by Matt Sernaker, Managing Editor,
The holiday season is upon us, so it must mean that it is time for another Star Wars adventure! Rian Johnson (Looper) takes over the director’s chair for the latest installment – Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. The last thing I want to do is ruin Star Wars for anyone, so rest assured that this review only includes extremely minor spoilers.
Following the events of Episode VII:The Force Awakens, Rey attempts to talk Luke Skywalker into rejoining the rest of the universe and fight back against the continuing threat of the The First Order. Time is of the essence, as General Hux and Kylo Ren have launched an all out attack on the remaining Resistance fighters, and our favorite heroes are caught in their cross-hairs. With help from some new friends, Finn and Poe attempt to execute a daring plan to save their friends from certain annihilation. Who is The Last Jedi? Will Luke join in the battle? And who exactly are Rey’s parents? Patience young padawan…
The Last Jedi succeeds at doing something new and creative with the Star Wars franchise and shies away from being a rehash of things that we have seen before (cough cough Episode VII). This story feels more like a classic adventure than the most recent films, mainly because you can see the history and the meticulous aesthetic choices contained in each shot. Johnson’s take on the Star Wars universe is much closer to a segment from the original trilogy than any of the prequel films or the sequels thus far. The diversity and complexity of the practical effects were quite impressive, and there are several visuals that are sure to become fan favorites for years to come. The Last Jedi does feature several CGI heavy sequences, but it manages to blend the real world effects with the CGI in a seamless manner that enhances rather than detracts.
While we had to wait a few extra years for Luke’s full return to Star Wars, it was well worth the wait. Mark Hamill is incredible as the troubled Jedi Master, and you can see his inner turmoil over the events that created Kylo Ren. When Luke eventually joins the battle (which we all knew would happen at some point in the film), it is truly the epic arrival that we all hoped for. Carrie Fisher’s final performance as General Leia includes several moments of fan service but also demonstrates how impressive she was as an actress. She will truly be missed. Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron solidified his lead as my favorite of the new trilogy characters, and his opening segment was easily one of my favorite exchanges in the film. John Boyega spends this new story with Kelly Marie Tran (playing new Resistance member Rose), and the duo end up on a surprising side-quest to save the day. Daisy Ridley continues to impress as Rey, who struggles with connecting to both Skywalker and the corrupt Kylo Ren. I felt that Rey had strong chemistry with each of the characters, and it will be interesting to see her step out even further into the spotlight in Episode IX. The one character that I still struggled with was Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren. I was hoping that he would eventually get past the impetulant teenager stage to become a more imposing threat, but the story never makes it to that point. One last note about the cast, I truly loved how much Billie Lourd’s Lieutenant Connix was included in the sequel. While we might have lost her mother, she definitely was a bright spot in the film and it is nice to see her continue in Fisher’s footsteps.
The only challenge that I had with this installment was the pacing. It felt like there was a constant parade of cliff-hangers creating a feeling of “how are they going to get out of this one?” throughout the film. While Star Wars has always played up the action and high energy sequences, some of these moments were a bit more off-putting this time around. It was particularly noticeable in the second act, but the story course corrects before the grand finale.
For once, I didn’t feel that the trailers gave away much, if any, of the overall plot. We knew that Luke’s return would be central to the story, but that was about it. It is interesting how much of the story focuses on the characters wanting to break free from the vicious cycle of history and do something new, since that is also what fans have been craving from this franchise. I think that viewers will be pleasantly surprised by Johnson’s Episode VIII, and I am even more excited to see what he does with his recently announced future trilogy.
ComicsOnline gives Star Wars: The Last Jedi 4.5 out of 5 scenes of Chewbacca and the Porgs.
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