Stating that Star Wars: The Last Jedi had colossal shoes to fill should be an example in the dictionary for the word “understated”. Critically (93% on Rotten Tomatoes), financially ($247 million opening weekend, current record holder), and universally (#239 on IMDb’s top 250), Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a success that many feared could never be replicated. That said, I won’t beat around the bush; Star Wars: The Last Jedi, to me, is indisputably the greatest film in the saga and conceivably the year. I think film critic Devindra Hardawar accurately and articulately clarifies my opinion on the film, “Think of your ideal Star Wars movie. The one you’ve always dreamed of. The Last Jedi is better than that.”
I always use my expectations as an excuse for not reacting passionately about well revered and well made films; that will no longer be the case. My expectations for the eighth film were dangerously high, and it exceeded every damn one of them. I can count on one hand how many times since my cinematic awakening (what I pretentiously call my viewing of Christopher Nolan’s 2008 epic in theatres and my ultimate “cinephilization”) I’ve felt so passionate about a film; forgive me for I fear I may not yet be mature enough a writer to explain my opinion, but I absolutely, completely, unabashedly, and undoubtedly love this movie.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi picks up where Star Wars: The Force Awakens left off; Rey seeks the guidance of Master Jedi Luke Skywalker while Poe and Finn fight to save the resistance. The First Order creeps closer to the resistance’s demise, General Organa works to save her people, Poe and Finn struggle with morality and loyalty, all while the distinctiveness between the light and dark of the force becomes greyed.
Everyone knows the cast of the film, and all did admirable jobs, but a couple had the ability to outshine the others. The script allotted Mark Hamill and Adam Driver, playing Luke Skywalker and Kylo Ren/Ben Solo, respectively, to give performances that were as complex as their characters. You always hope to write your heroes and villains multidimensional, but then having actors who can portray it to a tee and a director who knows how to keep them empathetic is something extraordinary.
Ryan Johnson may seem like a household name today, but only three films and 12 years ago he was conducting a film to the tone of $475,000 (Brick). Any worry fans may have had that he’d not be up to the challenge need to be squashed immediately. We, as irately-needy and unappreciative consumers, do not deserve the film that Johnson fashioned. The overall tone of this film does not feel like a Star Wars film, it feels like a Ryan Johnson film with the characters and settings we’re familiar with. There’s no hero’s journey or stock Hollywood plot. This is unorthodox to say the least; the director and Lucasfilm took a risk that few studios would allow.
I dare you to look at each of the stills in this post and authentically tell me that it is not undeniably stunning. The cinematography in this film is unlike any I’ve witnessed with a budget over $100 million. Shots that are meant to solely set up for dialogue or informational purpose look better than the finest images in most blockbusters. Director of photography Steve Yedlin should clear his calendar on March 4th to get ready for the Academy Awards.
This film is not perfect; there are evident flaws that numerous critics, and I, have deemed less than satisfactory. Rey trying to train on Luke’s planet is tedious and downright boring at times, the casino planet is utterly uninteresting, and Finn and his new companion at times feels stiff. The difference between flaws in this film as opposed to others is that the lows may have been low but the highs could not have been higher. The sheer faultlessness of 90% of this film simply makes up for the not so stellar 10%.
Bruce Willis being dead at the end of The Sixth Sense was a twist, what happens continuously and unrelentlessly throughout this film can be summed up more as swerves. At times you may think you’ve figured it out, at which point Johnson won’t do the opposite, he’ll execute something you could never have fathomed. Don’t worry, those questions we’ve pondered since 2015 will be answered, but we’ve been asking all the wrong questions. The film implements plot and character verdicts that not only we weren’t anticipating, but that were simply unprecedented (I cannot wait to start writing the article “Top Ten Greatest Moments from Star Wars: The Last Jedi”).
“I can count on one hand how many times since my cinematic awakening I’ve felt so passionate about a film; forgive me for I fear I may not yet be mature enough a writer to explain my opinion, but I absolutely, completely, unabashedly, and undoubtedly love this movie.”
To end, I’ll divulge the one thing I cannot come to terms with about the film: is it too perfect? The Dark Knight Rises was a great and accomplished film, but since it came after the perfection that was The Dark Knight, it was doomed for failure for it’s impossible (improbable?) for lighting to strike twice. J.J. Abrams will be back in late 2019 to bring us Episode IX, and I pity him immensely. I love J.J., I loved Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but I do not think that he is a director who will be able to top this stroke of genius. Ryan Johnson delivered a film that will surely be polarizing between critics and viewers alike; a film that brought risk looking for reward. I never knew I could adore a Star Wars film so much and for the sake of my love of cinema, I’m exultant I did. In my heart of hearts, I don’t feel this is a fad nor a side effect of relishing in it so shortly after; I plan on, for the rest of my life, declaring my praise of this film.
Cinema 35 Rating: 10/10