Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last Jedi ★★★★★

"This is not going to end the way you think!"

I recall walking out of the theater energized over the return of my favorite cinematic franchise two years ago when The Force Awakens exploded onto screens across the world and dazzled the majority of viewers, myself included. I got home and contacted a buddy of mine, a friend so close throughout life both in the strength of our bond and in literal proximity as he was my neighbor since the age of 5, only now in adulthood we reside thousands of miles away. See, he and I grew up on the original trilogy, we practically breathed them in to stay alive for years, and we reconnected even as we grew ever so slightly apart to see all of the prequels, so our journey through this galaxy was a shared experience.

We had always agreed on the six previous films, and here I was, ready to gush about Episode VII, about new characters and old, about new planets and familiar ships and fan service dialogue and callbacks that were undeniably forced yet still made me smile. He hated it all. I had never heard him so disappointed about a film, and the bizarre thing is while my opinion of the movie remains unchanged, as after maybe 8 viewings I still maintain a deep love for it, I can't disagree with anything that caused him to feel completely the opposite. Yes, The Force Awakens was essentially a reboot of A New Hope in terms of character and setting and plot. Yes those callbacks were a little cringe worthy, placed only to get a reaction and to invoke nostalgia with no actual benefit to the progression of storytelling. Despite this, I wouldn't be budged from my feelings and neither would he, and that's okay, but I would be lying if I said that for two years now I haven't been hoping that the next film wouldn't just follow the exact same beats as The Empire Strikes Back, the work of a studio that saw such major success by bringing back the old and deciding to just do it again and again.

I haven't spoke to that friend tonight since my screening of The Last Jedi ended, honestly I don't know if he even saw it tonight or if the stink of his feeling of the last episode pushed him away from making an immediate run to the theater, but one thing I do know, that I feel fucking great about right now, is he certainly can't hate this one for the same reasons that the last left him so cold. Never before has a Star Wars film felt so bold, so willing to take more than a few steps out of bounds, away from the constraints that can sometimes be created due to corporate earnings and suits with little vision beyond the bottom line, afraid of a new direction. This is not a reboot of any kind, more of a reawakening, a film that still embraces it's predecessors by utilizing aspects of them that were done with perfection while also being willing to light everything before it on fire, unafraid to say that this is a franchise that will not die anytime soon, and you won't be able to guess what's coming next. The Last Jedi absolutely rocks, one of the most entertaining and satisfying trips to the theater I have had with moments that pay off so perfectly and without predictability that I couldn't help but quietly say wow to myself aloud surrounded by so many others doing the same.

I will not spoil a thing here because I couldn't possibly do anyone such a disservice. Honestly, over the years i stopped getting so upset about being spoiled regarding the plot of upcoming films, as I found with most movies the payoff of seeing how artists get to that point is still worth the price of admission even when you know it's coming, but god damn am I glad I had no idea what to expect at any point during The Last Jedi. I can't wait to take my wife and kid back for my second viewing, their first, and watch their reactions.

I cannot say that Rian Johnson directed the best Star Wars film, because after one viewing The Last Jedi still cannot rise to the levels of A New Hope and Empire, but I can say that Rian Johnson is the best Star Wars director ever. I was over the moon when he was selected for the job given how much I admire and enjoy his most recent previous work, the superb science fiction film Looper, and he did not disappoint here. As I sit here now, I not only understand why he was chosen to lead his own new Star Wars trilogy in the future, I am appreciative that I get to step foot in a new world he will create inside this galaxy, and again without spoiling anything, a revelation in this film that has been discussed and theorized for two years now serves as a brilliant reminder as to how much we don't know and how little has been explored beyond the legacy of the name Skywalker.

Speaking of Skywalker, Mark Hamill returns in a big way in The Last Jedi, for me probably the shining performance among a whole lot of very talented people delivering throughout. His portrayal of an emotionally broken Luke, hidden away from the world by choice, is so nuanced and fascinating, filled with the pain of what he feels he has done wrong overshadowing the pride of everything he heroically did right during those original three films. He mostly works side by side with Daisy Ridley here, as their story picks up right where it left off at the end of The Force Awakens, and they are wonderful together. What a choice Daisy was to play Rey in this new trilogy, she is an absolute star and a wonderful character to fall in love with and root for and give a shit about, much like Luke was all those years ago.

I don't want to go into even the slightest detail regarding plot, as even the basics I didn't know much of and it was a deeply rewarding experience. Just see it, although even typing those words seems silly because I assume you either planned on seeing it already or you didn't and a single review won't be the motivating factor for a person to buy a ticket to a movie that will make over 2 billion dollars. I just hope you love it as much as I did, and I can't wait to see it again.

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