Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last Jedi ★★★★½

The Last Jedi has taught me one thing: you don't mess with Laura Dern.

I'm a die-hard Star Wars fan.

And while The Last Jedi is fascinating in its own right (and not a rehash of The Empire Strikes Back), I'm held back by certain things.

It's a very different Star Wars. A very unique Star Wars.

Don't get me wrong. I still liked it A LOT, hence 4 stars. In fact, The Last Jedi is a grand space-opera spectacle with nonstop action and some jaw-dropping, brilliant moments. There's a scene - a lightsaber battle - that left such a strong impression on me and had the whole theater go nuts. This goosebump-inducing fight is hands down one of the best moments in the Star Wars saga.

The movie runs the gamut of emotions and boasts some beautifully composed shots. Johnson imbues The Last Jedi with his own visual sensibility that feels sophisticated for and even alien to Star Wars, which is refreshing to watch. His singular vision is something to behold.

But Johnson also made some narrative decisions that can be viewed as either bold or outragous, or both. He's taken Star Wars to new territory and subversed so many things we've come to know about Star Wars. While I'm not a hundred percent on board, I think that a few more viewings can convince me to be.

By the time the movie ended, there was so much to process. 'Did I just see what I saw?', 'Did Rian really do that?', 'What's on his mind?', 'How is J.J. Abrams going to handle ep. IX?'.

Without going into the plot details, let's talk about these things.

1. The movie opens with an epic space battle that throws us into the frenzy of destruction and sets the tone for the rest of the movie very well. It's spectacular, flamboyant, and emotional. The visuals of this sequence and the final battle in Crait are mindblowing. My heart didn't beat properly during the first ten minutes.

2. One of the best things about The Last Jedi is how Johnson effortlessly interweaves subplots into one coherent story that allows so many characters, old and new, to shine. It's a tough juggling act, but the transitions from scene to scene never felt awkward. This is a movie about many things, one of them being how mistakes and failures turn these people into their best or worst selves. It's about growing beyond. Rey and Kylo go through the most interesting journey in the film. And Johnson's taken the relationship between Rey and Kylo to a satisfying level.

3. We'll find out who Rey's parents are. And I for one am satisfied with the reveal.

4. Fans will find some satisfaction in how Johnson handles Leia in this movie. But there's a scene that will be controversial among fans. In retrospect, I think there's some beauty to it, visually. It honors Leia as an independent, self-sufficient, and resourceful woman. Carrie Fisher gave a great final performance. We also get a really touching scene with Leia near the end that will make you miss her even more. RIP Carrie. You badass princess.

5. Laura Dern and Kelly Marie Tran are the best additions to the film. These are brilliantly-written female characters that do some of the most badass stuff. Benecio del Toro was fine as the codebreaker, but his role is limited by his screentime. And I feel like we don't really need him in the next episode.

6. I love BB8 and I was glad he got tons of screentime with plenty of actions. But I just can't believe we only get a glimpse of R2. For a few seconds! We need R2. An R2-BB8 teamup is what I hope to see in ep.IX. But then The Last Jedi is all about letting go of the past. So maybe it's about time that we say goodbye to all these classic characters.

7. Snoke is scary in this, thanks largely to the amazing Andy Serkis. Also, there's a scene with Snoke that will make you go 'Did I just really see that?!'. Trust me, you're not prepared for what you're about to see.

8. There's a lightsaber battle that will go down in the Star Wars history as one of the most memorable. And it's in slow-motion. I still can't believe how awesome it was. The choreography, the camera movement, the context in which it takes place, it's close to perfection.

9. The final battle in Crait and the whole final act are DOPE. But the one-on-one showdown sort of fell short of my expectations. It's still dope, just not as showy or dashing as other one-on-one duels in other Star Wars films. Johnson took a more celebral approach to this scene to show how powerful Luke's become.

10. The humor is over-the-top. Johnson is way too concerned with balancing the tone of the film. There're a lot of unnecessary jokes that at times feel out of place.

11. John Williams' score is good as usual. But there's a theme that plays over and over again during the Canto Bight escape that I really love. We have one mord episode to go, and I wish we get something as beautiful and epic as "Battle of the Heroes".

I plan to watch it at least two more times in theater to solidify my 4 star rating or bump it to 4.5. But The Last Jedi is a big turning point in the Star Wars saga, one that will divide audience and allows a lot of room for so many interesting things to happen in the next episode.

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