When my fathered introduced me to ‘Star Wars’ in 1985 I was just old enough to be in awe of the spectacle. Then the characters began to dig into my conscious mind and become a huge part of my view on popular culture. When the prequels came out I was ecstatic. I know a lot of people dissed them, but I loved them. I still love them! The acting and dialogue are subpar, but the characters and spectacle are as wondrous as it comes. I also long felt that ‘Revenge of the Sith’ was right behind ‘Empire Strikes Back’ as the second best in the ‘Star Wars’ universe.
Well, things sure have changed in the last couple of years. World class directors like J. J. Abrams, Gareth Edwards, Rian Johnson, and Ron Howard have been given the keys to the ‘Star Wars’ universe and they are surely delivering the goods. Out of all those talented names, Johnson was the one I was always most interested to see where he’d go. His films like ‘Looper’ and ‘Brick’ are unforgettable mind trips. And the ‘Fly’ episode he directed of ‘Breaking Bad’ is my very favorite single episode. The guy is just as talented a writer as they come and has a keen visual style.
All those qualities and more are brought stunningly to life in the eighth episode of this Skywalker Saga. Which is one of the few films that has genuinely unforgettable spoilers that you will be talking about for some time to come. I can’t mention any of them, but needless to say you will be impressed. By the time the surprises begin you will be fully invested and after the sixth new revelation you might be exhausted by the twists. In fact, as emotional as this film was the first time, I think it will be even more emotional now that I know some of these characters fates.
One way or another, this film is the blockbuster ride of the year! There are more explosions than you can count on ten hands. More laughs than most of the supposed comedies nominated for Golden Globes. And more twists than a figure skater a redneck wedding. Some might even say it’s too jam packed, but I don’t subscribe to the whole less is better bit. I come to the movies to be awed and I come to action movie spectacles to be pummeled by that spectacle. If I’m not worn out at the end and still begging for more then the roller coaster ride wasn’t much of ride.
This movie delivers all that and still manages to largely be a character piece. Don’t be dissuaded by the trailers either. Every character gets their arc in this plot. Rey (Daisy Ridley) gets the largest amount of time in her journey of self discovery. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) gets more development than any villain in recent memory. Finn (John Boyega) goes on an epic journey through the galaxy to find a master code breaker. He is joined by a newcomer named Rose (Kelly Marie Tran). Poe (Oscar Issac) learns all about living to fight another day from two strong female characters played by Laura Dern (Vice Admiral Holdo) and the late Carrie Fisher (Leia). Last, but certainly not least, is Luke Skywalker himself. I don’t want to give much away, but I can safely tell you that Mark Hamill gives the best performance of his career here.
I’m not going to spoil the plot at all on this one. They have kept the spoilers as far to a minimum as possible here and that’s a special thing. So, I’ll close with this. Big budget filmmaking is the hardest thing you can do in filmmaking. We shrug it off like it is a closed science, but it is not. You have to deliver character arcs while simultaneously executing unforgettable spectacle. You have to give the audience something fresh while remaining true to everything that comes before it. You have to give a little bit of everything to the largest audience you could imagine and it comes with a built in time restraint that a movie like ‘Lady Bird’ does not. And then you have to put up with these people who complain about too much of a good thing. ‘Star Wars’ has become a pastime that no other film has to match up to. For Rian Johnson to rise to the test and deliver a deep, dark, funny, rousing, and uniquely fresh film like this is nothing short of a miracle. That’s why ‘The Last Jedi’ is one of the best films of 2017!