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Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Platform(s): Movie
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Walt Disney Pictures
Developer: Lucasfilm
Release Date: Dec. 15, 2017


Movie Review - 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi'

by Adam Pavlacka on Dec. 15, 2017 @ 9:40 a.m. PST

Having taken her first steps into the Jedi world, Rey joins Luke Skywalker on an adventure with Leia, Finn and Poe that unlocks mysteries of the Force and secrets of the past.

Two years ago, J.J. Abrams and Lucasfilm brought us "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." A continuation of the Skywalker story, "The Force Awakens" was an enjoyable return to form, but one that suffered from too many reused story threads. Thankfully, director Rian Johnson wasn't afraid to step outside the familiar with "Star Wars: The Last Jedi." Unlike Abrams, Johnson takes the story of the Jedi and the Sith to new places, providing fans with a movie that allows all of the key characters to shine.

"The Last Jedi" picks up right where "The Force Awakens" left off, with Finn (John Boyega) in a coma and Rey (Daisy Ridley) meeting Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) for the first time. Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) is still a hotshot pilot, while General Leia (Carrie Fisher in her final role) is leading the Rebel forces against the First Order fleet. Of course, not everything happens as you might expect, which is a credit to Johnson's direction and the solid story plotting. Some of the story beats are obvious, though a few are suitably disguised by red herrings, with Johnson leading the audience in one direction before throwing a curveball and pulling it back in the other.

One interesting story choice is the fact that each of the three main characters — Finn, Poe and Rey — each have their own arcs. It was a risk separating them for the bulk of the film, but it pays off in the end, as each has their own demons to face. How each rises to the challenge — and more importantly, how they learn from those challenges — are defining moments in the film. Characters that felt like mere archetypes in "The Force Awakens" end up as complex and flawed, but full of depth here.

Character development extends to the supporting cast, with Luke having his own set of issues to confront as a Jedi master in self-exile. Hamill handles the role with both levity and gravitas, at times channeling Sir Alec Guinness, yet not coming across as a carbon copy. The old Jedi may be ready to retire, but when he is forced to confront the forces opposing him, Hamill does an excellent job of presenting Skywalker as a force to be reckoned with.

Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is perhaps the biggest turnaround from the last film. In "The Force Awakens," Kylo felt like a laughable villain who was a mere stand-in because the real "big bad" was shrouded in mystery. In "The Last Jedi," Kylo is anything but one-dimensional, which is a credit to both Driver and Johnson.

As much as I enjoyed what Johnson did with "The Last Jedi," the film does stumble in the beginning. The first 30-45 minutes feel a bit slow, as all of the groundwork is laid for what is to come. Sometimes, less is more, and if Johnson had been a bit more judicious with what he put on the screen, the film would have been better for it. The same can be said for the random humor that is scattered throughout. Much of it is well placed, but there are a handful of moments, including Poe's opening lines, that feel off. It's as though they were lifted from a modern-day TV sitcom, rather than natural dialogue from a war zone. When it happens, the tonal shift can be jarring.

With that said, one scene-stealing bit of humor that absolutely works has to do with the Porgs. The little critters are cute, and Johnson smartly uses them sparingly, but when Chewbacca faces off against one of them, it just works.

Visually, "The Last Jedi" doesn't pull any punches, with the space battles, the ground battles, and the lightsaber battles all playing out with the requisite scope. Combat isn't just ships firing at each other, or X-Wings and TIEs dogfighting. Pilots on both sides of the battle execute smart moves, which accentuates the push-and-pull nature of the conflict. You could make wallpaper out of nearly any combat frame of the film. The sound mix is similarly good, with Lucasfilm's audio artists making excellent use of positional audio. It'll be a shame if the eventual Blu-ray disc doesn't include a Dolby Atmos audio track.

The one aspect I can't comment on is the 3-D presentation, as the media screening was in a 2-D Dolby Cinema.

Ultimately, "The Last Jedi" is the best Star Wars film to hit theaters over the past few years. It avoids the mistakes of "The Force Awakens" and has better character development than "Rogue One." While there is a nod to "The Empire Strikes Back" within the film, "The Last Jedi" is most certainly not a retelling of that classic story. This is a film that moves the universe forward in a believable way, while clearly standing on its own two feet.

Score: 8.5/10

"Star Wars: The Last Jedi" is rated PG-13 and has a running time of 2 hours and 32 minutes. It is showing in 2-D, 3-D, and IMAX 3-D.

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