Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last Jedi ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Wars-A-Thon '18: JMN Strikes Back
Episode VIII - The Last Jedi

"The greatest teacher, failure is."

Was 4.5, now 5.0.

So much of The Last Jedi can be summed up in that quote above. It is a movie devoted to the idea of failure. Meeting your heroes, only to discover they aren't who you thought they were, and trying to save the day, only to be beaten and thwarted at every turn. Finn and Rose fail to find the codebreaker - later they are caught before they can deactivate the hyperspace tracker. Poe's mutiny ends as quickly as it began, and Leia's big plan to save the Resistance is derailed with fatal results. And of course, Rey's attempt to turn Ben Solo to the Light Side backfires, while Luke Skywalker's earlier impulse to confront his nephew serves as the catalyst for the entire Sequel Trilogy. Even the First Order aren't immune, with Snoke paying dearly for his self-satisfied hubris.

As a result of all this, some fans were incensed. But none of these are bad decisions. If anything, they're essential to The Last Jedi's success. We all fail at some point in our life. It's inevitable. So for some of us, we expect our escapism to provide easy resolutions. However, I personally think the best escapism is the kind that doesn't give heroes an easy ride. Indiana Jones gets beaten up all the time, and I love him for it. Some of the best James Bond movies are the ones that show 007 getting bloodied and bruised. And the most indelibly plotted Star Wars epics - namely Empire and Sith - are all about putting their characters through significant turmoil and conflict. After all, pain usually equals growth, and growth fuels the story.

Consequently, characters who were vaguely defined in The Force Awakens are massively developed here. Rey overcomes her parental issues to become a prospective Jedi. The once-cowardly Finn finds some principles to fight for. Poe matures from a callow fighter ace into the designated leader of the Resistance (a certainty now, given Carrie Fisher's untimely passing). And Kylo Ren, the trilogy's breakout star, finally steps out of Darth Vader's shadow, completing his transformation into blockbuster cinema's most exciting new villain. For a series that's occasionally been criticised for neglecting its characters, The Last Jedi cannot be accused of doing the same. And for that alone, Rian Johnson deserves all the plaudits I can throw his way.

I confess I was a little overwhelmed when I first saw The Last Jedi. I came out mixed on a few elements, but still thoroughly enjoyed the overall experience. It wasn't what I expected at all, and I suspect the sheer sensory overload of seeing the thing for the first time made me overlook some of the finer points of the narrative in favour of the broad strokes. Not the best way to approach a film as dense as this. However, after three more viewings I think it's safe to say that I've fallen in love with The Last Jedi. As much as I loathe the cliche "best since Empire", this honestly might be my favourite Star Wars movie post-Original Trilogy. I'm already excited to revisit it for a fifth time on Saturday.

Thank you for reading, and may the Force be with you!

The Good:

Mark Hamill. I won't say too much in this review - I'm planning on writing a more in-depth discourse later this week about Luke Skywalker's role in the story - but he is very much the heart and soul of The Last Jedi.

Leia's flight. A little fantastical, but so what? I've waited most of my life to see our Princess use the Force, so forgive me if I dug that "Mary Poppins" shot.

Speaking of Leia, Artoo's hologram. Poignant, effective, and a crucial driver for Luke's character arc. JJ, that is how you reference something properly.

Porgs. They're cute, they're fluffy, and I may have a plush toy of one in my living room.

The flashbacks. Star Wars has always been inspired by Kurosawa, so this extended homage to Rashōmon seems very appropriate.

Laura Dern is always great, but the real standout among the new cast is Benecio Del Toro as DJ. Funny, oily, duplicitous: he's basically Mac from Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, only redone to be cool and interesting.

The fight with the Praetorian guards, because it just plain rules. Hell, that whole throne room sequence is amazing.

Yoda. His reunion with Luke under the burning tree is the best scene in The Last Jedi, and might well be my favourite scene of the entire saga. Leave it to a wizened green muppet to make me an emotional mess, all while neatly clarifying the major theme of the story.

The Bad:

Rose. Yeah, she's integral to the story, and Kelly Marie Tran plays her well, but I find her personality very one-note. Should've saved the sister instead!

The Williams:

"The Battle of Crait" and "The Spark" Ten minutes of musical nirvana, courtesy of the maestro. Those reprisals of the Falcon battle music and Luke & Leia's theme are obvious highlights.

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