'Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi' Review
December 18, 2017
Director Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi is easily the grandest and most epic film to have come out in 2017. It boasts a balanced cast of series veterans and newcomers along with outstanding production quality. However, what was supposed to be The Empire Strikes Back for the new trilogy has come up short in key areas such as an exciting plot and engaging characters that limit the film from being anything above average.
The Last Jedi picks up immediately after the closing events of Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens. We cross-cut between Princess Leia leading the Resistance in a desperate escape mission from the pursuing First Order, and Rey trying to recruit a weary Luke Skywalker on his secluded island. On the dark side of the force, Supreme Leader Snoke and Kylo Ren act out plans to try and bring Rey to the dark side.
While the summary I gave makes the film sound simple, it really isn’t. There are many side plots and characters that muddy the water and make the overall story meander aimlessly until the final act. Each of the plots feels underdeveloped because of all the juggling and some of them clearly should have been cut or greatly reduced, which would have helped resolve the overlong 152-minute runtime.
The film is also unoriginal and doesn’t add anything new or meaningful to the saga. Most everything goes exactly as you would expect, and the things that are different aren’t done well. The characters endure many problems within the film mostly because of their own incompetence to do things right. In the end, everything that happened was expected and everything that was new wasn’t good.
The biggest problem with the film is how it treats its characters. Rey is still a standout from the previous film and has grown even more since then. She is still trying to make sense of becoming a Jedi but exhibits great bravery and a strong will to help her friends. Luke is hit or miss depending on the scene as he tries to deal with his failures as a Jedi master and Rey’s plea for his help in training her. Finn’s role is greatly reduced as he becomes part of the supporting cast as he and Rose (a Resistance engineer) embark on a side quest to secure a safecracker. Their plot is totally pointless and neither of them ends up as likable characters by the end of the film as all they do is critique the bad guys and say how things are bad. Kylo Ren and Poe are adequate most of the time, but never good enough in their expanded roles. Characters such as Leia, Snoke, and Captain Phasma are either completely disrespected or wasted as Johnson can never seem to figure out what their role should be in the overarching story.
The one thing you can always expect from a Star Wars film is great visuals and an epic lightsaber fight, and The Last Jedi is no exception to that rule. The main lightsaber battle is one of the best in the series and is expertly shot and choreographed for maximum intensity and realism. You can feel the danger and raw power within the characters as they fight for their lives against an unforgiving enemy. The space battle is really well done as well as it blends great visuals and sounds. There is one specific sequence in the latter part of the film that is one of the best-looking moments of the year.
While their characters are overall pretty poor, most of the actors do a fine job when it comes to breathing life into the film. Highlights include Daisy Ridley as Rey and Carrie Fisher as Leia. Each of them balances their emotions really well and delivers their lines perfectly in the situation they are thrust into. Mark Hamill does a good job as well at bringing Luke Skywalker back to life after a thirty-year screen absence. He gives Luke the old man treatment but also still reminds us of the headstrong kid we all fell in love with in the original trilogy. Adam Driver is pretty good as Kylo Ren, but he struggles to make his character anything different than what we have already seen.
Some, however, don’t deserve praise for their work. Both John Boyega and Kelly Marie Tran as Finn and Rose, respectively, make for some pretty forgettable moments in the film that could have been a lot better. They also don’t share any chemistry together which makes it hard to care about them the whole time.
Overall, The Last Jedi is disappointing but is still an acceptable film in the ever-expanding Star Wars saga. While it isn’t the sequel fans were hoping for, it still delivers in getting the look and feel of what a Star Wars film should be.