THE STORYRey develops her newly discovered abilities with the guidance of Luke Skywalker, who is unsettled by the strength of her powers. Meanwhile, the Resistance prepares to do battle with the First Order.
THE CAST – Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern & Benicio del Toro
THE TEAM – Rian Johnson (Director/Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 152 Minutes
By Matt N.
I knew within the first few minutes of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” that we were in for something different. Where “The Force Awakens” received criticism for its plot holes and for being a rip-off of “A New Hope,” writer/director Rian Johnson set off to make something totally different than “The Empire Strikes Back” despite being the second installment in a new trilogy of Star Wars films. However, despite his efforts to answer some of the plot holes from “The Force Awakens,” Johnson creates even more narrative plot holes this time around. And the worst part is that after you leave the theater and the euphoria starts to wear off, the more you think about the film, the more it forces you to like it less. Unnecessary additional characters and a plot that takes place over the course of a few days but tries to keep the pacing frantically up over the course of what is the longest Star Wars film yet, “The Last Jedi” is not as perfect as the die-hard fans will have you believe. There are some wonderful moments for sure, sprinkled throughout Johnson’s two and a half hour film but the pieces don’t add up to the same satisfying whole that “The Force Awakens” was. Instead, “The Last Jedi” dares to be different and goes in many interesting and surprising (I guarantee you that 90% of your fan theories are wrong) directions resulting in an entry into the series that may become the most divided amongst fans yet.
The Resistance is down to their last ships and is unable to make a final stand against The New Order who have the ability to track them through lightspeed. Running out of fuel and hope, the Resistance must do everything they can to stall for time while Rey (Daisy Ridley) tries to convince a Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to come back and join the Resistance so that they can regain hope. Meanwhile, Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), is doing his best to contend with a new authority figure within the Resistance (Laura Dern) while Finn goes off on an adventure with a Resistance maintenance worker named Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) to find the “codebreaker” (Benicio DelToro) who will help them to bypass The First Order’s tracking device through lightspeed so the Rebels can make their escape, re-group and build hope for one final stand. While this is all happening, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) aka. Ben Solo is being tasked by Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis, as terrifyingly sinister as ever) to bring Rey to him after their failure to do so in “The Force Awakens.”
The number one thing that made “The Force Awakens” work so well was its characters, both old and new. The same is true here as Rey, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver is absolutely the MVP of this movie and his character continues to be, by far, the most fascinating), General Leia Organa, Poe, BB-8, Finn and yes, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill being as great as ever) are all well fleshed out characters who we care about and want to see more interaction between, especially now that there is only one film in this new trilogy, left. However, its Johnson’s addition of three new characters and how they fit into the storylines of our existing characters from the original trilogy and “The Force Awakens” which creates some of the narrative problems with “The Last Jedi.” Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo (Laura Dern), Rose and DJ (Benicio delToro) are all given major parts that have a big impact on the narrative. However, upon closer inspection, many of their motivations and decisions do not add up and make sense, resulting in a few narrative headaches and the wonder of what “The Last Jedi” would be like if these characters were either taken in a different direction or cut out completely? We probably would’ve gotten a shorter film that could have been filled with more tension and the grand, epic moments that Star Wars does so well. There is a brilliantly tense and quickly paced, character-driven, action film that clocks in at about 120 minutes within “The Last Jedi.” Instead, the whole movie is nothing but a chase through space between the Resistance and the First Order with characters constantly telling other characters “We only have this much time” or “This is our last chance” while General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) barks orders at his crew multiple times that “We will crush them once and for all.” Johnson tries to add stakes to “The Last Jedi” by making this seem like its the Resistance’s last stand against The First Order but all it ends up feeling like instead is an extended TV episode. Every other character’s storyline within “The Last Jedi” is tied to the Resistance outrunning The First Order and living to fight another day.
Johnson’s script follows Rey, Poe, Finn and Kylo Ren. While Finn has nothing to do in this film except go on a race against time to figure out how the Resistance can outrun the First Order and meet Rose, Poe actually gets a ton of focus this time around as the emerging leader within the Resistance as he goes from trigger-happy space cowboy to an inspiring beacon of hope for the Resistance and Oscar Isaac finally comes into his own with “The Last Jedi” and takes ownership of his character, wherein “The Force Awakens” his screen time was more limited. However, the number one driving force of what makes “The Last Jedi” great at times is the ever-evolving connection between Rey and Kylo Ren. Without getting into spoilers, there are moments also incorporating Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) and Luke Skywalker which brings both narrative arcs for Rey and Kylo Ren to fascinating directions as they head towards the final film in the trilogy. Nearly every scene containing these four characters, I have minimal complaints about and it’s clear that Johnson realizes that they are the most important part of making “The Last Jedi” work. I just wish the other characters (Finn especially) were not saddled with weaker storylines that did not feel as narratively thought out.
The theme of “The Last Jedi” is failure and (of course), hope. Every character fails at some point in “The Last Jedi” or has them acknowledging how they failed in the past. Johnson’s theme is one that pushes the characters we know and love to new emotional territory with exciting possibilities on how to end the story. Despite this exciting new theme that feels so incredibly fresh for this franchise, there are these moments of forced humor which are thrown in every time you think the story is about to lose you. Other technical elements such as cinematography, visual effects, makeup and production design are (As per the usual with a Star Wars film) all fantastic.
I know it feels wrong to compare the two but “The Last Jedi” left me as exhausted as the latest “Transformers” film did. Both are paced in such a way where the action feels constant and overwhelming. Rian Johnson does his best to take the story in interesting directions with a daring screenplay. It’s just a shame how little Finn and Rose have to do in this movie or how Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo’s whole storyline is completely redundant once you realize that had she made a different and more logical decision, it could have saved us at least 15 minutes of screen time. And if I have not earned enough hatred by this point, I’ll also finally add that John Williams’ score simply does not do it for me anymore. Where are the memorable/epic themes we received even with the dreadful prequels? Instead, what we are left with is a score that certainly sounds like a John Williams score but due to no new memorable themes and with the action being so chaotic and consistent, it turns into nothing but noise at a certain point. Despite all of these criticisms, some of the highs that are reached during “The Last Jedi” are the highest the franchise has ever gone and the most daring. However, I can’t resist in admitting that “The Last Jedi” feels like a disappointment compared to the tighter, more naturally flowing and balanced film that “The Force Awakens” was before.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – Rian Johnson takes the story in unexpected directions which helps to forge a totally different path for these new characters that we have grown to know and love. The “high” moments are truly spectacular both from a visual and narrative sense. Adam Driver is phenomenal.
THE BAD – The film is overlong, poorly plotted (Especially for its side characters) and not paced very well, making for an exhausting and overwhelming experience.
THE FINAL SCORE – 8/10