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Star Wars: The Last Jedi Review

Joe Bozzella, Staff Writer

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the second film in the “sequel” trilogy and the direct successor to 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Replacing Force Awakens. Director J.J. Abrams (who is returning to helm Episode IX) is Rian Johnson (Brick, Looper) who also wrote the script for the preceding movie. The story picks up directly after the events of Episode VII with the First Order pushing the Resistance to the brink of destruction and Rey finally meeting Luke Skywalker. The movie is split into three separate storylines that each revolve around three characters. One focuses on Rey, Kylo Ren/Ben Solo, and Luke Skywalker, another on General Leia, Poe Dameron, and Admiral Holdo, while the third is built around Finn and newcomers Rose Tico and DJ. This is where faults start to emerge in the movie. While other two storylines are fine, the movie truly soars when it is focusing on Rey’s journey with Luke and Ben Solo. What Johnson does with the character of Luke Skywalker is absolutely outstanding.

Besides a small, dialogue-less cameo in The Force Awakens, Hamill returns to his career-defining role as Skywalker for the first time since 1983 and does not miss a beat. Even though he is not a blessed thespian, what Hamill has always done better than everyone else in this franchise is that he feels so authentic in this fantastical universe. He perfectly blends into the galaxy far, far away and delivers the best performance of his career in this film. He captures the weariness that Luke feels about this world following his failure to teach the next generation of Jedi. Hamill’s chemistry with Daisy Ridley’s Rey is a major reason why this movie works and this is mainly due to the outstanding work that Hamill gives. However, one should not ignore that work that Ridley puts in this movie as the script asks a lot of her and she rarely misses. In addition to Ridley, Adam Driver once again shows that he is the best actor in this franchise, with only Oscar Isaac as his closest rival. Driver’s Ben Solo is the most morally conflicted character that the Star Wars universe has ever seen and this only works because of Driver’s performance. The entire movie would fall apart if the rage and anger that Driver emotes is not believable and intimidating. It is obvious that Johnson was most interested in delving into the relationship between Rey and Ben Solo and how these two characters have been affected by the actions of Luke Skywalker, the galaxy’s greatest hero.

While the movie soars with the previous storyline, it suffers from Finn’s storyline with newcomer Rose Tico, played by Kelly Marie Tran. Although both are talented actors, the extended sequence with John Boyega’s Finn and Rose on the casino planet of Canto Bight simply does not work. The addition of Oscar-winner Benicio Del-Toro as hacker DJ cannot save this sequence from feeling like a waste of time. However, the movie recovers with the plot thread involving the late Carrie Fisher’s General (formerly Princess) Leia, Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron, and Laura Dern’s Admiral Holdo. Following Fisher’s unexpected death in December 2016, many have speculated about how her death would be handled in this movie. Without delving into spoilers, Johnson has handled this difficult circumstance perfectly and gives the icon a fantastic final role. From the first moment that Fisher appears on-screen, there was an audible feeling inside the theater of love and sadness for the departed Princess. Taking all of that out of it, Fisher does a terrific job in this film and is an integral part in making this movie work. Her chemistry with Isaac is off-the-charts and both actors do a stellar job in making their relationship feel like a mother trying to teach her son. Dern, a newcomer to the franchise, fits seamlessly into this saga and acts as a perfect foil for Isaac’s Dameron to grow and come into his own as a leader.

This movie has me more conflicted than any other film that I have ever seen. As many fans have stated, I was upset about some of the reveals in this movie as they fell short of my expectations at first. Grand Admiral Snoke, played to perfection by the legendary Andy Serkis, was a major problem for me in The Force Awakens but I was excited to see where they took him in this film. Without spoilers, I was both shocked and angry at where this movie leaves him on my first viewing but after the second time, I realized that it fits perfectly for where Episode IX is heading. This is by far the riskiest Star Wars movie ever and is what the franchise needs to survive and not peter out anytime soon. Johnson pushes the franchise into new directions and while some fans are upset that the movie does not feel like any of the previous films, it is a great sign that people are willing to make a Star Wars film that deals with themes as large as The Last Jedi does.

Even though the movie has about twenty minutes that could have been trimmed off and some of the comedic elements just flat out miss, The Last Jedi is still a grand success. As both a massive Star Wars fan and a lover of cinema, this film works on so many levels that it overcomes its faults. Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a different Star Wars movie that works well as a standalone film and as the bridge to the concluding film of this new trilogy.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi: 9 out of 10

Photo Credit: http://www.starwars.com/films/star-wars-episode-viii-the-last-jedi

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