Writer-Director Rian Johnson delivers a vibrant, bumpy entry into the Star Wars lore with The Last Jedi.
“Breathe . . .. Just Breathe.”
George Lucas gave my imagination a lot of room to breathe and grow as a kid. No, I didn’t lift rocks like you see in The Empire Strikes Back, but I tripped over them, constantly.
Like many of my generational peers, I have been a lifelong fan of Star Wars and its characters. I still get giddy at the mere sound of the classic John Williams theme as it swells over the scrolling monologue. Since its acquisition, Disney has done well to give Kathleen Kennedy the room to breathe life into the franchise for a new generation of filmgoers and filmmakers alike.
The latest, vibrant entry in the “Skywalker Saga” is writer – director Rian Johnson’s (Brick, Looper) Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
The film continues mere moments after the events of J.J. Abrams’ The Force Awakens with the First Order in hot pursuit of the Resistance. General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) and Poe Dameron (Oscar Issac) mount an attack against the First Order’s Star Destroyers. General Hux (Domnhall Gleeson) leads the First Order’s chase and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) seeks to find Rey. While the continued battle for freedom rages on in the heavens, Rey (Daisy Ridley) begins her training with Master Jedi, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill).
The technical achievements aside, Rian Johnson has delivered a film that embraces the past with all its might. It resolves certain questions raised in The Force Awakens and much like George Lucas’ past entries, it expertly tangoes through the myriad of character arcs, story arcs and the politics while looking toward the future.
It also happens to be the longest entry in the Star Wars saga. And, that’s one of its weakest points. The length isn’t as much an editorial issue as it is a story telling issue. However, when you look at the film holistically, every event and character have their place. Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) is back in an extended capacity, continuing to pull the strings of Kylo Ren. Gwendoline Christie is as deliciously vicious as ever as Captain Phasma. Laura Dern has a strong turn as Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo, giving us a fierce yet understated character while Benicio del Toro delights in his under worldly ways.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Mark Hamill’s performance as Luke here. Mr. Johnson has taken the best parts of the lost farm boy from Tatooine those many years ago and added some of the wisdom of more experienced Jedi to create a rich, textured and modern Luke Skywalker. He is as haunted by Kylo Ren as he is by Rey’s efforts to find him. It is his best turn as Skywalker, and probably his best performance ever.
Mr. Johnson infuses humor into his story, something that Star Wars fans should be used to. Our favorite droids R2-D2, C-3P0 (Anthony Daniels), BB-8 along with Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) are part of the humor. It does get ingratiating at points, but its purpose serves the overall heavy nature of the story, which is less reflective than The Force Awakens.
The vibrant special effects, filled with a mixture of practical and CGI are something to behold as they create a vibrancy not seen in previous Star Wars entries. It is full of life.
John Williams continues to delight with his vibrant, bombastic score. Themes of the past are raised to new levels. The whole production went to great lengths to treat Carrie Fisher with the utmost respect and you would do well to stay through to at least the mid-credits (not a spoiler, just encouragement).
The mechanical issues aside, The Last Jedi is, finally, the Star Wars film fans have been clamoring for since at least 1983. It is by no means perfect, and I will have a more extended analysis of the film in the coming days. I am confident that Rian Johnson can lead us to the next evolution of the Star Wars saga as he begins prepping for a new trilogy.
Now in theaters, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is rated PG-13 by the MPAA.