Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Movie Review: Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) *SPOILER-FREE REVIEW* UPDATE 2

Mark Hamill in Star Wars: The Last Jedi

The Last Jedi is the biggest film of 2017, and one of the most anticipated films since…well, the last Star Wars film.  Normally, for blockbuster films I try to post spoiler-free reviews, but I’m going to be even more careful with this, because this is a film that everyone is going to go see regardless of what my initial reaction was, and I don’t want to color their impressions going into the theater.  My simple review, and I honestly wouldn’t read more until you see the film, is exactly what Luke says in the trailer: “This isn’t going to go the way you think.”

Daisy Ridley in Star Wars: The Last Jedi

It’s almost impossible to break The Last Jedi down without getting deeply into spoilers, and I plan on seeing the film again Saturday and will likely write a more detailed review heavy on spoilers after opening weekend.  The film has some incredible moments, and director/writer Rian Johnson is fearless about making his own film rather than sticking to the saga’s more formulaic elements.  This is both a good and bad thing, because ultimately the best and worst things about the film are Johnson’s doing.

Andy Serkis in Star Wars: The Last Jedi

The film has been marketed and predicated on the secrecy of its plot, and there are truly shocking moments in this film, some of the best battles in the saga, and excellent acting from the ensemble cast.  The film is also extremely bloated, filled with subplots that feel like busywork for the majority of characters, and ends-in my opinion-in such a way that I have no idea where this trilogy is going or what-ultimately-its purpose is.  I don’t mean that in an amazing cliffhanger sort of way.  Unfortunately, I left feeling that many characters were just wasted and puzzled as to where they can possibly go from here to justify the perfect beginning they squandered from The Force Awakens.

Mark Hamill in Star Wars: The Last Jedi

There are fantastic things about the film, and it is undoubtedly the best Luke Skywalker story arc in the saga.  Mark Hamill gives the best live-action performance of his career, and the film is at its best when it’s dealing with Luke, Rey, and Kylo Ren.  John Williams turned in another perfect Star Wars score, topping The Force Awakens.  The cinematography, art direction, and F/X are among the best films of the year.  The film itself, though, is not.  It’s islands of great moments surrounded by bloat, and having followed Johnson’s career as a writer, I’m really surprised that his normally tight scripting was nowhere to be found.  It’s by no means awful, but after my first viewing I’d only put it ahead of Episodes I & II if I were ranking it against its peers.  People will likely feel wildly different depending on how the approach the film, and-as I said-I’m already planning on seeing it again, but my first viewing left me feeling the opposite of how I felt when I left the theater after Episode VII.

6.5/10

SECOND VIEWING UPDATE
After a second viewing, I slightly raised my score, but I stand by my original review.  The fundamental story is so wrongheaded and out-of-sync with the rest of the Star Wars Saga that it bogs down the spectacular moments that the film DOES possess so it cannot be dismissed wholesale.  It’s a frustrating movie, and one that leaves the franchise in a very uncertain direction.

ONE MONTH LATER
This is the only film I’ve ever reviewed that I’ve gone back and changed the score twice.  While the second viewing made me feel slightly more positive toward Episode VIII, mulling over it for a month, I have to say I feel less charitable toward the film the more I think about the ramifications for the Saga going forward.  Star Wars fans nitpick.  We do.  But The Last Jedi has huge problems just as a film in terms of pacing, and while technically near-perfect, the impact that Rian Johnson’s choices have for the future of the franchise are deeply unsettling, as are the number of inexplicable plot holes that riddle the film.  If I didn’t know Johnson was such a fan, I would think he hadn’t seen a Star Wars film before, because there are things in this film that just are NOT Star Wars.  But it also has brilliant moments.  It’s a maddening film, and-to be honest-I’ve not gone through it as much as I would normally because it’s so frustrating to me.  I don’t know what it’s legacy will be, but in terms of ranking it, I’d only put it ahead of Episode I & II.

imax-poster-released-for-star-wars-the-last-jedi1

15 thoughts on “Movie Review: Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) *SPOILER-FREE REVIEW* UPDATE 2”

  1. I do not think this movie nessasarily changes the long-term direction of the franchise like people are saying, so I would advise people who hated it not to worry too much. They did not turn SW into the MCU with this movie. This movie, for a SW movie, is just plain WEIRD. And Abrams will be back for 9, and that mere fact tells me that perhaps Disney did not have insane confidence in TLJ, but the exact opposite. Because any way you slice it, announcing the new Johnson trilogy BEFORE the LJ’s release was a publicity stunt. Maybe Disney knew they had a problem. Remember that Hollywood is smoke and mirrors. Even if they did not think the film needed all the help it could get, it remains to be seen if this film is loved by audiences, and if it reaches the heights SW is capable of reaching. If it does not, a replay does not get made. A lot of factors are in play, and a lot of things could happen. Everyone needs to take a deep breath and wait for the next episode before deciding where the franchise is really going. Seriously. This one film does not hold the key to the future of SW.

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  2. Glad to see your score go up.

    Did I call it, or did I call it, when I said that Del Toro’s DJ was going to be a Lando character? Gambler, pilot, swindler. Betrayer. I take no pleasure in being right, though.

    I also was right about the twist regarding Rey’s parentage, it came at a mirror-ESB moment, with Ren dangling the truth in front of Rey as he tried to seduce/confuse her. Instead of the audience not realizing Luke was connected to a character they knew, and being shocked to discover that he was, the audience assumed Rey was connected to a character they knew, and were underwhelmed to discover she was not. See what Johnson did there?

    Seriously, I cannot believe that Johnson said it was going to be the biggest twist in the franchise. Was he drinking too much blue milk?

    He must have had just one directive from Disney: create a clean slate. It makes sense out of all his creative choices. It’s why Luke died. It’s why the ancient Jedi texts were torched by Yoda. To get rid of the teachings of the Jedi, the old ways. Every loose end had to go. Including the ones from TFA (because I am pretty sure this movie represents a change of heart at Disney that happened after the release of TFA and R1).

    That is why there were only cursory answers. Eliminate loose ends. The questions were dispensed with instead of answered in ways that would reverberate. Rey has no connection to anyone. The new leader of the First Order is a millennial, instead of an old dude who actually remembered all the other old dudes and events. Leia is only alive because they did not have to kill her. She’s gone no matter what they do. Now there are only bad guys who were introduced recently, and thirty resistance fighters. It’s like the end of The Stand. Captain Trips has culled the herd, so that things can begin anew. That explains the unsatisfying ending. Trust me, the Disney execs find it very satisfying, and from their perspective the narrative was moved forward by a mile, instead of not at all.

    The Force was set up in this movie as something other than what it used to be, BTW. Luke’s projection served that purpose, as did Leia’s detour into space. Again, out with the old.

    Sorry, man, but Disney dos not consider us a part of the target audience anymore. It’s pretty obvious. I think things will get more traditional again, but this movie proves that they just don’t care what the diehard fans think anymore.

    It’s a fun, fun movie. Jaw droopingly fun. It’s not Star Wars, though.

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  3. This is a movie I did enjoy, but at the same time, I saw problems. It may be that I’m not very educated on Star Wars lore in general (I have seen the original trilogy, but it was a while ago, except for A New Hope and some of ROTJ). But I was confused on where Force bonds and astral projection came from.
    You’re right, this IS a hard movie to talk about spoilers!
    But there were just some logic problems, which did detract for me. But I may have enjoyed it more because I didn’t spend two years theorizing (I only saw TFA a few months ago, which doesn’t leave much time for theory)
    Maybe things will clear up for me when I see it outside a theater; theaters tend to be overwhelming for me.Basically, while this isn’t one of my favorites, I don’t hate it at all the way a lot of the fanbase does.

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    1. I haven’t returned to this film with a detailed review, because honestly I found it to be a big disappointment when compared to The Force Awakens or Rogue One, and had a lot of problems with the pacing of the film and plot choices. You are as confused about some of the Force choices in this movie as I am and I am as about as diehard a Star Wars fan as exists. The largest problem I had with the film was that it marginalized Finn and Poe with a 40 minute detour to Canto Bight all to execute a plan that wouldn’t had been necessary if Laura Dern’s character had chosen to share her plan instead of panicking everyone. The only thing of substance that happens there is you meet the urchins that I….guess are the next generation of Jedi, but that could have been worked in someplace else without the detour. It was a good film for Rey, Luke and Kylo, but the rest of the cast felt like the got assigned busywork.

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      1. I haven’t seen either TFA or Rogue One quite recently enough (I saw both before school started, and to be honest, school kinda made me forget some of the details). But I do think the plot is distinctly weaker than in either of the earlier movies.
        Okay, that’s a relief(?) to hear. I mean, I’m glad I’m not alone in being confused by some of the Force choices, but a diehard fan being as confused as I am is not a good thing. I think I read somewhere that some of the Force lore can be found in a video game or a book somewhere, but I don’t know the details.
        Yes, I agree. Finn and Poe’s storyline needed so much work. I understand that a major point of the movie is the importance of failure, but there’s a difference between that lesson and just feeling like a wasted opportunity. I mean, Luke and Rey both failed in different ways, but they didn’t feel like filler, unlike Finn and Poe’s story. And YES, after her plan was revealed, I just thought, “Why didn’t you SAY that? Communication is important, gah!”
        Yeah, your last sentence does summarize my feelings pretty well.

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      2. It’s been an extremely polarizing film among the SW diehards. I’m in the middle, but most people are either all for or all against. There were a lot of baffling choices made. Episode IX could make some of them better, but JJ Abrams is not known for doing sequels or closing things. He has a gift for rebirthing dead franchises (Mission Impossible, Star Trek, Star Wars) and his TV shows, he sticks around for the first few episodes or first season and then hands it off to move on to the next thing. So while it’s comforting on one level to have him return, when you look at his career, it’s not the kind of film he excels at making.

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      3. That’s what I’ve noticed. I’m also in the middle; there were things I liked, and things I didn’t like.
        Hopefully this’ll be a pattern that gets broken in a good way; it’d be nice if Episode IX is an improvement.
        I also have a random question: I’ve seen that a lot of people theorize about the working titles of movies, particularly SW. Do you think the working titles hold any significance? Because the titles for TLJ and Episode IX (Space Bear and Black Diamond, respectively) don’t seem to have much significance, in my opinion.

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      4. The working title for Return of the Jedi, for example, was “Blue Harvest” so, no, they tend to be in-jokes at Lucasfilm, but have no real relevance as to what the film is going to be about. Episodes III, IV, and V didn’t even have working titles.

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