While I may have had to wait two weeks to see the latest installment of the Star Wars saga (life with children, am I right?), Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi proved to be well worth the wait. With a plot filled with one twist after another, the film successfully bridged the past with Disney’s ostensibly long-range plans for the franchise. And while there were certainly some noticeable missteps in Johnson’s Episode VIII, none should mar the overall reception of a film that successfully adds to the lore of the beloved pop culture phenomenon.
The Last Jedi got off to a fast start thanks to a stellar galactic battle that, despite its frenetic action, captivated the sold-out audience. The otherworldly pace kept viewers on their toes due to Johnson’s use of quick transitions from one setting to another. Only in the middle of the film – specifically Finn and Rose’s casino venture – did things lag just a bit. Even with the slower pace of the movie’s 2nd act, The Last Jedi’s gigantic running time of over two-and-a-half hours went by in a flash.
Johnson’s Vision for The Last Jedi and Beyond
Before I delve into what worked and what didn’t with The Last Jedi, Johnson’s vision for the continuation of the space opera franchise must be discussed. The writer-director’s deviations to “norms” of the Star Wars universe has led to intense debates among the saga’s devoted fanbase. Many impassioned fans disliked the direction Johnson took with the Luke Skywalker character. Hell, even Mark Hamill had something to say about Luke’s fate.
Others disagreed with the tampering of the saga’s established implications as to who (and more importantly, who doesn’t) gets to use the Force.
In my opinion, the franchise needed a shake up to ensure Disney continues with its plan for future films.
When The Force Awakens arrived two years ago, fans loved it. It was an opportunity to witness the modernization of a cinematic masterpiece. However, while the film itself was a worthy addition to the Star Wars canon, one couldn’t help but feel as though JJ Abrams sought to seduce viewers through the intoxicating aroma of nostalgia, especially seeing as the film’s basic plot structure mirrored that of Episode IV: A New Hope.
Rian Johnson created a film that he believed would allow the franchise to continue moving forward. He was well aware from day one that the fanbase continues to be passionate (perhaps irrationally so at times) about their our beloved Star Wars. In my opinion, he succeeded.
What Worked with The Last Jedi
- Carrie Fisher’s final performance as General Leia Organa
- The princess’s death last year shocked and saddened the entire Star Wars universe. Fisher’s last go-round as Leia will cement her already unshakable legacy within the franchise as her performance is simply stunning. Aside from one slightly perplexing scene, General Organa provided moments of sincerity, brevity, and, of course, hope. Rest in Peace, Princess.
- The introduction of Rose and Vice Admiral Holdo
- The Last Jedi introduced audiences to a bevy of new characters. Two of these new faces stood out head and shoulders above the rest.
- Rose Tico – Played by actress Kelly Marie Tran, Rose is a mechanic for the Resistance when she has a run in with Finn. The chance meeting changes everything for Rose. The character, though underdeveloped, is the personification of the hope and love the Resistance so desperately seeks. Keep a close eye on Rose. She may end up playing a major role in the saga moving forward.
- Vice Admiral Holdo – Holdo, played valiantly by Laura Dern, is a wonderful addition to General Leia’s crew. As it becomes clear that Organa trusts Holdo’s decision-making, she becomes an interesting foil to Oscar Isaac’s strong-willed Poe Dameron. As Holdo’s unbreakable bond with Leia becomes clearer as the film progresses, her loyalty to the Resistance will ensure Holdo’s place in Star Wars lore.
- The Kylo Ren and Rey Dynamic
- The Force Awakens certainly established the feud between the two major characters of the modern films. The Last Jedi ramps it up a dozen or so notches. Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley give wonderful performances as the pair’s interactions throughout the film steal the show.
- Expanding the Scope of the Force
- While there are many fans that believe this caveat of the film deserves a place in the “What Didn’t Work” category, I absolutely disagree. At some point, the use of the Force had to expand beyond the Skywalker bloodline. Otherwise, the Jedi way of life would’ve faded away over time. Realistically, how far could future directors take the series if pigeonholed by the Skywalker’s “dibs” on the Force? It would’ve made future films too predictable when the series would certainly need a jolt of freshness.
What Didn’t Work with The Last Jedi
- The Princess Leia Meets Mary Poppins Scene
- You’ll know it when you see it. I don’t have a problem with the idea of what transpired (the premise had been foreshadowed in previous films), however the execution was clearly lacking. It was as if Johnson and company wasn’t all that sure what to do with it during the editing process. The CGI effects were mediocre, and without context, it must have felt out of place to the causal viewer.
- The Finn and Rose Dynamic
- I love Rose as the latest addition to the Resistance. I truly enjoy John Boyega’s Finn character. Together? Eh, not so much. Their journey to a casino in search of a codebreaker brought the fast paced film to a halt. Yes, their friendship was genuine due to their mutual desire to bring down the First Order. The progression of the relationship, however, felt rushed and underdeveloped.
- The new character DJ*
- This critique of Benicio del Toro’s character, DJ, comes with an asterisk. The possibility still exists for the newest member of the Star Wars roster to make his mark on the canon. His desire to always do what’s in his best interest is a reminder of the selfishness that exists in today’s society. If, however, DJ’s character fails to develop in subsequent films, the appearance will be seen as an increasingly frustrating moment in an otherwise stellar film.
- Too Many Questions Remain That’ll Probably Never Be Answered
- I’ll come back to this point once the film’s been out for a while longer. However, the movie clearly glazed over key points that many fans went into the film wanting to understand. Due to the events that transpired in the film, it’s clear we may never get the answers we sought.
Overall, I remain surprised by the divide this film has caused within the Star Wars fanbase. I found it far more enjoyable than The Force Awakens (which I liked), and it successfully helped pave the way for new heroes to emerge within the Resistance. I, like all of you, now anxiously await for December 2019 when JJ Abrams returns to complete this latest trilogy.
4.25 / 5