Review: Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the boldest and most emotional Star Wars film yet

I thought long and hard about whether or not I really wanted to review this movie. In avoiding spoilers, most reviews of the film have said pretty much the same. I then decided to mostly write very vaguely about the themes and my own experience in the very first Norwegian screening, at 10 am on Wednesday 12 of December.

After The Force Awakens got criticized for being too similar to the original Star Wars, the question surrounding Rian Johnson’s sequel was how much it would resemble Empire Strikes Back, with that film being the golden standard for sequels and middle chapters going for a darker tone. Let me tell you, this film is not what I expected.

Whatever expectations or preconceived ideas you may have about The Last Jedi, better forget them now. Each time you think you know what will happen, the movie takes you in a whole different direction. More than just going zig where the rest would zag, I’m talking about going in a different plane of existence. At one point Luke says “This is not going to go the way you think”. Those words haunt The Last Jedi, and it may have haunted Rian Johnson too.

 

I was taken aback by how bleak and melancholic this movie was. There are allusions to Empire Strikes Back, but in ways you expect. Even if the movie begins with The First Order on the offensive and our heroes in the Resistance on the run, Rian Johnson turns the whole thing upside down by focusing on regular pilots and technicians of the Resistance who drew the short stick by not being played by top-billed actors. There’s a strong feeling of hopelessness in the first half of the film that resonate beyond the confines of the theatre – that opening scene was the first of many scenes to make me cry, as you do feel for the members of the Resistance. Not everyone will like a Star Wars film reminding them that the real world is awful, but it fits the story. Like in Rogue One we see the effects of the war and the evil of The First Order on regular non-Skywalker people and how just the sight of the Rebellion insignia gives them hope.

There’s a lot of talk about hope in The Last Jedi, like a lot. In that regard this is the film that feels the most connected to the themes of the original trilogy. Where the prequels tried to replicate the success of the original trilogy by giving us endless cameos, Rian Johnson gives us a film that resonates because of themes and not characters or locations.

The bleakness of the story is also a story of hope for the future. Mark Hamill – giving the best performance in the movie – plays a Luke that sees himself as a failure and wants the jedi go die with him. In the film, Kylo Ren says “Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to”. That line may very well be Rian Johnson talking to us about this saga itself, about the nostalgia we have towards the franchise and our expectations towards it.

However dark The Last Jedi may seem (trust me, it is dark and deeply melancholic) there is a lot of unexpected comedy in the film. We all know about the porgs – which I love and didn’t find distracting – but like any good Star Wars film, this one is surrounded by dozens if not hundreds of creatures, sets, locations, people that complement the film. The comedy may feel out of place at times, but I found it to be necessary to give the audience some catharsis after all the raw emotion that fills The Last Jedi.

Despite the darkness of the story, this is still a very fun movie with the grandeur you expect from a Star Wars film. The new additions to the cast, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, and Benicio del Toro fit nicely into the world and add some new and interesting personalities. The ever-inspiring music by maestro John Williams and the beautiful cinematography by Johnson’s usual collaborator Steve Yedlin makes this not only a great Star Wars movie, but a great movie.

The Last Jedi is without a doubt the darkest and most emotional film in the saga, while also having the most character development. Rian Johnson has made a Star Wars film to those who always dreamed of being part of the universe, a bold take on this universe that even ends with a character that could very well represent Johnson and the fans themselves.

Rating: Opening Night

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