Genre: Action, Adventure, Science Fiction
Director: Rian Johnson
Cast: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega
Release Date: December 15th, 2017
Star Wars: The Last Jedi changes up the franchise formula. It’s longer than any of its predecessors and its uneven tone sometimes doesn’t fit the series itself. However, the excitement remains with a plot that works commendably well in moving this story in a different direction.
In 2015, Star Wars: The Force Awakens ended on a cliffhanger. Literally. The film concluded with the idealistic Rey (Daisy Ridley) meeting the elusive Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). The latter character appeared only for a moment before the credits rolled, failing to utter a single word. The anticipation about his character’s evolution has only grown since then and The Last Jedi resolves that cliffhanger with unexpected results.
It was inevitable that some fans would be disappointed with the follow-up installment of this series considering the build up to it. Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which featured some great new characters and a strong story, struck more of a familiar tone to long-term fans. In many ways, it was very similar to A New Hope which launched the franchise in 1977.
The Last Jedi, which also introduces some great new characters, features some major twists that fans likely won’t expect. In that way, director Rian Johnson takes this series in a new direction while keeping with some of the well-known Star Wars story beats.
Rey’s storyline, for instance, features her training under Skywalker (similar to how Skywalker trained with Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back). At the same time, she communicates secretly with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). The sequences featuring the duo communicating through the Force create an intriguing dynamic between them, showing the dichotomy between the good and bad sides of the force.
Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern), a new character here, has a solid storyline as well. One of the rebel leaders, she faces off against hotshot pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), who was introduced prominently in The Force Awakens. The introduction of Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) as a young rebel also adds a new hopeful tone to the story.
Many of the characters are separated early on here, leading to divergent storylines.
In many of the individual stories though, there are tonal distractions that stand out as obvious miscues. An early scene featuring Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) after an attack feels like it was ripped from another film. Scenes featuring Luke surviving on his planet (and milking an animal) also has an effect of distracting the audience. These are moments that never fit nicely into their stories and feel unnecessarily silly.
One of Johnson’s strengths here is also one of his weaknesses. It oftentimes feels like he doesn’t want to hew that closely to the stories that came before. A common and valid criticism of The Force Awakens was that many of its story points were reminiscent of ones from A New Hope. The Last Jedi avoids that criticism by surprising audiences, especially in the dramatic third act.
The Last Jedi isn’t what you would expect in the Star Wars universe. Characters that once seemed domineering fall to the side. Concepts that were planted in The Force Awakens are short-changed. These elements are interesting because they show that this series won’t only go in expected directions. But not all of the choices that Johnson makes work. That’s why even though the story works well enough, this latest installment isn’t the home run that The Force Awakens was.
Review by: John Hanlon