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[REVIEW] ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’

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“This is not going to go the way you think.” Oh boy, does that sum up Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Strap in, everyone — this movie is a ride. (Oh, and worry not if you haven’t seen it yet. There are no spoilers in this review.)

If you’re a diehard Star Wars fan with very specific expectations, this is (probably) not the movie you’re looking for. While the previous film in the Skywalker saga, The Force Awakens, was criticized for being somewhat repetitive of A New Hope, The Last Jedi takes the story in new and surprising directions. The film picks up where Episode VII left off, but it’s almost immediately clear that Episode VIII is very much its own beast.

This is the first film I’ve seen of Rian Johnson’s so I can’t really speak to his usual “style” or directing sensibilities, but his approach to storytelling is noticeably different than J.J. Abrams in a number of ways. For one, The Last Jedi is longer than The Force Awakens and all other Star Wars films so far. It clocks in at about two and a half hours, and I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t feel that long. Johnson really takes his time here, which I appreciate, but I do wish the film as a whole was as focused and as consistently engaging as The Force Awakens is. There’s a lot going on in this film, and though most of it is very good, some of it doesn’t work so well in my opinion.

There are a number of new characters introduced in The Last Jedi, and they’re all played by very likable and capable actors. Unfortunately, it feels like Johnson can’t quite figure out what to do with most of them and how to properly integrate them into the greater narrative. This is especially true of Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) and DJ (Benicio Del Toro), whose inclusion is really justified. I would have preferred for this film to have introduced fewer new characters and instead spent more time developing the characters we already have, like Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac).

Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) get a good amount of screen time, however, and I was happy with how much they developed as characters by the end of the film. Without giving anything away, I’ll say that many of their scenes in The Last Jedi are among my favorite scenes in any Star Wars film, and I was totally captivated by them in a way that I never really was while watching the previous film, which I think speaks to their talent as actors and to Rian Johnson’s talent as a writer and director.

The true star of The Last Jedi may actually be Carrie Fisher, whose final performance as Princess Leia does not disappoint in the slightest. Fisher’s tragic passing in real life adds so much more depth and meaning to her scenes in the film, and it’s wonderful (but also heartbreaking) to see Carrie really give it her all here. Mark Hamill is great in this, too, and he pulls off the role of an old, grouchy Luke Skywalker much better than I thought he would, if I’m being honest.

On a technical level, the film is, as you’d probably assume, incredible. The worlds of Star Wars feel much bigger and more tangible than ever before, and everything is expertly crafted from top to bottom. There are so many different sets and creatures (Porgs!), both practical and otherwise, in The Last Jedi that I can’t begin to imagine how Rian Johnson and everyone else involved made it all happen. I was especially impressed by how real Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) looks — the guy is downright terrifying to look at. The film is so rich with detail that I would definitely advise seeing this on the biggest screen possible because there’s so much there for you to take in.

Normally, I wouldn’t expect a two-and-a-half hour movie to have much replay value, but I think The Last Jedi has enough surprising and satisfying moments, especially in the third act, to warrant repeat viewings. I don’t think it’s quite as good as The Force Awakens, which is still my favorite Star Wars movie so far, but it’s a strong follow-up and a solid middle chapter for this new trilogy of films. I’m honestly not sure where J.J. Abrams will take it from here for Episode IX, but I can’t wait to find out.

★★★★

What did you think of The Last Jedi? Did it live up to your expectations? What do you want to see in Episode IX? Sound off in the comments below and unleash your inner porg!

Edited by: Hannah Wilkes

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About Angelo Thomas

Angelo Thomas is a writer, director, and pop culture enthusiast. In addition to writing for Rotoscopers, he writes for The Royal Blog of Oz and guest hosts The Royal Podcast of Oz. Angelo was born in Guadalajara, Mexico and raised in Louisville, Kentucky. He is currently studying Film & Video in Columbus, Ohio at the Columbus College of Art & Design, where he has also worked as an assistant in Marketing & Communications. His favorite film of all time is The Wizard of Oz, which has influenced much of his personal and professional work. In terms of his love for animation, Tangled and Frozen aren't just great animated films in his opinion — they're some of the best films ever made. Angelo is always prepared to give and defend his opinions when it comes to film and animation, which he often does on social media. He can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr @imangelothomas.
  • I loved it. It’s my favorite Star Wars movie since Empire Strikes Back. There were so many unexpected twists that worked really well. And so many cool moments worthy of applause. The crowd I saw it with actually applauded 4 times throughout the film. 5/5 stars from me.

  • Amber Dvorak

    Nice review, Angelo! I agree with a lot of what you said here, although I probably found the film a bit more disappointing as a whole. As much as I want to respect all the new and different things Rian Johnson tried here, it’s difficult when a movie is part of such a long-going franchise with – let’s face it – certain fan expectations. If this were not a Star Wars movie, I know I would not have judged it as harshly. (Unfair? Perhaps.) I actually didn’t think Rey’s character developed nearly as much as in TFA, and I felt that more of the focus should have been on her throughout the film, but there seemed to be too many subplots going on. I think Rose has potential to be a good character, but the storyline with her and Finn was sort of weak. Carrie owned every scene she was in, although I sort of expected a little more screen time based on what I’d previously read about the film. I think the thing that bothers me most is how Luke was handled. Short of the epic end “battle,” I sort of think his legacy in the Star Wars universe was tarnished by this. Maybe that’s just me not wanting to accept new views on a beloved character, but I think certain care needs to be taken with such a cultural icon. (Han and Leia were handled beautifully, in contrast.) I also wish that we had gotten more satisfying answers to some of the questions raised in TFA, but I’ll hold out hope that those will be coming in Ep. IX. Also, porgs are amazing and severely underused here.

    • I agree with your perspective, Amber. There were some amazing fight scenes and emotional moments in this film but the story seemed confusing to me and going in three or four different directions. If I judge it harshly too, it is from the expectations of a franchise that has been around for this long and turned out countless stories expanding this mysterious universe.

      One of the challenges was showing the characters from the original series while promoting the new ones. And not just the humans but the droids and animals–too many characters attempting to get screentime. If they had left Luke and Leia alone and focused the saga directly on Rey and her friends as “the new generation” I think it could have been smoother while respecting the the original characters. And Luke’s reasons for retracting away as a skeptic and unhappy person are understandable considering his relationship with Ben Solo but he seemed to lack the fire and will to act until the last minute.

      I would’ve liked to see him show Rey the different forms of lightsaber training: take 5 minutes out of the side stories and into another one to show that it’s more than waving around a stick of light. There are seven forms of lightsaber training, some defensive and others aggressive, and the crystal charging the lightsaber is affected by the person wielding it. That’s all in the new canon now and it could have helped Rey progress on her journey. Perhaps that’ll be her next challenge with what to do with the lightsaber in the final act of this new trilogy.

  • Manuel Orozco

    Last Jedi has to be the best Star Wars movie tied with Force Awakens. Despite minor tone incodtency, Last Jedi is packed with spectacular visuals, intense action, heartfelt character drama and surprising developments. RIP Carrie Fisher