Saturday, January 6, 2018

Star Wars: The Last Jedi - Movie Review

The Movie: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

The Director: Rian Johnson

The Cast: Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Mark Hamill, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Carrie Fisher, Gwendoline Christie, Domhnall Gleeson, Andy Serkis, Laura Dern, Benicio Del Toro, Kelly Marie Tran, Justin Theroux, Lupita Nyong'o, Warwick Davis, Anthony Daniels, Joonas, Suatamo, Veronica Ngo

The Story: Having taken her first steps into the Jedi world, Rey joins Luke Skywalker on an adventure with Leia, Finn and Poe that unlocks mysteries of the Force and secrets of the past.

The Review:
I really enjoyed this movie although for some reason I have to keep trying to convince myself that statement is true.Upon writing this review, I have watched The Last Jedi four times and each time I have felt the exact same way. I like it, because it's Star Wars, but there is just so much that rubs me the wrong way. I have seen articles and hear people talk about how this is a new Star Wars for a new generation and people just need to deal with it. No people don't need to just deal with it. Liking or not liking something is a subjective opinion and not something that is right or wrong because another person or a group of people feel differently.

To start off, I don't like the slapstick, jokes for jokes sake tone of the film. I felt the same way about Thor: Ragnarok, another Disney product, mainly because in both instances, the out of context comedy makes it hard to place the films within their respective universes and removes any sense of danger or urgency. The jokes feel formulaic and out of place and, to me, ruins or at least lessens moments that would otherwise hold more weight and impact to the overall story. That being said, I laughed at each moment because they were funny, I just felt bad about doing it because it just didn't feel right in those moments.

My other main issue is with the story. It's like the writers got together and said let's create a story that makes no sense, lacks any sort of logic, and is filled with so many plot holes that the pot holes have plot holes. There are also so many technical issues with the film like editing and quality control that spotting them could become a drinking game no one would survive the first half hour of.

Another thing that bugged, and this is a personal preference thing, is how Rian Johnson loves to use extreme closeups which I guess is supposed to help show the emotion in people's faces. Does he not realize his movie will be played on gigantic screens where viewers can see the actors faces just fine? I physically try to back up in my seat because the closeups are so annoying. This also bugs me because this is a Star Wars movie that is filled with lush, colorful, and inventive backgrounds and locations that deserve to be seen on massive movie screens and yet here we are counting Luke's nose hairs every chance we can get because that's all we can see.

One of the hallmarks of this franchise is how brilliant actors are given sub par material to work with and the results have always been a mixed bag. Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher for example were so dynamic and their personalities just burst off the screen, it really didn't matter what goofy lines they were asked to deliver in the original trilogy. On the other side of things, Natalie Portman and Liam Neeson, with all their talents, were not able to overcome things like trade disputes and midichlorians although Ewan McGregor did manage to break through the mediocrity and I'm really hoping he gets to make an Obi Wan solo movie.

This brings us to the current crop of talent which includes Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, and Adam Driver. These actors are all extremely talented and are going to have long careers above and beyond what they do in these movies and I feel like each of them has made the most of their Star Wars opportunities so far. I would say Isaac is the most gifted of the four and he shows it every step of the way. While he may not have the same swagger and personality of a Harrison Ford, he holds his own and excels in every scene he is in.

Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver showed me a lot this time around, especially when they were able to work together. There was real tension between them and their interactions had you wondering if they might hook up, are they brother and sister, are they going to fight together, are the going to fight each other, and all the other thoughts and emotions you could think of. This chemistry goes back to the interrogation scene in The Force Awakens and just keeps getting better and better.

Boyega has had the least to work with and his story in this movie amounts to nothing more than an unnecessary side note so I'm hoping to see him break out in the third movie. I feel like pairing Finn up with Rose Tico was little more than a way to say hey, look how diverse the Star Wars universe is now! Their arc in the story was totally unnecessary and was just created to give them a reason to be on screen. That being said, I love Kelly Marie Tran (please follow her on Instagram) and her character has tons of potential so here's hoping Episode IX will do her some justice.

Also, Canto Bight really needed to be left on the cutting room floor. That whole sequence felt so out of place and way to cheesy for its own good.

Visually, this episode of the saga is big, bold, colorful, chaotic, and beautifully iconic just as it should be. There are more than enough big action sequences that are just stunning to look at and will have you wanting to watch it in the theater as many times as possible. There are a couple moments that are truly jaw dropping and one in particular that has left every audience I have seen it with speechless and gasping not just from the visual aspect but because it's a super powerful moment in the story.

The Last Jedi is also very intentionally familiar, just like The Force Awakens was, with all classic elements like laser swords, star destroyers, throne rooms, and walkers all firmly in place. I love the look of the Praetorian Guards which, of course, are a callback to the Emperor's royal guard in Return of the Jedi. We always wished we cold have seen what those red robed guys with the staffs could do because they just has to be super bad ass, right? Seeing the new version in action was seriously one of the best fight scenes in the entire saga for many reasons.

The look and style of Star Wars films is something that will always be a very special thing for me and this movie absolutely nails that cool factor and gave me everything I was looking for in that regard. Add in the evolution of John Williams' brilliant score from the classic fanfare to newer elements like Ray's theme and all the emotions are properly brought to the surface. No matter how many times I watch a Star Wars movie in the theater, I will always get chills and watery eyes when the opening fanfare hits and the logo is splashed onto the screen. There really is nothing comparable when it comes to the theatrical experience because, in that one single moment, you know you are about to sent off for a couple hours to that galaxy far, far away.

The Verdict:
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a very entertaining movie that does everything it can to please everyone for at least a moment. It built for the roster of characters to have moments instead of having them populate a well thought out story that has depth, diversity, history, and actually makes sense. The script is filled with inconsistencies, wacky decision making, and plot holes all over the place yet, for all its faults, it is definitely a Star Wars movie and comes complete with all of the flashes, bangs, bells, and whistles you would expect.

There are moments that deserve your applause, there are moments that will drop your jaw to the floor, there are moments that will make you laugh, and there are moments that will make your brain hurt.

Welcome to the new Star Wars. Brought to you by Disney executives.

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