Star Wars: The Last Jedi posterRian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi has received extremely positive reviews, some even going so far as to state that it is the best Star Wars movie since vaunted fan favorite The Empire Strikes Back. The bosses at Lucasfilm seem pretty pleased, too, with Johnson reportedly being offered the chance to direct The Last Jedi’s sequel (which he turned down), and now being named to develop a trilogy of his own. Count this reviewer in with the original trilogy purists who feel that no following Star Wars project has come close to the quality, scope, and, yes, magic of the first three films. This being said, The Last Jedi is the first Star Wars film since 1983 to be in the same ballpark. It is bold, unpredictable, overstuffed, and, best of all, emotional, a mixed bag to be sure, but not to be missed.

The film picks up almost immediately after predecessor The Force Awakens, with the Rebels being forced to flee yet another base (thankfully, Johnson quickly cuts loose, and fears of another quasi-remake like The Force Awakens are dispatched). At the same time, Rey (Daisy Ridley) gets an unexpected reception from Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) at watery Ahch-To. As The Last Jedi has more than its share of twists and surprises, I will say no more, aside from commending the film for a nice build from a meandering first half to a wild second, where danger seems real, and Star Wars tropes take a back seat to real characters.

Kylo Ren in Star Wars: The Last JediOf course, a writer/director this daring is bound to make some missteps, and there are some surprisingly bad ones in The Last Jedi, particularly in a first half that struggles to maintain a consistent level of excitement across the typically bouncing-all-over-the-place narrative. One major subplot in particular involving new character Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) just does not get there, despite the best efforts of the cast. Another quibble is some laughable space science, even by Star Wars standards, starting in the opening battle and continuing throughout. Most in the theater on opening night probably could not have cared less.

What is exciting about The Last Jedi is how much Johnson gets right. The better second half of the film leans on the cast, and they do not disappoint. Ridley is more polished as Rey, and provides a nice counterpoint to Hamill in the extended sequence on the Jedi island. John Boyega as Finn and particularly Oscar Isaac as Poe are given quite a bit more to do than in The Force Awakens, with Isaac evoking some Han Solo – esque swagger. The star of the film, though, is Adam Driver as Kylo Ren. Ren did not seem to have much depth in the first film, nor did being defeated by a fledgling especially help his villainous menace. This time around, Johnson’s script does the character justice, and we see perhaps our first convincing turn to the infamous Dark Side of the Force. I do not put The Last Jedi in the same class as the original trilogy, but, by the end of this film, Kylo Ren is the most compelling Star Wars character since Darth Vader, and that is saying something.

 

UGeek Rating: (4.0 / 5).