Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last Jedi ★★★★½

Sobering and soaring, oftentimes at the same time. Nearly every explosion is unpleasant in some capacity, the heroes' backs are always against the wall, and the galaxy is revealed to be largely ambivalent toward this military conflict between a red pill private militia and a post-war authority resting on its imaginary laurels. It's an oddly paced behemoth, but that's part of its charm; the momentum is subject to every sudden and minute change in the tide of battle. I still have some trouble grappling with where it all lands, and I don't really expect Abrams to have much interest clarifying these themes (though I hope he's astute enough to not regress to the old aesthetics that are blown to bits by the end of this). But the epilogue manages to separate this as its own entity, something to wrestle with on its own terms. Not to ignore that a lot of the lumbering progression here probably needs the cultural pedigree of freaking Star Wars behind it to excuse some of its sloppiness, but I happen to like Star Wars, and Johnson is the most talented and elemental formalist to touch this franchise since Lucas' original. Each image is enthusiastically packed with tactile detail, yet it's how they complement one another that makes this sing--the rhythmic alternation between journeys of personal growth bringing together a collective generation processing the past. Its ambitions occasionally outpace its entertainment, though both are so lofty that it hardly matters. When was the last blockbuster that could work around its ensemble this nimbly? I got more from three-quarters of these performances than most of the Oscar nominees. It's not unlike Singin' in the Rain in how shamelessly and eloquently it self-mythologizes Hollywood filmmaking and our relationship with it. No more Star Wars movies about how we consume Star Wars movies after this though. I'm happy Ackbar is dead.

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