I admit I found it incredibly hard to be excited about the newest Star Wars movie to grace us this holiday season.
That was mainly because of the movies that had come before it. Last year it was Rogue One, a film that dealt intimately with an event the mainline movies briefly mentioned as important. Rogue One had many things going for it, like the fact that it is probably one of the greatest plot hole covers ever made — besides another Star Wars creation, The Clone Wars animated show — but the film lacks character depth and the absence of a true villain of its own keeps the movie from being truly fantastic.
The year before that we saw The Force Awakens; a good star wars movie. A good star wars movie is the only way to describe The Force Awakens. Besides a few interesting beats, the seventh movie is a remake of the fourth that followed a formula to add worth to its existence. An existence that desperately wanted to say that the new franchise was still Star Wars, and thus did nothing inventive.
The Last Jedi is nothing if not inventive. It feels like The Last Jedi loves playing with fans of the series. Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher give stellar performances as Luke and Leia. Luke in this movie is an absolute gem and watching Mark strut his stuff as the legendary Jedi master brings humor and weight to the story.
Some fans, myself included, were worried about Luke simply taking the place of Yoda in what would be a remake of the fifth movie, and The Last Jedi teases viewers with signs of this happening. However Luke is shown to be a much different master then the venerable green puppet, and his training methods and character shine through as unique to a series known for cliche. Hamill’s older Luke is a cynical man who is aware of his legend — someone who has made it out as the victor in a tumultuous war and since then has had time to reflect on the damage done. Thus, when Daisy Ridley’s Rey comes along and tries to bring the news that hope and friendship win the day, Luke is there to shed a different light.
On the other side of the story is where Fisher’s Leia shines. Simply trying to keep a spark of rebellion alive we see Leia and her resistance fight against the First Order’s plans to destroy them. Being a wizened general, we see her perspective on the notions of “heroes” and how they are no good in death; and instead sometimes just keeping the flame lit is all that can be done. We also see the other members of the cast shine throughout these sections as they not only deal with infighting amongst themselves but the larger enemy looming ever nearer. However, there is one character who exists to spout the cliches the rest of the movie strives to break that it is hard not to see her actions as laughable. One particular moment has this character spouting about hope and good intention as a blast reeks havoc to her allies; a blast that only happened because she stopped someone from sacrificing himself to stop it. Although a touching scene about hope in dark moments, it was almost laughable because of how little her character fits the tone of the movie. Other characters had more depth and only had a slight glorious moment on the screen.
In The Last Jedi, you will see these moments and they will blow you away; like a cruiser jumping to lightspeed straight into an enemy armada, or thirteen land crafts on a planet of salt kicking up vibrant red dust as they speed their way to a stand against an overwhelming force. All of these moments are undercut however by the sheer amount of subplots left unfulfilled by the end of the movie. With a two hours and 33-minute runtime, the movie felt overpacked and not able to do everything it was going for. Some plots feel unimportant at the end, only to be remembered for the images that were inspired by them.
Those images are amazing though. There are some that are not just aesthetically pleasing but symbolically important for the franchise as a whole. One scene has two old friends watching a tree burn down in front of them, as the ashes of their past work accumulate they watch the pyre grow to welcome in the new era that comes. Another scene has two foes face each other just as Anakin and Obi-Wan had in the climatic end of the third movie, with fire both in the shot and in each of the combatant’s eyes.
It has flaws, quite a few, but The Last Jedi is worth seeing in theatres this holiday season, especially if you have a vested interest in the series. If you are not a Star Wars fan some of the movie will fly over your head, but even with that I do not feel that you need to watch any other movie in the series to be able to keep up with The Last Jedi. It will be improved if you do have the knowledge of the main series, but not made. The Last Jedi stands on its own as a novel addition to the franchise and I highly suggest you go see it in theatres with a few non-talkative friends.