Directed by Rian Johnson
Reviewed by Brandon Bishop, December 15, 2017
“This is not going to go the way you think.”
Rey, Finn, Poe, and Kylo Ren return to the big screen in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, each of them reprised by their originating actors Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, and Adam Driver, respectively, from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. More notably, original franchise cast members Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker and Carrie Fisher as Leia Organa return with dramatically expanded roles after minor appearances in The Force Awakens, with Fisher making her final film appearance after her untimely passing in 2016.
First things first. The Last Jedi is Mark Hamill’s movie. Hamill and writer/director Rian Johnson bring us an older, embittered and almost broken Luke. Thirty long, complicated years have passed since we last saw him, and a lot has changed. Hamill quite simply gives the performance of his career. Not much can be said without spoiling anything, but he offers a poignant and layered performance.
The rest of the cast steps up from the last film in a big way. Adam Driver as Kylo Ren, the son of Leia and Han Solo, impresses even more than in the last film. Kylo is a conflicted villain, and Driver plays both sides of the coin with confidence. Daisy Ridley shows a much greater range as Rey, and Poe and Finn each have important moments to shine here.
New to the cast is Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico, a mechanic in the Resistance. She’s a warm, lovable character with a lot to say about the goings-on, but unfortunately a number of her scenes are among the slowest in the film. Rose and Finn spend much of the movie together and while both of them are likable and their banter is charming, they take a large detour that largely fails to engage. Their scenes feature some interesting thematic material and fantastic character and creature designs, but slows the film quite a bit whenever it comes back around to them. Also joining the proceedings is Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo, played by Laura Dern of Jurassic Park fame. She has a small but integral role in the movie, and her character wonderfully plays against type. She’s a stern, intelligent military leader, but she exudes a sort of wonderfully feminine strength. Holdo garnered a joyful applause at a pivotal moment in the film. And in that regard, the movie offers quite a few strong women, in Leia, Rey, Holdo, Rose, and some other smaller roles. The women of Star Wars have a lot to say, and they’re not going anywhere.
Production design has never been an issue in Star Wars, but here it’s a little different. The film’s use of color sets it visually apart from the other movies, particularly the presence of red. The visuals are consistently stunning, by frequent Rian Johnson collaborator Steve Yedlin, and production design by industry veteran Rick Heinrichs. John William’s score rouses and elicits a range of emotion, but its biggest highlights revisit material from previous films.
Rian Johnson takes a lot of risks with The Last Jedi, which is commendable. The Force Awakens received a lot of criticism due to a lot of its plot being derivative of previous Star Wars films and The Last Jedi may garner criticism due to its drastically different feel. There are a few familiar beats here and there, but the film is structurally and thematically quite different than any other Star Wars film. Also among the funniest of the saga, the movie goes for humor perhaps a little too frequently. The newest Star Wars film explores a lot of new ground and will certainly polarize. There was really only one moment where it really stepped over the line and broke a lot of its own rules. Beyond that, The Last Jedi makes a lot of its own rules, particularly in the finale, and mostly succeeds.
Come back next weekend for an in-depth spoiler discussion with Brandon of Engine25 and a few of his biggest Star Wars fan friends! We’ll be giving away a copy of The Last Jedi: Incredible Cross Sections! If you liked this review, hit the share buttons at the bottom!