Review – Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Director: Rian Johnson

Writers: Rian Johnson, based on the characters created by George Lucas.

Composer: John Williams

Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver

Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi

Rating: PG-13

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is commonly touted as the “most anticipated film of the year.” It’s not without good reason. Star Wars is one of the most successful movie franchises in the world, and since it’s expected to break box office records, Disney has made unprecedented demands on cinemas should they wish to screen their film.

However, sometimes the amount of buzz and excitement a film receives gets misinterpreted as also being high in quality. I’ve heard many movie buffs say, “This was the best film I’ve seen all year… well, at least until The Last Jedi”, as though they’re particularly holding a VIP pass for Episode 8 in their personal top ten. Yet fans old enough to have witnessed the theatrical releases of Episodes 1 through 3 know all too well that this might not be the case. Yes, Star Wars is not immune to lemons. Of course, that doesn’t dampen the hype, and even we at GUG can’t resist the temptation to try to predict or hypothesize what’s coming next in this series.

Though so far The Last Jedi is looking promising. This time Rian Johnson is directing this behemoth of Hollywood fortune. He is most notable for helming “Ozymandias,” the penultimate episode of Breaking Bad’s series finale, which is often claimed to be the best piece of television ever crafted and is still sporting a 9.9 rating on IMDB years after it aired. So the idea behind The Last Jedi taking out the gong for the best film of the year may not be so far-fetched as one might initially assume. Either way, reviewing this film is daunting for this critic, because the expectations are so high, making the fall so much greater. So let’s keep an open mind as we delve into this soon-to-be Hollywood box office success story and see how The Last Jedi really compares to 2017’s cinema offerings.

Content Guide

Violence/Scary Images: Intergalactic spaceship battles take up a large portion of the film. Large laser blasts are fired upon ships, causing them to explode in a puff of flames. Several times we see the fiery explosions encroaching on doomed characters. Bodies are thrown into space, and one body is seen frosting over.

Lightsaber fights are also common (laser sword fights). There is no blood as the laser cauterizes the wounds of the victim. Several characters are sliced or stabbed and die instantly. One character is split in half horizontally–there is a close up of the division later on, and it is a little gory. Some characters have telepathic and telekinetic powers. They choke people from afar, fling them across rooms, forcefully retrieve information from their minds, and can electrify their victims. There are some discussions about killing other people. A number of characters sacrifice themselves in order to save others. There is a heartbreaking scene revolving around the eating of meat. Animal-like creatures are seen working against their will.

The Last Jedi is the most consistently violent film in the franchise, where the attack is relentless and unmerciful, where some scenes are the equivalent of seeing fish shot in a barrel.

Language/Crude Humor: R2-D2 swears, though obviously it’s just beeps and boops despite the other character understanding the language. There is a d*mnit, and *ss is said once.

Drug/Alcohol References: Alcoholic drinks are seen on trays and being served to people. One CGI character is completely intoxicated.

Sexual Content: A woman kisses a man on the lips. A cow-like creature is milked, though its teats are more reminiscent of a woman’s breasts. This milk is immediately drunk by a character. It is meant to be a humorously grotesque moment.

Spiritual Content: The way of the Jedi is directly stated as a religion. It shares qualities with pantheism. A spiritual essence known as the Force flows through all living things, though only certain people can harness its power. The Jedi, the good characters that can utilize its power, are likened to deities, though it is remarked that it is merely due to legends building over time. There are also characters that use the dark side of the Force (use its power for evil). Sometimes the film promotes an anti-theistic approach, rejecting long-loved beliefs in favor of following one’s personal convictions. Ultimately the film promotes a balance between good and evil (similar to Hinduism), as opposed to one dominating the other.

Other Negative Content: A few scenes are set within a casino-like complex. Characters are seen gambling at tables by rolling dice. There is talk about the ethics involved in the selling of weapons to evil characters; one taking the view that it is merely business. Horse racing is seen, though it’s with fictional creatures. However, this practice is rebuked, citing animal cruelty. Betrayal and mutiny also feature in the film.

Positive Content: The importance of hope is strongly highlighted, and how it isn’t the destruction of what one hates, but rather the saving of what one loves. Like the other films in the series, it touches upon the themes of redemption and the idea that people should not judge from the outside. It also sends the message to respect leadership and the decisions of elders.

Review

Let’s just jump straight to it. Yes, it’s good. See it on the biggest screen if possible. Like most movies set in space, the 3D is wonderful in regards to depth perception, though don’t expect anything to jump out from the screen. Early sessions of this film will be packed, so make sure you head to the cinema early to beat the queues. It’s also quite long, which will test your bladder and your child’s attention span. There! For those that are absolutely paranoid about spoilers, that’s all you need to know. Go forth and enjoy yourself!

…Unless you are new to this franchise, in which case, go home! What are you doing to yourself?! Don’t start at Episode 8! The learning curve is just too steep for newbies to enjoy this one.

For others who would like a bit more information (though still no major spoilers) then read on!

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a film that I enjoyed but didn’t love. Some aspects of the film are the best we’ve seen from this franchise, while other portions weaken where it ranks amongst the others.

From a technical standpoint, this film cannot be criticized. The production design is absolutely stunning. Say what you will about the First Order, but they do have nice sleek interiors! There is some really lovely lighting and magnificent cinematography at play here as well. John Williams, once again, delivers the perfect score to accompany the film.

The Last Jedi also features tremendous performances from the main cast. Daisy Ridley continues to prove herself as a capable lead. John Boyega and Oscar Isaac are also wonderful to watch. As for the returning cast from the originals, this is the best we’ve seen from Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill, the latter especially. Hamill injects both humor and gravitas to the role and contributes to the nicely blended tonality of the film in general.

Adam Driver is an absolute powerhouse. He is a fine actor, who is an expert in layering his emotions. For a character that is so raw with his energy, Driver does well to also produce an air of mystery. Kylo is not an easy book to read, despite his personality dictating otherwise. With a lot of talent amongst the cast, it also means that the lesser, side characters stand out all the more when they don’t nail their lines. So The Last Jedi, unfortunately, doesn’t deliver a perfect streak in the acting department.

The puppetry is also off at times. One of the difficulties with this franchise is the fact that it has spanned decades of cinema history. It has been forty years now since A New Hope, and technology in films has come a long way since then. It’s therefore difficult to tie in the films from an artistic standpoint. While the production design team nailed it, sometimes the puppetry feels too fake within the film and out of place, especially when some creatures are presented in CGI. Then again, while the effects might have taken a back step and is not comparable in quality to what we’ll no doubt see in films like Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, it does inject the film with an 80s vibe. So it’s jarring, yet oddly fitting.

Where the film really does excel in regards to special effects is with its action sequences. Lightsaber battles harken back to samurai sword fights. While nobody can really top Darth Maul, the choreography is snappy, modern, and isn’t cheated by frantic editing. Similarly, The Last Jedi also provides some of the best starship battles as well. There are a lot of them in this film, so it was wonderful to see new tactics and not the same thing over and over again.

The biggest issues with this movie, however, revolve around the narrative and its structure. For those that don’t wish to know anything in regards to this aspect of the film, thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy your cinematic experience! If you’re still with me, don’t worry; I have no plans to reveal anything that would count as a spoiler.

As a positive, unlike The Force Awakens, the film doesn’t stoop to providing cheesy moments of fan service. The nods and winks that are featured don’t detract from the tone of the film. For the most part, prominent questions are answered, and a number of character arcs will satisfy audiences. The lore of this fictional world is deepened, especially in regards to how the Force works. New powers are seen, which will divide the fans. One scene in particular, while lovely, does come close to jumping the shark.

Thankfully the same cannot be said about the Porgs. Many worried that they might follow the same path as Jar-Jar Binks, in that they’ll overstay their welcome. It’s with pure delight to report that they aren’t annoying; rather they are a wonderful dash of laughter in an otherwise serious film. The original trilogy was filled with light-hearted cutaways and character moments that popped with charm. The Porgs, along with a few other staple characters and new critters, lovingly provide this same quirky atmosphere, carrying this essential franchise-defining tone from the earlier films.

When it comes to genre, Star Wars has been described as many things, from a western in space, to a space opera. This is where The Last Jedi begins to strike out on its own. Whereas the original trilogy played out like an epic adventure, The Last Jedi features the simplest objective seen in a Star Wars film so far. Being the middle movie, it also has the luxury of not needing to wrap everything up, while most concepts and characters have already been established in The Force Awakens. Therefore there is a lot of time that is dedicated to character development.

So The Last Jedi, while the action sequences can’t be undermined, is actually more of a drama. Technically the prequels should also share this vein, though the hammy acting and poor screenwriting shifted the tone more into melodrama territory. Tonally, The Last Jedi parades the best of both worlds. It carries the light-hearted charm of the originals, while also going deeper and more serious with its lore and characters, as the prequels attempted.

Unfortunately, despite all the character development, it still misfires when it comes to hitting its emotional targets. The film is still very much a popcorn flick, even though it tries so hard to deliver a powerful message. It has followed the right formula, but it hasn’t managed to capture the magic found in the original trilogy, where goosebumps raise when Luke finds his purpose and that giddy sense of excitement during the awards ceremony. The Last Jedi is mentally stimulating, particularly when certain theories are addressed, but it’s emotionally cold.

This may be because the Star Wars franchise, in general, is dealing with situations that are so preposterous that it’s hard to relate to on a human level. This is where films like Blade Runner 2049 outshine The Last Jedi. Currently sitting (and still sitting) at the top of my list of the best films I’ve seen this year, Blade Runner 2049 delivers a stunning character journey that delves into the core issues as to what makes a person human. It’s a deeply evocative and profoundly heart-breaking movie, making The Last Jedi look like a salted desert landscape when it comes to the richness of its own themes. Simply put, The Last Jedi doesn’t nourish the soul and will go down in cinematic history more for its relationship with the other films in the franchise and its box office earnings, as opposed to its own merit.

Thinking of Blade Runner 2049 only makes me giggle further because the main complaint about that film was its length. I had many friends refuse to see it simply because they felt that 2 hours and 44 minutes was too long. If it hasn’t clicked by now, then let me point out the fact that The Last Jedi is only 12 minutes shorter. Will the same logic be applied to this film? Or will the hype override this pesky detail?

As the longest Star Wars film to date, I believe the sheer length of the film is its ultimate weakness. Like most westerns, it has a simple, straightforward goal, but when the goal is still not achieved after an hour and a half of screen time, the story quickly becomes tedious. It has just enough conflict and humor to remain entertaining, though it begins to all feel like a stalling tactic. Structurally it’s similar to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, where while the story ultimately passes the test, upon reflection, massive chunks can easily be singled out, completely useless in their progression of the real plot. Yet, all the scenes are interconnected, and it’s difficult to say what needed to be cut without destroying the narrative’s tapestry. While it’s just a simple story, it still needs to take its time.

Unfortunately, it means that the kids may need to stay at home for this one. Children will enjoy the humorous moments, but the story goes far too deep into the Star Wars universe for them to follow along comfortably unless they’re a hardcore fan themselves. Parts that are tedious for adults will prove boring for kids.

The length also impacts on the film’s rewatchability. Once the hype dies down and the excitement surrounding all the new information is discussed, fans may find themselves still reaching for the films in the original trilogy. They are just more fun to watch. Viewing The Last Jedi is a lengthy and heavy experience in comparison to the rest of the episodes in the franchise. Seeing this one at the cinemas multiple times will prove to be a taxing experience. As for other quibbles, the main complaint about The Force Awakens is also present in The Last Jedi, in that it rehashes things seen in the previous films. This time it’s not as extreme, and instead feels intended, much like the parallels we find in Biblical narratives, where allusions to past events aren’t a rip-off, but rather thematically enriching. We may just have to wait until Episode 9 to see how all these parallels in the Star Wars universe pan out.

There is also a massive plot hole, that once uncovered cannot be unseen. Yes, it’s as irritating at the whole ‘Death Star has a weakness’ flaw that required an entire film to fix. Once the excitement subsides, I’m positive this will be the new aspect that will be discussed ad nauseam until we get another spin-off!

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a technically beautiful film that tonally hits the mark, but ultimately lingers for too long. Despite its length, it manages to be entertaining thanks to featuring the best character conflicts and battles we’ve seen to date, though it’s not as emotionally rewarding as it strived to be. There’s nothing after the credits–feel free to just beat the crowds out the door!

Positives

+ Porgs! + Production design and other technical elements. + Acting. + Action sequences. + Character development. + Tonally balanced. + Pleases fans without resorting to blatant fan service.

Negatives

- Emotionally devoid despite the amount of time building the characters. - Runtime. - Not ideal for newbies to Star Wars. - Kids will be bored. - Fairly violent. - In hindsight, some story elements are inconsequential. Tedious. - Poor rewatchability compared to the other films in the franchise.

The Bottom Line

Star Wars: The Last Jedi delivers a thrilling, entertaining ride across the galaxy, though due to its tedious length, the plot begins to wear thin, missing its emotional highlights. Yet it’ll still be a crowd-pleaser amongst fans.

 

9

Juliana Purnell

After obtaining a Bachelor of Dramatic Arts, Juliana Purnell has enjoyed a successful acting career, working within theme parks, businesses, and on film sets. She has also taken on crew roles, both in film and theatrical productions. When Juliana isn't working, she enjoys watching movies of all genres at the cinema, writing, and playing with Samson, her pomeranian.

4 Comments

  1. Carissa Norris on December 21, 2017 at 6:02 am

    My husband and I decided keep the stuff with Ren, Ray, and Luke. Cut out everything with Leia, Poe, Finn, and Rose.

    And this is a spot on summary: “The Last Jedi is mentally stimulating, particularly when certain theories are addressed, but it’s emotionally cold.” The film is meh and doesn’t have much rewatchability.

  2. Caleb Smith on December 17, 2017 at 2:53 am

    Might you clue me in to the “massive plot hole”? I’m genuinely curious. I’ve seen the movie twice and don’t recall one.

    • Juliana Purnell on December 17, 2017 at 5:15 am

      To avoid spoilers, I have to be extraordinarily cryptic, but hopefully I’m clear enough. Since writing my review, I’ve spoken to a few of my friends about it, and they actually aren’t too bothered by it, but it’s an issue nonetheless.

      In TLJ, one of the sides find they are limited and can only use a certain tactic once and once more only. However, there is no mention of the other side suffering from this same limitation. Therefore, why can’t they utilise it to close the gap? Movie could have ended within 20 minutes. Some of my friends have said it’s too hard, but a character did something very similar in TFA. From what we’ve seen (in the films at least) with that mechanic, unless I’m missing something, there appears to be no reason as to why it can’t be done.

      In fact, TLJ opens up a few issues regarding that particular mechanic. Towards the end, in a jaw-dropping scene that I absolutely adored, it seemed clear that all the generals on both sides knew what was possible when that mechanic was used in a certain way. Which then begs the question as to why on earth it’s not used more often? It would be expensive. But droids exist and could be used to pull it off. (Then again, this opens up even more doorways as to why droids aren’t doing the dirty work more often, which I’m sure is a common question).

      Another issue which I’ve thought of since writing the article is why, after seeing a character have a pyromaniac moment on vegetation, they’re not more involved? That character and their ilk haven’t had much of an impact in the previous films, but TLJ displayed their ability to make a mark. Episode 9 now effectively needs to address as to why they’re playing a passive role.

    • Carissa Norris on December 21, 2017 at 6:00 am

      I don’t know if this is what they are referring to but it made zero sense why Leia and Holdo didn’t just tell everyone their plan to escape the pursuing First Order fleet. They just let people believe they’re going to sit there, make people feel hopeless, and do nothing until they get captured. Even if we make up some reason like they’re afraid of a defector, they could have at least told the bridge staff, some which decide to take over the ship with Poe when they are leaving. By then, JUST TELL THEM! Saving to tell Poe at the very last minute after he’s intiated a coup was absolutely ridiculous. To me, this was the number one error.

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