Well, I know what you’re thinking: “Didn’t this movie come out almost two months ago?
Yeah, it did. I started out saying I was going to wait until I had a clearer idea of what I wanted to say, then I forgot, then school started again and I didn’t have time, and here we are 40 days later.
One thing I’m sure of after all that contemplation, is that this is a very well made movie. A big film like this has a lot of moving parts and frequently just one faulty cog can bring the whole thing screeching to a halt. Not so here. Rian Johnson and Co. have perfectly crafted every aspect of the film’s production so that most people won’t even notice the excellent CGI and perfectly mixed sound.
I might as well get it out of the way, I loved this movie. In my opinion its the best Star Wars we’ve gotten since the 80s. I’m going to try to keep it objective, but objective criticism is kind of an oxymoron anyway so here it goes.
In terms of story structure, this movie is brilliant, and it actually makes up for and justifies the “glib facsimile” of a Star Wars movie we got in 2015. The safe, gutless Force Awakens serves to re-establish the hero’s journey framework that George Lucas brought us with the original. By keeping the story structure the same Abrams set us up to have our expectations dashed to bits by the next installment in the series.
In the original trilogy, things were black and white. Darth Vader and the Emperor were fully evil, and although there were hints of internal struggle within Luke, it was clear where his allegiance was going to end up. The Last Jedi introduces a new ambiguity to the saga. On multiple occasions I was actually unsure if Rey was going to turn to the dark side, or if Kylo Ren was going to return to the light. The lines between the light and dark side are muddied and the divide becomes more complicated than a simple conflict between good and evil.
Another big gut punch is that fact that Snoke, the being that fans have been speculating and theorizing about for two years dies, without any real fanfare, and by an amazing telekinetic lightsaber strike at that. Lots of people have criticized this move, calling it out as an act of irreverence towards the Star Wars fandom. In this anger a lot of people are neglecting to think about the fact that Snoke was actually pretty lame. By what we see of him, with power as strong as his, he’s sort of the Star Wars version of Apocalypse, a being so powerful that any battle he doesn’t win seems phony.
I do have some minor criticisms with the arc revolving around Poe Daemeron and Admiral Holdo. The basic gist is that Poe, a hotshot pilot known for going off half-cocked and taking big risks is taught a lesson in deference and patience by Holdo. He angrily insists that the fleet go forward and Laura Dern insists that he wait. In the end it turns out she had a plan all along. This part actually really bothered me. If she had a plan, she should have told him. In mutinying, Poe was really doing the sensible thing and stopping the fleet from being run into the ground by what seemed like a complete lack of a plan. Holdo also could have acted a little bit less hostile towards Poe when he demanded to know what the plan was.
As for the bit on Canto-Bight, I found that rather interesting as well. This was the first long look at the elite class in Star Wars and I found the shots of rich, sleazy aliens gambling and living lavishly to be pretty interesting. The slapstick gags may have been cheap but I definitely heard my nine year-old brother cackling in the seat next to mine.
The Last Jedi isn’t perfect, but it is a very organic film. Any mistakes are Rian Johnson’s mistakes. That may sound negative, but its actually positive. The movie is one man’s singular vision, and the absence of the committee bred clutter that usually plagues blockbusters is evident. The film is unrelentingly tense, with a chase through space keeping the intensity ramped up any time it seems to lag. This film might not hold up over time, we’ll be getting Star Wars once a year for years to come now; but for now, this film has me unsure and curious about what’s coming next, and that’s something I haven’t felt in a long time.
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