Movie Review: ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ (2017)

The destiny of Rey, and the Rebel Alliance, hangs in the balance.

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” has arrived! I saw it last night and I was quite entertained. This was a late night show complete with long line and excitement in the air. I will make a deal with you. I won’t spoil anything that isn’t already in the trailer–this is a movie about finding one’s destiny. You could say that about most movies. And there is the big conflict going on, of course, over what Rey (Daisy Ridley) should do with her life. Should she follow the light or the dark? Well, no one needs to feel obligated to do what they “should” do, right? Therein lies the deeper conflict. By all counts, Rey is, and this is no secret, the last Jedi. Who can help her with this? Ah, that is what this movie is all about and it does a fine job with that premise.

I will tell you that I went into this movie in the spirit of a true Star Wars fan–I was dutifully ready to be amazed. I was not to leave my seat. I was definitely not to check my phone. I was not to smack loudly on any edibles–if I even dared to indulge in cinema snacks. The woman seated next to me did have these plastic-wrapped treats she noisily noshed on and she DID check her phone, which is outrageous. And some people were not riveted to their seats and took bathroom breaks or whatever–more checking of phones? There seemed to be a jittery vibe going on. And that is the biggest challenge the Star Wars franchise has to contend with: can it keep you amazed? The answer is more of a so-so attitude. This Star Wars movie has its share of self-deprecating jokes to lighten the mood–which is fine as that is a staple for these big tent events–but perhaps there was just a tad too much–even if the Disney team is supposed to have perfected the delicately-balanced recipe for mass entertainment.

Star Wars delivers both art and action. Maybe a little more art than action–but that’s okay!

So, how much did Disney spend to buy out George Lucas? Enough to run a space colony on the moon, right? Well, then, we all deserve to be amazed! Again, I come back to the so-so vibe going on. The audience was there because this is an event. The movie was there because this is a huge investment. Writer-director-mastermind Rian Johnson is there to pull off another J.J. Abrams rabbit-out-of-a-hat-trick. This is, in its own way, a noble effort–not be dismissed. Is it possible today to really pull off an old-fashioned trick like this that gets an audience genuinely thrilled? For one thing, the audience has shifted, in its interests and attitude, since the first Star Wars in fundamental ways: less patient, wiser, snarkier–there wasn’t even any snark in 1977! To do the rabbit trick today, you need to scale back and dial down.

Some of the very best moments in this Star Wars movie are when everything goes into radio silence. For a crowd-pleaser, you don’t necessarily want to get too arthouse on the public. This is not “2001: A Space Odyssey,” although, given the wide demographic for Star Wars, you have plenty of wiggle room to enter into artistic mode. Truth to told, everyone hungers for some art with their action. Anyway, there are a number of these moments of radio silence as Rey deals with the profound obstacles on her journey of self-discovery as well as when we get to the nitty gritty conflict between the Empire and the Rebel Alliance. And it is beautifully done. I don’t care if some people got it and some chose to munch away on snacks or sneak a look at their phone for the millionth time. The Star Wars franchise, all of these franchises, know that’s part of the game and some will play it well while others will fall short. All in all, the results from this latest Star Wars are well played.

The whole cast delivers the goods, to be sure. For instance, I cannot image this without Adam Driver just as much as I cannot image this without Mark Hamill. Now, these two actors are very different, no doubt. Driver as an actor, we can mostly agree, runs circles around Hamill but Hamill is a special case. He has some acting chops. For this movie, he has all the acting chops he could possibly need. He comes to this role honoring something amounting to a sacred trust. Overall, he is a pleasure to see on the screen as the reluctant and conflicted legend, the great Luke Skywalker. What should he do at this point in his life? What is his greater purpose? He is admirably up to the challenge of this pivotal role. The same can certainly be said of Carrie Fisher. Hamill, ultimately, carries a good bit of this story as he is caught in the destiny triangle between Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and Rey (Daisy Ridley). By the time we’re getting down to these three revealing their true selves, no one is munching or checking their Facebook.


Filed under Movie Reviews, movies, Star Wars

12 responses to “Movie Review: ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ (2017)

  1. My husband can’t wait to see this film. He’s a super fan of the franchise. I enjoyed the last one so I’m keeping an open mind. Your review reassures me that it won’t be time wasted. If nothing else it will make me nostalgic for when we took our kids to the original Star Wars films.

  2. checking phones during a movie? outrageous!! Pelt them with popcorn or whatever.

  3. Some great thoughts Henry, I though ‘The Last Jedi’ had it’s flaws but on the whole it was a good Star Wars film and Mark Hamill was great, as was Carrie Fisher…and well, pretty much all of the cast!

    Rian Johnson delivered some really astonishing visuals, there are definitely moments in here that have never been seen in Star Wars before.

    I too detest noisy phone-checking audience members (why pay so much to see a film and do that anyway?) btw!

    • Yes, it was a fun ride overall. You know, it did seem like a few folks came along not knowing what to expect and got a little jittery. You cannot please everyone. The Star Wars franchise is in that tricky position of addressing a massive audience–so it’s a relatively brave move to be pushing the boundaries of a conventional blockbuster.

  4. I don’t get it!! This was a horrible film . Horrible writing, pacing, directing and they ruined , completely ruined the reputation of the greatest hero of the entire universe. How can anyone like this film . A 8 year old had to have written this script . Complete disaster

  5. In direct contrast to the comment above me, I liked what they did with Luke and the final battle was a great ending to a very entertaining movie. I also was glad to see an original story after The Force Awakens’ recycled plot.

    All in all, this movie was definitely well-played, and amazingly, they made Kylo Ren an interesting character, which bodes well for Episode IX!

  6. selizabryangmailcom

    We finally saw this yesterday. Matinee! I don’t want to go on a rant like the gentleman above about all the things we didn’t like because, yes, everyone’s different and one man’s garbage is another man’s treasure. But a couple things I thought were great: the huge silent explosion in space (well, it WOULD be silent anyway, right?), the visuals of the red beneath the white salt, the psychic connection moments between Kylo and Rey and I absolutely LOVE the way Kylo fights: the actor is obviously very big and tall, and the way he pulls himself down and hunches over made him seem like a huge, malevolent vulture or something. The fight he and Rey engaged in with all the red soldiers was visually pleasing, too (except for the fact that Rey somehow is a better fighter than Kylo?) So…not a total loss for me. Some memorable moments!

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