Star Wars: The Last Jedi

It’s finally here!  The new Star Wars movie!  This is episode VIII in the ongoing saga as opposed to the one-offs like last year’s excellent Rogue One.  The Last Jedi is also the middle episode of the third trilogy.  Often in middle episodes there are narrative problems.  They have to continue the plot of the first installment and set up the final one so there is a feeling of being dropped into the middle of a story.

So does The Last Jedi avoid this?

The answer is that I don’t know and neither probably do you.  First of all every Star Wars movie already plops you down into the middle of some plot or another, so we’re used to it.  At this point Star Wars is like a long running TV show.  We know the characters so well that we don’t really need any further characterization.

But what about someone who has never seen any of the movies and who has somehow evaded any discussions about the plot and characters?  Would they be able to understand the plot?  Would they know why everyone was in awe of Luke Skywalker when he finally appears in the final battle?  Would they be as thrilled by that moment as the rest of us were?

Of course it doesn’t really matter.  Such a person doesn’t exist.  Like Bond and a handful of other franchises, Star Wars doesn’t have to follow the rules.

I’m not going to tell you anything about the plot.  If you haven’t seen the movie, you don’t want it spoiled and frankly it’s a little convoluted and drawn out anyway.  The action is pretty much non-stop and there are some great set pieces.  There’s also a little drama, philosophy and politics mixed in but never fear, that’s all done pretty seamlessly.  Writer/Director Rian Johnson does a great job of shepherding this thing through.

When I tell you the tone of the movie is pretty dark you may assume that The Last Jedi is reminiscent of The Empire Strikes Back, just as The Force Awakens recalls A New Hope.  Actually, I think the tone is closer to Rogue One.  There is a greater appreciation of how serious the conflict is and how high the price is for fighting it.

The performances are fine, especially the old hands like Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher in her last performance.  They don these familiar roles like old comfortable shoes that were broken in years ago.  Daisy Ridley continues the process of rounding out Rey as a character.  There were a lot of things in there that I think foreshadow future installments.  Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren isn’t quite as whiny as in The Force Awakens but his maturation is still in process.  John Boyega as Finn is as steadfast as ever.  And newcomer Kelly Marie Tran is wonderful as Rose Tico, a mechanic, working for the Resistance who becomes smitten with Finn.

When executive producer Kathleen Kennedy and Disney took over Lucasfilm, many were nervous about the result.  I myself was hopeful and felt like they could hardly do worse than Episodes one through three.  Now after three excellent films under Kennedy’s guiding hand, I think the new management has built up considerable benefit of the doubt, much like Marvel has.  If at some point in the future they do make a clunker—and this is almost inevitable—they will survive it.

I cannot wait for the next one.

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