Star Wars: The Last Jedi Review: Taking Our Emotions for a Ride [Spoiler-Free]

Star Wars: The Last Jedi
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Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a strong return to form for the canon entries into the Star Wars pantheon. After a tepid first outing by Disney with Episode VII and the heartbreaking passing of Carrie Fisher, there has been concern in how Rian Johnson would be able to pull it all together. I’m relieved to say that The Last Jedi is a solid and enjoyable meaningful addition to the trilogy of trilogies.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

The reason that enjoyable is struck out in the first paragraph is because for any fan of the franchise, there’s going to be a great deal of emotion surrounding this particular film. The shadow over the film is the presence of a particular Princess and her performance. From her first moments on screen and throughout the film, there were more than a few tears shed (I’m not above admitting some of those tears were mine); such was the impact of the woman who was the general, the rebel, and the princess both on screen and on the collective psyche.

Picking up directly after the events in The Force Awakens, the Rebels are on the run with the First Order in hot pursuit. Rey is on the island trying to coax assistance out of Luke who is not to keen on jumping back into the fray. As it was implied from the prior film, Kylo’s destruction of Luke’s class of Jedi students has pushed him into seclusion. Stuck on an island littered with the screaming offspring the Disney marketing department, the porgs. They are effectively space penguins who have no particular use other than to be “aw, how cute,” window dressing in whatever scene that didn’t have something else to show of interest on a beautiful and solitary island. It’s like they didn’t have enough faith in a quiet moment; it was always necessary to throw in random porgs hanging around doing various cute things.

There are scenes of some children that come across as similar filler, but also eyes through which the Disneyland-attending kids are very much intended to see themselves. It’s not subtle. But damn it, the house of mouse, especially with a scene of a kid sweeping up, knows how to pluck on the childhood heartstrings of all of us.

The story isn’t the same kind of beat-for-beat clone of Empire in the same way that The Force Awakens was of A New Hope. The Last Jedi is more of throwing Empire and Jedi into a blender and throwing in some liberal pinches of modern dialogue quips. It’s also particularly clear that Johnson, who in addition to being director was also the writer, is a fan of a few other modern science-fiction series, notably the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica. It can’t be said that he leveraged story points from the other series, but rather than he took some of the spirit of various pieces. The end result is something that is a worthy middle-episode of the current trilogy.

It’s still not perfect — it seems there’s still little idea with Captain Phasma (played by Gwendoline Christie) as to what to do with her character. She’s treated better than in VII, but not by a lot. She doesn’t appear until towards the end of the second act and then the action shifts away from her too soon thereafter.

Star Wars fans, you know you are going to see this anyway, I can tell you that you won’t regret the decision. It’s again better than any prequel, and better than The Force Awakens. After that, the particular film order will vary widely for each individual viewer. I’ll say that I think I would put this third after Empire and Rogue One as a tie ranking for 1st place.

But when Leia is on screen urging those around her to “never stop fighting,” and “never give up on hope,” it’s only partly Leia that we hear. It’s primarily Carrie saying it to all of us. Yeah. Bring the Kleenex.

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About Bill Watters

Games programmer by day, geek culture and fandom writer by night. You'll find me writing most often about tv and movies with a healthy side dose of the goings-on around the convention and fandom scene.

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