Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last Jedi ★★★★½

Three word summary:
Best. Since. Empire.

Three word expanded summary:
Better. Than. Empire?

There's no plot spoilers in this review, but I discuss themes and ideas which may which may be considered spoilers. Read at your discretion.

This film has left me breathless. It is a rapturous ode to legacy that defies expectations to turn the limitations of its universal story into a meta-textual expansion of the greatest mythos in popular culture. The Last Jedi has a perfect cultural understanding of the significance of Star Wars as the most important cultural myth created in the last fifty years. It takes the universal themes of that story and toys with, twists, and subverts them only for their re-emergence to burn away everything and reveal a purer core than ever. Heroism and villainy, the light and the dark, love and hate, The Last Jedi blurs them more than any other previous Star Wars movie for the express purpose of ultimately defining them more. When the characters finally slot into the sides they feel forever destined to take, it feels like the culmination of a mythical undertaking, the ultimate payoff in event cinema. 

The Last Jedi is about the power of legacy, both in universe and out. Within it, we see how legends are pure, stripping away moral greyness to provide us with hope or courage, to give us an easy right and wrong. The mixture of light and dark in the characters is made abundantly clear, but their conformity to the legend, to right and wrong, is only conformity within our minds. They are still nuanced, as the film itself emphasises, but we want clear cut heroes and villains, and so The Last Jedi provides them but only after an arduous journey through uncertainty. The Last Jedi absolutely understands the audience's need for this legend to continue, but it doesn't want to make it simple. It could go the route of The Force Awakens and rely on trivial nostalgia, but The Last Jedi instead embraces nostalgia for the archetypes and themes of the series, and makes the audience go along a bumpy ride for that reward. It's why the film is self-conscious of the series' own cyclical nature, making the story of Rey's parentage a nod to the audience more than a critical part of the narrative. This is a story of myths and legends, about its own meta myth as much as it's about anything else.

Yet, with all this cultural weight baring down on The Last Jedi, this is a film that is absolutely its own thing. It contributes lasting images to the mythos, and uses red to produce vivid imagery that will forever be associated with this film. If you're bothered by technicals - plot, characters, dialogue, acting, effects, action - they are all of the highest caliber. It is a darker film than The Force Awakens, but offsets that with lots of comedy in the first half (which, if I'm honest, didn't work for me and is my only non-trivial complaint). 

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a triumph. It restores the broadest strokes of the series by painting in details that widen the canvas. It expands the characters and universe, but keeps every aspect we've ever loved about Star Wars and tells them anew, turning old myths into new stories, and revitalising a decaying legacy. It is the purest form of storytelling, and made with intelligence and heart.

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