The Last Jedi (2017)
Director: Ryan Johnson
Cast: Daisy Ridley, Mark Hammill, Carrie Fisher, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyongo, Laura Dern, Benicio del Toro
Anticipation is always high for any Star Wars movie and The Last Jedi wasn’t going to be the exception. People just can’t wait for that Star Wars logo to flash on the screen while John William’s legendary score blasts through the speakers, it just starts things out with such a blast! Of course, I was as excited as everybody else. Where the hell was Rey and Finn’s story going to go? Who’s going to go bad, who’s going to “turn”? The interesting thing about this particular Star Wars sequel was that directors were going to change. J.J. Abrams passed the baton to Ryan Johnson who took the reins of the series with relentlessness. I wasn’t floored when I heard that Johnson had gotten the gig because to be honest, I’m not a huge fan of Brick (2005) or The Brothers Bloom (2008). The only light at the end of his cinematic repertoire was a film called Looper (2012) which I did enjoy a whole lot. So, where would a new voice, a new director/writer take the series? I was extremely curious.
This time around, the rebels are escaping the ever-nearing death grip of The New Order. After the destruction of Star Killer Base, the Order is desperate to wipe out the last remaining members of the Rebel Alliance. But rebels are not so easy to kill. Meanwhile, Rey is trying to convince Luke to rejoin the fight, to lead, to train more Jedi. Sadly, Luke has all but given up on the force and the training of Jedi. He wants none of the responsibility. Will Rey convince him to come out of seclusion?
When I say that Johnson took the franchise relentlessly, I mean it. It feels as if its writer/director, Ryan Johnson is scrapping everything J.J. Abrams set up in The Force Awakens (2015) and doing his own thing. And by scrapping, I mean, completely obliterating a lot of what makes The Force Awakens what it is. So creatively speaking, that was so interesting. The Last Jedi is the polar opposite of what The Force Awakens was. If Force Awakens was giving fans everything they wanted, then The Last Jedi is defying what you expected from this sequel. It’s almost as if Johnson is saying, if we follow what Abrams set up, we’ll end up seeing the exact same films we’ve already seen. And Johnson obviously doesn’t want that, so he’s shaking things up almost to the point of starting anew. And I must admit, I dug this direction Johnson took a whole lot. With this movie, you’ll feel like no one is safe. It’s not like when you’re watching a movie and you know nothing is going to happen to the good guys, so let’s just enjoy how they go about doing what they got to do. Nope, in The Last Jedi you will feel like every single person on the screen is in danger of being obliterated, or killed or blasted into infinity by some freaking giant laser. In that sense, for me, the film succeeds. It takes away that feeling of safety towards the characters.
The film succeeds in many other ways as well. It is a darker chapter in the franchise and in this way it is similar to The Empire Strikes Back (1980), but it’s not as blatant as The Force Awakens was with its fan service. This isn’t a Xerox copy of The Empire Strikes Back or Return of the Jedi, though we hear and see echoes of both films. So it gives you a bit of that familiarity, but without becoming fan service, which was what The Force Awakens was guilty of. The Last Jedi has many new things going for it, old fans will be thrilled at how well they go about explaining exactly what The Force is but will also be surprised at the additions that Johnson makes to the mythology.
Thematically speaking the film is all about the new wanting to stamp out the old, trying to forget it, leave it behind to start anew, which is kind of what the entire film attempts to do as well. I thought it was amazing how the film was mimicking what its characters were feeling. I loved where the characters were going and was surprised at every characters story arc and ultimate fate. I mean, Rey and Kilo, awesome! Snoke! Leia! Finn! Poe! So cool to see them all going through their own intense thing and then coming together in the grand finale. With each passing movie I love Rey even more. The new characters like Rose and Benicio del Toro’s DJ were welcome additions. I was especially proud of Benicio’s performance because he is one of Puerto Rico’s best actors, and he's up there in Star Wars and he represents. So, cool for Benicio!
The film is like a long trip you don’t want to end. When I thought it was just about to be over, boom, it wasn’t and a whole other chapter opens, and it’s also awesome. Final thoughts on The Last Jedi is that yes, it’s a very satisfying sequel. It is a dark chapter that shakes things up like crazy and attempts to put our characters in an incredibly difficult situation, therefore it is going to polarize audiences. Some will love it, others will hate it, or perhaps even find it “boring”, though honestly, I can’t agree one parsec with them. I kept thinking, boy, whoever ends up directing the next one is going to have a hard time doing it because this Ryan Johnson guy just left things in pretty dire straits! Ryan Johnson was like a hurricane that just passed through the Star Wars universe and left said universe in tatters. Where are these characters headed now? That’s what I want to know! We have to wait a couple of years to find out, so patience my young Padawan’s. Patience.
Ratings: 5 out of 5