I thought I had had my fill of these fantasy universes and superhero films – even Star Wars disappointed me with Rogue One. But then I sat down to watch the latest instalment in the Star Wars and canon, The Last Jedi, and came out smiling.
This movie is quite different than any Star Wars movie that has come before it as the story doesn’t take its usual epic route of exploring various worlds and having one plan followed by another plan which is then substituted by another plan. In fact, the movie doesn’t move very far (even geographically speaking) from where it starts to where it eventually ends. Certainly, there are very important plot beats and character changes, but in all, the story is surprisingly compact and easy to follow. Now, I can definitely see how this may upset some fans who like the world-building and exploration side of Star Wars, but I thought it was executed well enough that the lack of sprawling “epicness” didn’t feel like a missing element.
The Last Jedi does feel it needs this epic thrust because it trusts its characters and the bond we have solidified with them from the last film. There are more than a few actions by our main group of heroes that seem half-baked and don’t even pan out as planned, but the movie manages to make you care for them in their desperation and forgive them when they make a mistake.
In fact, a line from the movie about mistakes being the greatest teacher is a theme which runs throughout. Nothing seems to go as planned on either side of the war but it doesn’t mean that ground hasn’t been broken and that personal victories aren’t won.
JJ Abrams’ The Force Awakens did everything in its power to make a call back to A New Hope while trying to open the gates to the future – even in visual style. The Last Jedi takes an opposite approach.
Director Rian Johnson goes for darker palettes and muted colours. And although this movie is not dark at all (in fact it is damn funny in numerous parts), these changes make it feel heavier than its predecessor. The space battles are intense and brooding instead of fun and rollicking. The deaths feel more impactful and the consequences of the actions leave a more immediate bad taste in the character’s mouths – especially General Leah.
This style provided a pseudo-realism to the franchise that I had not seen before, although one can sort of make an argument for this in Rogue One; however, I felt the execution in that movie was weak mainly due to the boring characters and convoluted plot.
The Last Jedi focuses in on the batch of characters that will take this franchise into the future and they make it work. Everyone from Kylo Ren to BB-8 is engaging and have something worth investing in as an audience member. I found myself clapping and cheering on more than one occasion because I truly felt I was there with them when met with a challenge or foe.
The Last Jedi had a hard task in front of it, surpassing the buzz and success of The Force Awakens. I believe it not only did this, it also acted as a sort of pilot episode for what Disney may want to do with the franchise in the future – tell smaller stories. I believe that hardcore fans of the series may walk out of theatre happy but then going back and saying, “Hey, not a lot happened.” And indeed, the movie’s runtime almost feels in sync with the amount of time that goes by in the story. However, in the space of those 152 minutes, there was space for various emotional highs and lows and plenty of entertainment and well-choreographed space battles. Speaking of space battles, this movie really took the Star Wars name and ran with it – it was heavy on the war taking place in the stars with a lot less hand to hand fighting and light saber action. I appreciated this as a fan of battle scenes.
Now we await the last (or will it really be the last) episode in this new trilogy. It was quite open-ended, to be honest, so I have very little to comment on what I think the series needs to do moving forward or exactly where it wants to go. So, with that I say, “Go watch Star Wars!!” It was my favourite fantasy/action movie of the year and may the force continue to remain with the franchise.
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