With each new year comes a new Star Wars film. This one has stars and also some warfare. I hope that is not a spoiler.
So, The Last Jedi is an odd film among other Star Wars flicks. You see, this is the most closed-off film in the series, in terms of scope. There are very few locations, and much of it is set in space. Yet, in some ways, this is refreshing to a relatively mild fan of the franchise such as myself. I should note here that I have never adored the Star Wars films, and I do not believe they necessarily deserve high praise. Still, I do not mind seeing them when they release, especially considering the volume of my compatriots who would discuss a new entry’s merits or shortfalls.
I will dive into the effects and cinematography first; the film is visually breathtaking. That is to be expected, of course. There were some incredibly stunning moments, and the aforementioned focus on open space is executed quite effectively, albeit with some flaws. That is, although it’s a wonderful idea to have a film set primarily in space (unless that film is called Gravity) the film suffers somewhat from a lack of environmental diversity. The Last Jedi is quite a long movie, and I would argue that it drags toward the middle, having little to show that hasn’t been shown several times already. I could almost wager that this was a cost-saving decision, requiring few filming locations and a more simplistic set design. Regardless, this is noticeable, and any viewer expecting an array of strange planets and vibrant scenery may be disappointed. Despite this setback, The Last Jedi does well with its shot composition. There’s a particular scene toward the end of the film, in which all sound is cut out for an intense effect, and there’s a beautiful shot with stunning visual design. Also, there are a few scenes with Rey which have excellent camerawork showcasing a fairly unique area which was seen briefly in The Force Awakens.
The acting is mostly good. I am conflicted; Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver were splendid, as expected from them. Oscar Isaac had a fairly wooden and simple performance this time, as he was constantly angry and bitter throughout the film. He exhibited so little variability in countenance that I fear director Rian Johnson may have fooled us all with a CGI recreation of him from a single photograph. Poe Dameron was an intriguing and somewhat complex character in The Force Awakens, yet here he seems wasted and shoved aside. That’s probably more an issue of writing than acting, admittedly. Of course, that does not apply to Laura Dern. I appreciate her acting capability, but she is unconvincing as a rebellion general. Her character appears suddenly when it is necessary, and there are mentions of her past, but she acts as if she were reading from a script in which she plays a family matriarch, guiding whippersnappers along their journey. I do not believe her character was necessary in the film, but if she had treated it differently, I may have enjoyed her performance more. As some may wonder, considering the buzz this has been getting around the internet, I do not care about her hair. I do not think a character’s hair color is relevant to the movie’s quality. That would be pedantic.
The story has many incredible twists and a variety of remarkable situations. Frankly, this is actually a very surprising film. While I did find Force Awakens to be somewhat predictable, I had my expectations subverted persistently in this film. That is a testament to the difference between The Last Jedi and other Star Wars films; this movie will not go in any direction foreshadowed by the previous films, and I daresay it revels in mocking one’s predictions. A persistent reader of mine may glean a sense that I appreciate films which are able to consistently surprise me. There are touching and heartfelt scenes, and while the action scenes are few and far between, they are worthy of praise for their style and ingenuity. I suppose that I wanted a more grandiose presentation for the middle of a Star Wars trilogy. Still, I cannot fault the film much for its design in that aspect. The dialogue is witty although sometimes corny, but that is how I have always viewed Star Wars. Some of the jokes were strange, and while none will be as quotable as ‘scruffy-looking nerf-herder’, they mostly landed decently. The music is standard Star Wars fare; outside of the predictable opening crawl, there is not much to be said about it. There is nothing wrong with the sound, but I do not believe it was a significant step up from previous films, per se.
The main issue with this movie is the script. A striking amount of screen time is spent on dialogue-driven scenes that, while somewhat entertaining, serve little purpose and seem to pad the run-time. I would have appreciated a heavier focus on Luke Skywalker, Kylo Ren, and Rey; despite the length of The Last Jedi, precious little time is spent on what I would deem the best parts of the movie. Certain characters die suddenly in unexpected but disappointing ways. Overall, I believe the new characters could have been left out in favor of a tighter cast. I would argue that the original trilogy worked well in no small part due to the constant presence of its main trio, leading to excellent character development and recognizable story arcs. Despite my complaints, The Last Jedi is likely my favorite Star Wars film. It is well worth seeing, especially for the impressive visual artistry.
This one sits as a Wondrous film. I enjoyed it more than the other Disney Star Wars movies, and my appreciation of certain scenes and effects outweighs my lamentations of the script and acting. Worth noting is The Last Jedi’s comparison to another 2017 sci-fi film I have reviewed here: Blade Runner 2049. If a viewer has a choice between seeing this or the new Blade Runner, I highly recommend the latter. Blade Runner 2049 somehow has less notoriety yet arguably does better what this film tried to accomplish in virtually every category.