Written by Aaron Radcliff:
The main criticism I heard lobbed at The Force Awakens was how similar it was the A New Hope. An argument that I’ve always made is that we needed to know these new people could properly make a Star Wars movie. If they just came in and started taking things into many different directions, who knows how people would’ve reacted? Joy? Disdain? We NEEDED that familiarity so we could trust them before they pull any of the tricks they had up their sleeves.
The Last Jedi has only helped enforce that argument.
I’ll state right off the bat that there will be NO spoilers in this, so if you have yet to see the latest chapter in the saga, you needn’t avert your eyes.
With that in mind, let’s get the simple stuff out of the way first: The plot is fairly straightforward. As Rey (Daisy Ridley) tries to convince the newly-found Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to train her in the ways of the Jedi, the remainder of the Resistance tries to outrun the First Order. Thanks to new technology, Finn (John Boyega) and Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) search for a Galaxy-renowned hacker that can help the Resistance escape. Meanwhile, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) continue to butt heads over course of the First Order, all while Supreme Emperor Snoke (Andy Serkis) continues his hunt to destroy the Resistance and Luke Skywalker.
What director Rian Johnson did is create a film that lays on the action thick but is also subdued at the right times. He allows the half of the film focused on the Resistance to be a fun chase film while the half focusing on Rey and Luke to be the serious drama it needs to be. This allows the film to stay focused on the important issues without getting too out-of-hand while also fun and enjoyable enough to not become a drag like the prequels.
The action is some of the best in any of the Star Wars movies. It can be lighthearted and dramatic without being too cluttered to decipher. Meanwhile, the drama of characters trying to resolve their respective issues is fascinating. We see the struggle that many go through in times of crisis and despair. We see the allure of the dark side. We realize that what we think is the right decision may not always be right.
What this movie does best is subvert our expectations. We enter the film with all of these questions and leave with new ones because the questions we had were either not addressed or we didn’t get the answers we thought we would. A series that has lent itself to twists and theories pulls the ultimate twist by not giving us what we expect. It’s this subversion of expectations that helps make the movie interesting AND is something that is played through the plot. But I can’t shake the nagging suspicion that what we all thought was simply glossed over or not addressed as we expected will return in the final film and play MAJOR parts (but that’s just a personal theory).
In an Entertainment Weekly interview, Johnson said, “You’re going to meet people who you think are going to help but don’t. And help is going to come from unexpected places.” This quote encapsulates the whole film. The mystique of many is shattered and we see how people can truly be. We see what would normally be cliché get turned on its head. I would love to elaborate on that, but since that’s in spoiler territory, I’ll leave it. Maybe I’ll address it in a later discussion.
We also see the Force explored in ways yet to be seen in the films. It’s these new views of the Force, the revelations we receive throughout the movie, and most certainly the ending, that enforce what I’ve said about The Force Awakens. If J.J. Abrams had walked in and pulled many of the things Johnson did in this movie, I feel like the backlash would’ve been immense. But it’s thanks to this trust that we’re willing to take the chances that Johnson did and accept them and see the series go somewhere new.
If The Empire Strikes Back offered us our, “Now what?” moment, The Last Jedi gives us that moment to the extreme. While most fans will choose to see it again simply because its Star Wars, I believe it should be seen again to appreciate the risks taken and to appreciate the film as a whole with the benefit of hindsight.
Also, the Porgs are actually pretty funny, so don’t worry anybody getting Jar-Jar flashbacks.
Score: 8 out of 10
Image via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures