Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi: Best Film in The Series Since The Empire Strikes Back
The Last Jedi, directed by Rian Johnson, is the eight film (ninth, if you count the spin off, Rogue One, 2016), in the Star Wars saga, occurring after the events of The Force Awakens (2015). Rey (played by Daisy Ridley), a young Jedi hopeful, who was first introduced in The Force Awakens, has been developing her newfound abilities and seeks out famed Jedi and now recluse, Luke Skywalker (played by Mark Hamill). Meanwhile, The Resistance under the leadership of Leia Organa, continues to battle with The First Order, led by Snoke and General Hux, as well as, Kylo Ren (Han Solo and Leia Organa’s son). The Last Jedi is an exciting follow-up to The Force Awakens that features some of the series’ best action and dramatic moments.
The Last Jedi is not just solely a retread of The Empire Strikes Back (1980). Instead, the film goes off in its own direction, and is not afraid to take risks. The opening scene is an exciting large battle where we see The Resistance attacking The First Order, and that’s exactly where this film’s strength lies, with its characters and their decisions. As the protagonist, Rey’s character has matured, is determined to better her Jedi skills, and refuses to give up on Luke. Her interactions with Luke, who doesn’t want anything to do with her, and her telepathic abilities reveal much about her character. Mark Hamill is quite excellent as Luke Skywalker. We’ve seen him play the character before, but not in such a weary and emotional state. Watching Luke relate his failures to Rey is a great scene. Adam Driver is back as Kylo Ren with his character being far more complex since killing his father, Han Solo, in The Force Awakens.
Much of the cast from The Force Awakens returns. John Boyega is as charming as ever as Finn, and his pairing with Rose Tico (played by newcomer Kelly Marie Tran) is cool. These two get into all sorts of trouble together, some of a bit tedious (like the plot involving Rose’s sister), while most of it is actually fun to watch. Oscar Isaac is back as Poe Dameron, a Resistance pilot, who eventually plans a revolt against Vice Admiral Holdo (played by Laura Dern). Poe is as reckless as ever, though he’s still a good guy. Andy Serkis returns as Supreme Ruler Snoke, and actually has a lot to do this time. While Domnhall Gleeson, back as General Hux, appears less confident than before and somewhat overly dramatic, perhaps for comedic effect. BB-8, a droid, returns, and some of the more clapworthy moments of the film came from his character. Chewbacca, R2-D2, and C-3PO all appear, with Chewy having one of the best comedic moments in the film when he scares off a “porg”, an alien sea-bird. This is Carrie Fisher’s last film, and in it she has a lot of great emotional scenes. It is an admirable send-off, with director, Rian Johnson, managing to give her a great finale.
In terms of visual effects and fantasy world-building, there’s a lot in here. The effects are some of the best Star Wars has yet to offer. The effects on Snoke, in particular, are some of the best I’ve seen this year, and he looks better than he did in The Force Awakens. The Last Jedi features a nice variety of new planets and creatures, too. Some of the aliens on Ahch-To are quite clever. They’ve got space birds, animals, and porgs. While they are cute, porgs are the most blatantly designed “sell toys” I’ve seen in awhile. Nevertheless, I was constantly impressed by the special effects in this film.
The action and lightsaber sequences are very good, too. Possibly my favorite being a Jedi dual team-up that involves some guards being taken on. The lightsabers are in full force, and as is usually the case with a Star Wars film, it’s awesome to see two Jedi-wheelers take down the enemy. It’s a great fight.
Any good Star Wars film needs a great musical score and The Last Jedi does not disappointment in that regard. John Williams is eighty-five years old, and he’s still showing the young-ins how to do film music right. The music is not especially different, but there are a few new themes that are quite good, including a nice theme for Rose, a new theme attributed to Luke developed from Rey’s own theme, and a piece of fun casino source music played for the Canto Bright casino scene. I especially liked the use of “The Force” theme, while it doesn’t have very much variation in the film, it does build and build until the climax, where it completely blasts out. It’s great.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi has some pacing issues, and plot problems, but in terms of Star Wars’ films, it’s one of my favorites, thus far. I would like to see the film again. It’s absolutely one of the best cinema experiences I’ve had all year. If you’re a fan of “The Force”, get off your seat and go see it at the cinema. More than likely, you won’t regret it.
Playing at the Nugget Theaters Monday Thru Friday at 3:30 (3D), 5:00, 6:30 PM, and Wednesday Thru Saturday at 12:30, 2:00, 3:30 (3D), 5:00, 6:30, 8:00, and 9:25 PM (3D) - Special Christmas screenings.