Fisher, new worlds and creatures, and more than a little of the spirit of the original films. All of which results in an entertaining adventure in a galaxy far, far away.

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