Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a complex and layered movie, with some of the best scenes in Star Wars history. It’s also over-long, sometimes silly, and has what might be some of the worst scenes in Star Wars history. The light ultimately outweighs the dark, though, making it pretty easy to wholeheartedly recommend The Last Jedi.
I should start with a disclaimer: I am not a Star Wars mega fan. I think the original trilogy is overrated, the prequel trilogy is actually guilty fun, Rogue One is just downright depressing, and The Force Awakens is the only Star Wars movie that actually qualifies as a good movie. So, with that out of the way, here’s my non-spoiler review of Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
There’s nothing like that starting music and the crawl to fill an audience with excitement, and this movie was no exception. From the word go, I was in a crowded theater of very excited fans who cheered at all the right times. The movie starts with action to set the scene, but ultimately it’s just the set up for the B-plot. It’s exciting and visceral, and we finally get to see Poe Dameron be the pilot we were promised he was, but the movie doesn’t really get good until we check back in with Rey and Luke.
The acting in this movie is superb, with even the sillier parts being sold as well as they can be by measured, earnest craft. I was especially impressed with Mark Hamill. He’s a much better actor than he was 40 years ago, and he brings a lot of layers to Luke, who manages to still be both a wise Jedi Master and a scared little farmboy. Daisy Ridley impressed again, and I found myself liking Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren far better this time around.
The Last Jedi has a very strong theme that, although subtle, is carried carefully throughout every character’s arc, each mirroring this idea that really all starts with Luke. Without understanding the theme, the movie can seem a little haphazard, with some dubiously bad choices by the characters, but when you put it all together, it’s easier to accept. Star Wars tends to be about the light and the dark, but The Last Jedi has many more shades of gray, which is both refreshing and intriguing.
That’s all of the good, but there is some bad. Poor Finn has a side-plot that feels unconnected from the movie and pointless on top of that. His new sidekick, Rose, is an interesting enough character, but being attached to Finn for this particular outing does her no favors. Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron is a certified badass who dominates his scenes, but his character arc seems to be dampened by the choices of those around him. And with all due respect to the late Carrie Fisher, some of her scenes are cringe-worthy, not because of her acting, but because of some clunky execution of plot.
Interestingly, I feel like writer and director Rian Johnson took a good hard look at The Force Awakens, took the parts he liked and promptly discarded the parts he didn’t. This can be jarring in a few places, when mysteries set up in Episode VII are ignored, circumvented, or completely trivialized, but it is for a greater purpose and vision that ends up working out in the end. Though his movie doesn’t zip along at the same pace as Abrams’ Episode VII, Johnson makes up for it with better cinematography and by delivering one scene that is hands down the most beautifully shot and exhilarating lightsaber scene in all of Star Wars. I may watch the movie again for that scene alone.
Overall, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a great movie. This is one that I know you’ll watch anyway, but do so with the comfort that you’re in for a truly exciting treat. Is it better than The Force Awakens? Well, it’s a better movie for sure, but I don’t know if it’s as enjoyable. Exploring the gray areas between the dark side and light side can be uncomfortable at times. It is rewarding, though, and leaves you more to think about than your typical Star Wars movie. It will benefit from repeat viewing, and it creates character arcs that will leave fans debating things for years. That is a job well done.