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The Last Jedi Review

For those who don't recall my Star Wars history, let me give you a quick recap before getting into my review of the 8th installment in the Skywalker story (and 9th film overall in the franchise,) The Last Jedi. When I was ten years old the original trilogy was re-released for the 20th anniversary, and seeing it for the first time in theaters I instantly fell in love with this series. Throughout my teenage years the prequels came out, and the love for this series only grew stronger, even though others would ridicule me for including these films in my passion (and still continue doing so to this day.) In retrospect, those films weren't perfect, but I still love the story at the heart of them and will continue to defend them. I was happy for that to be the end of the series...and then George Lucas sold the rights to Disney.

I had incredibly high expectations for The Force Awakens, because we were finally reuniting with these characters I loved. The story could be taken anywhere! They could have done anything! And then.....I sat and watched how JJ Abrams instead decided to just remake A New Hope while erasing the happy ending of Return of the Jedi and regressing all of our old heroes. I wasn't just disappointed. I was seething. A year later, I was able to enjoy Rogue One a lot more because it felt far more original and less like anything we had really seen in a Star Wars movie before. It had its flaws, but I wasn't sitting in the theater with anger. I declared that The Last Jedi would be the film that would make or break my interest in the saga going forward. It could redeem The Force Awakens for me. This was the film that had the opportunity to explain the head scratching decisions of Abrams. Will we find out why Rey is so powerful? Will we learn who the mysterious Snoke is and how he was able to sway Kylo Ren to the dark side and murder his own father? This time though, I ended up finding out the answers to those questions before I even walked into the theater, and boy it helped! If I hadn't, I probably would have been seething even more than I was two years ago.

The Last Jedi picks up almost right where The Force Awakens left off. Except first there's a joke to start off the movie that feels so incredibly un-Star Wars (and right out of the Marvel playbook) that made me settle into my seat and worry what was in store. After that's over then we get back to Rey (Daisy Ridley) and her cliffhanger atop an actual cliff, where she meets Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and attempts to give him back his lightsaber. She wants to learn more about the force, but Luke has become disenchanted with it and feels instead that the Jedi have only caused more bad than good to the galaxy, and that it's time for their religion to end. But Rey's raw power both impresses and frightens him to possibly reconsider, especially as she's finding herself inexplicably drawn to Kylo Ren (Adam Driver.) Meanwhile, the rest of the gang fights with the First Order and desperately fights for the Rebellion's survival.

The Last Jedi introduces the audience to several new characters, none of whom are really worth knowing. Finn's subplot is kinda cool in the sense of seeing a new environment in the galaxy, but it's also a little preachy and eyeroll inducing (also complete with weird CGI creatures.) Ultimately this subplot was better suited for the cutting room floor. His new counterpart Rose was incredibly miscast and I'm not really sure why any of the romantic angles they're pushing in this series are all completely devoid of chemistry. Honest to goodness, Poe and Finn really do have the most chemistry here of anyone. That or Poe & Leia. Heck, Oscar Isaac just has chemistry with anyone (even BB-8 for that matter.) Anyway, as for the rest of the cast, the standouts are definitely Ridley, Driver & Hamill. They're giving this their all and it shows in their scenes.

There's an unmistakable (and ridiculous) Mary Popppins moment in this movie, so in that vein I shall just say "spoilers help the medicine go down, the medicine go down, the medicine go dowwwwwn." Luckily, already knowing the bad things helped me really appreciate the good this movie had to offer, because unlike The Force Awakens, a lot of this was new territory and did feel like a brand new chapter of Star Wars and not a total retread (though that's not to say that it doesn't have its scenes that do feel like a direct copy here and there.)

But with that said, even though I knew them beforehand, there really are a lot of really puzzling decisions made in this film that might color the experience for you. Also, while I was hoping that The Last Jedi would make The Force Awakens a stronger film, I have to say that it really doesn't. The things that people kept saying "well maybe it will be revealed in 8 that such and such happened to make this make sense" never happened; so things just are the way they are in this trilogy without rhyme or reason. If anything, the decisions here only make that worse. Getting more specific would require spoilers, and I'm not gonna do that.

So all in all, there were some true Star Wars moments here, mixed with a lot of baffling decisions that really don't validate this new Disney trilogy at all. Disney seems adamant to do away with the past and focus on a "anyone can be a hero!" theme as opposed to who we've been focusing on in the rest of this series. For a saga that's always had the Skywalker family at its heart, I'd much prefer you hold off on that theme until you make your own trilogy that doesn't build off on what came before. RATING: 7/10

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