Monday, January 8, 2018

The Last Jedi (2017)

Why review this movie? If you care about this movie, you've already seen it. That's because this is a yardstick review. You and I have both seen this movie, and you can use it to see if my other movie opinions might be useful to you. Hopefully they will be, because they are correct.

The Last Jedi is pretty punk rock for a Star Wars movie. Plot-wise, it's all about ditching lots of old boring Star Wars baggage. It openly mocks two tired, old Star Wars traditions: the concept that everybody in this story is related to each other, and the idea that the Jedi were even a good idea in the first place.

Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Luke (Mark Hamill) are wonderful, with the latter's performance being a particularly pleasant surprise after Harrison Ford managed to channel precisely zero of Han Solo's former charm in The Force Awakens. I get that he was supposed to be an over-the-hill space loser, but I don't think he was supposed to be only that.

The spotlight, however, rightfully continues to be focused on the new generation of talent. Daisy Ridley continues to be phenomenal, and her adversarial relationship with equally impressive Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is deeper and also more... intimate? Yes, it's intimate and it's weird, and that's a good thing. It's the first time Star Wars has managed to elevate itself above simple melodrama and give us an actual, complex relationship between human beings.

While we're at it, the Force itself feels weird and interesting and cool again. We're told that the Force is universal and awesome, transcending silly concepts we've tried to impose on it like Jedi and Sith. Even Yoda feels cool again: when Luke threatens to burn some sacred Jedi books, Yoda lights the fire himself. You corny motherfucker, he tells Luke. Those stupid-ass books were corny too! Fuck 'em! He's not even bitter! He's having a great time, living in the present. He's talking about the books on Luke's island, but he's also talking about boring old Star Wars canon in general.

The movie's not without flaws. Some characters' decisions make no sense, even in a movie about failure. Finn (John Boyega) spends all his time with Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) who's great, but at the cost of spending nearly zero screen time with Rey -- and Finn and Rose's subplot is actually really dumb despite the actors' completely adequate performances. Hux (Domhall Gleason) has also been transitioned into a pure comedy character and that just feels bizarre, despite a genuinely funny opening scene shared with Poe. There are also some weird crystal Pokemon looking things on the mineral planet. Did we really need those, in an already-overstuffed movie?

Rating: Probably the second best Star Wars movie

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