Many of you have already gone out and experienced everything The Last Jedi has to offer. But for those of you that haven’t, here’s a safe review. This review hopes to be as spoiler-free as possible, discussing themes, trends and directing techniques without revealing too many plot details.
Star Wars, A Cultural Phenomenon
It’s the holiday season, which means, it’s Star Wars season. From fun figurines to kids lightsabers, just about everybody is getting the spirit of Star Wars. Just this week in the nation’s capital a traffic sign stated, “Speeding takes you to the Dark Side.” To go beyond that, even a church sign was spotted that said: “A long time ago in a Galilee far, far away.”
After a groundbreaking original trilogy and a disappointing prequel series, it was with great joy that Star Wars returned in 2015 with “The Force Awakens”. Shortly after that, we received an impressive interlude, “Rogue One.” Now the saga continues with “Episode VIII: “The Last Jedi.” A blockbuster people are saying is living up to the anticipation.
The Last Jedi, a synopsis
Picking up where “The Force Awakens” left us, Rey returns her lightsaber back to Jedi legend Luke Skywalker. Luke has been hiding on a recluse on a remote island waiting to die. Upon Rey’s arrival, she urges Luke to teach her the ways of the force. During this time, General Leia leads the Rebel Alliance to battle Supreme Leader Snoke and Kylo Ren.
The film features Oscar Issac as Rebel pilot Poe Dameron, our favorite new droid, BB-8, Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca and Lupita Nyong’o makes a fun cameo as Maz Kanata. The villainous trio of Andy Serkis, Adam Driver, and Domhnall Gleeson as back as well. Each suitably sinister as the axis of evil: Snoke, Kylo Ren, and General Hux.
As amazing as the performances are, we can agree that “Star Wars” is hardly about the acting. So how does the new director hold up?
Rian Johnson, A New Director
It’s hard to match J.J. Abrams, who revived the franchise with “The Force Awakens” in 2015. Additionally, how can one beat Gareth Edwards, the man who delivered a stellar one-off with “Rogue One” in 2016? Director Rian Johnson is up to the task.
In “The Last Jedi,” Johnson shows his directorial chops in two specific ways. Academics will adore a scene where Rey explores her heritage, as Johnson paints a trippy mise-en-abymeimage. On the other hand, popcorn audiences will adore his portrayal of light speed. Rather than showing the launch, Johnson shows each ship’s abrupt arrival as it slams on the brakes to a killer sound effect.
These whooshing ship arrivals make for a badass opening space battle, peppered with levity by Poe, who spits some comic relief over the intercom. This humor is a product of Johnson’s lighthearted script that doesn’t take itself too seriously — until it does. The pathos sometimes works, but other times, it feels forced and manipulative. The dialogue doesn’t always help in this regard, eliciting an occasional eye roll.
Longest “Star Wars” To Date
“The Last Jedi” is the longest “Star Wars” film to date, coming it at 152 minutes. You’ll notice that the films have gotten increasingly longer with an average of 125 minutes in the original trilogy, 139 minutes in the prequel trilogy and 140 minutes in the latest trio. While great films have run three hours (“The Godfather”) or four hours (“Lawrence of Arabia”), “The Last Jedi” hardly can do that. There’s a sagging middle editor Bob Ducsay could have chopped out of “Last Jedi” and not lost a thing. It’s not really a good when you’re at the theater and think, “Man, we’ve been in this theater for a while.”