On Monday afternoon, I headed down to the Disney lot in Burbank to check out Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Things worked out really well in that I got to see it with my best friends. Sometimes when I talk to my friends in the film industry I hear them say things like they want to see a movie again with a “real audience.” Luckily for me, that wasn’t a problem in my screening. I had a mind-blowing experience watching this film and seeing it with a lot of my friends helped make it a somewhat normal screening.
I have to say that I could not have been happier with the film and I suggest staying away from spoilers this close to the finish line. I also have to say that a lot of the greatest moments in the film are probably going to look dumb on a forum or comment section but are fantastic on screen. My first impression is that I love the movie and it encapsulated everything I love about the previous trilogies in one film. Every flavor of Star Wars is here and some new ones.
This review will assume you’ve seen the trailers and aren’t a blank canvas. I will not spoil any of the moments from the film but broadly talk about the structure of the story and the individual plot lines without giving away what happens.
Upfront, Rian Johnson might be my favorite Star Wars director. I think he made the best modern Star Wars film at least. The guy gets it. The movie is daring. The movie pushes the boundaries forward and even makes up some new rules. You will see things in Star Wars you’ve never seen before but they’re things that always felt possible and tangible. The Last Jedi doesn’t rewrite what Star Wars is as much as it delves deeper into it conceptually and I feel like the audience comes out of the other side with a stronger playground for the creators in that universe to explore.
The Williams score is pretty solid as one would expect. I saw it in a great theater and it really sold the music well. That said, I enjoyed the mixture of new themes with old themes. There’s a version of The Jedi Steps that seriously blows away the version in The Force Awakens. I honestly left The Force Awakens being a little hard on the score and then I came around to it. I left The Last Jedi wishing I had the score on me. That said, there weren’t any new leitmotifs that really stood out to me on my first viewing but scores tend to stick with me or rub me the wrong way after repeatedly viewing them.
I loved Mark Hamill in this film. I feel like the original trilogy cast works so well because Mark Hamill was that kid he was playing. Well, in The Last Jedi I feel like Luke Skywalker was written to be 66 year old Mark Hamill down to the sense of humor. Luke is sort of pathetic, heroic, lovable, hatable, and dynamic in the movie. His character goes from A to Z over the course of the story and I can’t wait to watch it again. I’m dying to watch it again. He’s a man dealing with being a legend and the aftermath of that and you question if he can live up to his mythic status again. Rian Johnson’s story and film does live up to that expectation. He’s a guy that has made the wrong choices and gives up before trying to atone for his failures.
Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver also bring in richer performances than in the last film but they still feel tonally accurate and in touch with what we saw in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The relationship between these two characters is intriguing and it really made the film for me. They have a bond that is believable. They’re almost like two people that meet online and have a correspondence for a time and those conversations are interesting. Their scenes are an experience.
I really enjoyed the way the Rose and Finn plot line was so much more “mortal” feeling than Rey and Kylo’s stuff. The interesting part is this section of the movie is strangely class conscious for a Star Wars movie and I like it a lot. Del Toro’s DJ and Rose really kind of line up politically but how they’re going to exist and resist are so much different.
The plot line with Poe, Leia, and Holdo really grows Poe Dameron as a character and gives him some flaws. In The Force Awakens Poe is the ideal resistance fighter. But in this story, Poe Dameron sits next to two great seasoned leaders and pretty much gets put into his place with a hard dose of reality.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi does a few things that are heartbreaking. You learn that your heroes have flaws, that people have reason to be hurt and that letting go is really hard for everyone in the story. There’s a particular moment that unravels throughout the film that sort of has a “Rashomon” effect where we see the “crime” from a few different perspectives and I sympathized with everyone’s perceptive in the film. However, atonement in the second act isn’t really achieved between the heroes and the villains and this one sets up a far more interesting Star Wars: Episode IX than you would imagine.
I left The Last Jedi feeling extremely happy about the future of Star Wars. The film is alive and it deals with characters as the story needs them. It doesn’t preserve things for the sake of future exploitation. It doesn’t view any of the characters as being bigger than the story itself. The risks from The Force Awakens are more extreme. Things are more real for the heroes and their mortality is put in the line of fire more than you can imagine. This movie makes so many bold choices you feel like anyone can die and you actually fear for the heroes.
I think the film is going to be debated for a long time, actually. I loved it. It was weird, funny, and told me a story I sat on the edge of my seat for. I’m not kidding. There were moments where I looked over at my friends and we were all sitting forward…on the edge of our seats. That’s a Star Wars movie. A good Star Wars movie. I don’t think everyone is going to agree with me. But I have nothing but respect for this offering and its the most worthy Star Wars offering in years.