Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last Jedi ★★★★½

I like “A New Hope,” love “The Empire Strikes Back” and tolerate “Return of the Jedi.” I find the prequels interesting in the context of being hugely expensive cinematic blunders that offer a too-clear window into George Lucas’s psyche. “The Force Awakens” is simply a fun tribute to the spirit of the original trilogy, without much else to offer. And “Rogue One” is an absolute nightmare.

This is all to say that I only really love one entry out of the franchise’s nine films (to date). I have no special preoccupation with the series itself and, at this point, would be perfectly happy if they never made another one.

With all that being said, “The Last Jedi” is a clear achievement, a Star Wars film made by a director who knows how to reframe and, at times, overtly subvert elements of the saga without sacrificing an ounce of integrity to the ‘feel’ of the series that J.J. Abrams tried so hard to replicate in 2015.

In “The Last Jedi,” aspects of the original films, tropes and aesthetics familiar to fans, are sequentially isolated and either re-contextualized or abandoned entirely. Johnson challenges the notions of destiny - of fates prophecied - that were so integral to this film’s predecessors, replacing them with a form of moral ambiguity that hasn’t been felt since Empire. Sides are arbitrary, boundaries assigned by those in power for mere profit, and one is left to wonder if there exists a true hero in this chapter of the story. As Benicio Del Toro muses, “Maybe.”

Above all else, “The Last Jedi” is a distinctly personal vision of Star Wars that treats its pieces as characters of real merit and value, not props placed solely to illicit applauds of recognition from fans who seem to cherish their memories of childhood more so than the films themselves. Johnson converts these same nostalgic feelings into a story with depth and, finally, a genuine sense of awe for this fantasy world. He gets Star Wars better than even the most vocal fanatics, and we’re all better off for it.

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