Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last Jedi ★★★½

It is such a bummer that JJ Abrams is on tap for Episode 9 instead of Rian Johnson because this is easily the best directed Star Wars movie, echoing Empire beautifully without being a carbon copy like The Force Awakens was to Star Wars. It's in the way Johnson films that opening epic space battle sequence, his excellent compositions creating instantly iconic shots, his striking use of the color red in the most overt homage to Kurosawa since George Lucas stole the plot of The Hidden Fortress (there's even some Rashomoning going on in this movie!), and the way he plays with audience expectations in scene after scene before subverting them. Moreover, it's the only movie in the series with strong thematic cohesion (and with a message that couldn't be more apt for our current climate to boot).

Rey, Poe, Finn and BB-8 remain winning characters and the actors playing them are all great - it was especially awesome that they actually gave Oscar Isaac something to do this time around - but Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher steal the show, giving the best performances as their iconic characters that they've ever given, and with particularly emotional heft in the case of the latter because of her untimely death.
There are definitely issues like Finn's fetch quest of a storyline that is ultimately rendered useless by the plot - honestly they could have excised the whole casino planet sequence and the movie would have been better for it - and jokes that feel a little out of place in this universe, though I wouldn't give up Luke's shoulder brush off for anything, but overall it's the most satisfying entry in the franchise since the original trilogy. Can't wait to see it again.

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