Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last Jedi ★★★★½

I’m so glad I came back so soon.  I spent the night thinking about what I had just seen but there’s just so much, it’s really quite overwhelming.  Maybe I lost a step or maybe I still haven’t quite fully acknowledged just how deeply Star Wars affects me, post January 2015.  But there’s no feeling quite like sitting in a theatre as the music plays, the scroll scrolls, and the characters you know do and say things you’ve never seen them do or say before.  Where every second is a new world.  This is true of any movie but it means something different with Star Wars, a single, continuous story that’s been told since before I was born and will hopefully be told for a long time to come.  So when I first sat there, twitchy, nervous, and on the brink of tears before it even started, I think I just became overwhelmed.

Because not only is this a fucking Star Wars movie, which is a lot on its own, but it’s this Star Wars movie.  Rian Johnson’s unshackled Star Wars movie.  In J.J.s first, he had to set a table at which everyone could sit, but here Rian was given free reign to flip that table and throw everything on the ground.

There are vague references that could constitute spoilers from here on out so if you haven’t seen it, stop reading.

So when you walk into The Last Jedi, you have one idea of what Star Wars is.  The idea you’ve carried your whole life, the rule book the same through sequels and prequels and spin offs and expanded universes.  But when you walk out of The Last Jedi, Star Wars means something different.  And the people hailing this as the worst Star Wars film ever (the same ones who hated TFA when it came out but magically love it again) are the people who cannot relinquish their personal ideas and cannot accept that their ideas are not fact and canon.

This film has some of the greatest moments and scenes in all of Star Wars, a few of which happen in the Throne Room (that has been fairly heavily featured in the trailers).  And it contributes some truly great ideas to shift the perspective of what Star Wars is about.  What it means to mean something and rise up.  You don’t have to be a chosen one, you don’t have to have famous parents, you also don’t get exempt because you are chosen, or do have famous parents, or because of who people say you are.  Anyone can make a difference and be someone in this world.  They don’t have to abide by the rules of the galaxy that dictate power and import.  This has always been an idea circling the fringes of Star Wars but Rian brings it to the forefront while also confronting what Hope really means.  Hope, the idea at the core from the very beginning is examined and scrutinized here as we see what it means to different people and why it is crucial above all else.

What held me back watching it the first time was that I was so brutally weakened by my personal connection to Star Wars, the way I think of my father every time the scroll starts, that I wasn’t operating at 100%.  And when all the twists and spoilers moments start to happen, I started to get lost trying to keep up with them.  There are odd cuts that make you think certain things happened, jump cuts that leave certain things muddled, and in the climax, an object appears at a critical moment that shouldn’t be possible.  And personally, watching through my churning stomach, heavy breathing, and building tears, it was difficult to process it all.  

Which is why I’m so glad I came back.  This time, I knew why those things were portrayed that way and didn’t get snagged on the minutiae.  I could focus instead on what was happening and why it was happening.

I still teared up every time our General was on screen and I had the weirdest reaction to that crazy turning point moment this time.  A combination of heart in throat and streaming’s just such an incredible fucking scene and the actors absolutely murder the moment.  But I was still emotionally compromised but not so much I couldn’t watch the film clearly and enjoy it properly.

There are still some bizarre pacing issues though.  My robot INTJ brain can’t just sink purely into emotion and turn the analytical side off.  We follow four plots.  Three of them are narratively exciting and worthwhile and also emotionally and thematically crucial.  The fourth is perhaps the most crucial to the thematic story Rian is telling but narratively a bit of a mess that goes nowhere and amounts to little.  It contributes character growth but there was a better way to get where Rian was going that doesn’t feel like he just put those characters on a treadmill to get them out of the way.  That aside, it’s a stunning film, with some odd moments of weak cgi at bad times.  It’s a bold, singular, visionary film that shoves Star Wars into a new place.  I just hope IX isn’t the end.  This trilogy has so far felt like a transitional phase.  Focusing mainly on saying goodbye to the old generation and setting up the new universe.  If it ends in IX, I can’t help but feel it’s a little bit of a shortchange.  But that’s cart before horse stuff.  Right now I want to think about The Last Jedi and what it means.

It’s the exact Star Wars film we needed.  I love TFA to death and will defend it fiercely.  But we also needed Rian to fuck it all to hell and give us a clean slate.  I love both.  I’ll be seeing this again on Sunday and I’ll be talking about everything in detail because there’s just so much.  My heart starts pounding all over again when I think about certain moments and when I think about what comes next.

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