The Last Jedi (2017) Review: Steady Your Pitchforks
After the end of ‘The Force Awakens’, it’s safe to say, the films are decidedly safe. Since its return, the franchise has remade one movie and made another as a tangential story add-on. So, walking into ‘The Last Jedi’, I was as underwhelmed as one can be for a ‘Star Wars’ film. That is to say, extremely excited, but not as excited as I should’ve been.
Thankfully, ‘The Last Jedi’ is exactly what should have always been. Picking up what feels like literal minutes after the last installment, ‘The Last Jedi’ is a righteous venture in well-paced adventure. The first 15 minutes of the film are not for the faint of heart, and it stands as perhaps the best opening to a Star Wars film yet. It only goes up from there, as ‘The Last Jedi’ combines what made the previous films so iconic, all the while feeling wholly unique.
The film is a testament to expert timing. For a runtime of 2 hours and 30 minutes, it never feel as though it drags. That’s not to say the film is your typical popcorn fare. There’s action to spare yes, but it’s not overblown. Rian Johnson has seemed to have taken note from last years ‘Rogue One’ and opted for a film that treats its sweeping epics as a backdrop, rather than the main focus.
The film is much more interested in its characters, their internal struggle, and of course, the force. Expect a lot of talk about the force. If you’ve never been a fan of the series’ ill-defined, mysterious plot device, ‘The Last Jedi’ is not the film for you. To that end, the film mostly succeeds at crafting an enjoyable narrative, but a few glaring moments keep it from feeling as tight as it could have been.
There’s a distinct theme of legacy in ‘The Last Jedi’. Something a franchise this beloved is more than familiar with. While many will feel slighted by the way the film handles its rich and storied history, it’s at the very least consistent. The beginning, middle, and end of ‘The Last Jedi’ all work towards bringing its core message through, loud and clear. By the end I felt a resounding understanding of the film, what it was trying to say, and how it made me feel. It was far more thoughtful than I’d anticipated.
The characters in the film are the avatars by which that main message is delivered. At the same time though, they’re subject to subplots that have less effectual success. It’s not to say that the individual character arcs are bad, but they are a bit obvious, and at times heavy handed. Still, it’s a blessing that I never felt as though the movie felt unbalanced. In fact, with all that’s going on in ‘The Last Jedi’, it’s a wonder it’s not falling apart at the seams.
I suppose there’s something to be said for the way the cast sells the film. Of course, returning members like Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill are more than versed in their characters, but new cast members only improved from their last appearance. Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron is given more material than the last film, and the film is better for it. Oscar Isaac is not an asset to be wasted. The light side all has players that do their jobs well. The dark side though, continues to feel like their in a completely different film.
Kylo Ren is far more sympathetic this time around, and seeing Adam Driver’s face gives the audience more to go off of. The problem, if you can call it that, lies in Domhnall Gleeson’s General Hux. His performance feels like his note was to always go bigger and louder. In a film that takes time to delve into characters, is light on action, and employs a healthy dose of nuance, it’s incredibly jarring to see what feels like the id of your average neo nazi brought to life. Then again, the character is played mostly for laughs so, I suppose that’s something.
‘The Last Jedi’ is a Star Wars film through and through. It has all the staples that have made the series great, but at the same time, it eradicates so many things holding it down. It’s by no means perfect, and at times, its plot suffers for the sake of character moments that feel unearned or needlessly convoluted. That said, the film is one of the best looking movies of the year, and crafts images never before seen in a ‘Star Wars’ film. I’d definitely recommend seeing it in the cinema.
Rating: Big Screen Watch