Star Wars Episode 8: The Last Jedi (2017) Retrospective Review

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Time: 152 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker
Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa
Adam Driver as Kylo Ren
Daisy Ridley as Rey
John Boyega as Finn
Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron
Andy Serkis as Supreme Leader Snoke
Lupita Nyong’o as Maz Kanata
Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux
Anthony Daniels as C-3PO
Gwendoline Christie as Captain Phasma
Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico
Laura Dern as Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo
Benicio del Toro as DJ
Director: Rian Johnson

Jedi Master-in-hiding Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) unwillingly attempts to guide young hopefully Rey (Daisy Ridley) in the ways of the force, while Leia (Carrie Fisher), former princess turned general, attempts to lead what is left of the Resistance away from the ruthless tyrannical grip of the First Order.

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In my original review of Star Wars Episode 8: The Last Jedi, I indicated that some people were probably going to take issues with certain moments in the movie. But I had no idea that this movie would be as divisive as it turned out to be. As it is, I still consider The Last Jedi to be one of the best movies in the series, even if there’s a few parts I don’t love.

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The Last Jedi is very likely the most thematically rich film of the entire series, it touches on themes of failure and how great of a teacher it is (which is even said by Yoda during his scene). Every character fails in some way, but they learn and grow from that failure. It shows how inspirational hope can be, and that there are really no good sides in a war. Also its a Star Wars movie which actually has the most amount of shades of grey as opposed to just black and white, it’s a study of both the light and dark sides of the force, really taking a deep dive into the mythos. Sure it could’ve gone deeper and done more, but it’s more than the past Star Wars movies. With all that being said, as far as blockbusters that subvert expectations and causes a divide go, The Last Jedi isn’t all that special. With The Force Awakens, J.J. Abrams gave a starting point for the next director to continue. So with The Last Jedi, director Rian Johnson really didn’t ‘destroy’ anything from Abrams with the decisions he went with. As it was, I liked it quite a lot. There are certainly some aspects that were better than others, I was more invested in Kylo Ren, Luke and Rey then say Finn and Rose’s storyline. However, Johnson generally takes some directions that are interesting for the Star Wars series.

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I liked the storyline focusing on Rey and Luke and their interactions. Much has been said about the portrayal of Luke in this movie (such as how he almost killed Ben Solo), I’m in the “this is a natural continuation for the character” camp. It really does seem like a lot of the divisiveness around this movie came from this one plotline and portrayal oddly enough, but I’m glad that Johnson was willing to go in this direction. This is also where it does go into some of the shades of grey I mentioned earlier, and it was interesting seeing how it played out. I also liked Kylo Ren in his storyline. Even though he doesn’t do a whole lot throughout in the plot until the end, it’s clear he is very conflicted throughout, and it was interesting to watch what he did next. The Resistance storyline was also solid. It was mostly just them having to run away from The First Order and it was rather simplistic, but it worked and you felt the stakes. Although it wasn’t one of my favourite parts of the movie, I also liked Finn and Rose’s plotline fine enough. When people talk negatives of the movie, usually the first thing they bring up is the Canto Bight segment involving them. It is fine, it’s not like this section had no purpose at all, and I can sort of see why Rian put it in. Though it’s definitely the weakest section of the movie, at least when compared to the rest of the movie. The third act I thought was put together well, especially with how everything was resolved. It tied up the plotlines and characters well, and it was also probably the most heroic way for Luke Skywalker to go out while avoiding just playing as fanservice.

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Actingwise, the standout of the movie for me was Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker. His portrayal of an initially weary and broken down Luke is impressive and probably one of the best performances in the Star Wars series as a whole. Daisy Ridley was also once again good in the role of Rey, although I feel like of the major characters, she goes through the least development. One idea I liked that they introduced was how she’s a nobody. While I and many people beforehand were previously thinking about her being a Kenobi or even a Palpatine, when Kylo said that her parents are nobodies, I liked that idea so much more. Adam Driver once again was great as Kylo Ren, continuing to show himself as one of the best characters in the series. As I said earlier, throughout this movie he’s conflicted and he greatly conveyed his struggles. John Boyega does well as Finn, going through a character arc, starting off wanting to run from the Empire, and by the end was willing enough to sacrifice himself to try to save the rebellion. Oscar Isaac gets to do more as Poe Dameron this time compared to back in The Force Awakens, in which he appeared in just the first and the third acts, and he’s natural solid. He’s got quite a good character arc here too, and it definitely plays much better on a second viewing once you know what’s going on in that particular storyline.

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Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico received quite a lot of hate in this movie, but I thought she was pretty good here. There are some problems I had with her and Finn’s storyline, but that’s it. If we are talking about the weakest major character in this movie, it would be Benicio del Toro as DJ, a codebreaker that Finn and Rose find, even though I do like Del Toro as an actor. He seems really out of place, and not in a good way. With all that being said, I do get the point of his character, showing some of the morally grey aspects between The First Order and the Resistance. Laura Dern is also great as Holdo, and she even gets one of the best scenes of the movie where she light speeds through the First Order fleet. Andy Serkis got a little more screentime and things to do as Supreme Leader Snoke compared to The Force Awakens, and while the character doesn’t have much to him, Serkis played him excellently (not to mention the visual effects and motion capture is fantastic). Hux played by Domhnall Gleeson was pretty much used as a joke character to be tossed around by Kylo Ren and Snoke, but he did work well as that. Gwendoline Christie’s Captain Phasma was pretty pointless, she shows up, looks cool, and then gets axed quickly like in The Force Awakens. I sort of wished that she somehow appeared in The Rise of Skywalker, because then there’d be a running joke of her somehow surviving from the previous movie to appear in the sequel to only then get bumped off again. At least she got to have a fight scene here.

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Rian Johnson directed this movie very well, and he added something fresh to the series with the way everything is shot, the action itself, and more. He really gives the film a sense of urgency and dread, filling it with heavy emotion but at the same time a spark of optimism. It’s one of the best looking movies of the series too, from the throne room fight, to the final ice planet, it all looks beautiful and the worlds are presented greatly. John Williams’s score does the job, once again with the themes for Rey and Kylo Ren really being the standouts.

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Star Wars Episode 8: The Last Jedi remains the most divisive movie of the series, which is saying a lot, but I’m glad to be one of the people who loved it. It’s entertaining, very well made and makes some bold choices. The Empire Strikes Back is still my favourite Star Wars movie, but The Last Jedi comes pretty close afterwards. If it still ends up happening, I’m very much looking forward to what Rian Johnson has in store with his new Star Wars trilogy.

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