"Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi" (2017) Review
What is an ambitious blockbuster?
Blockbuster films by their own nature have to play within certain margins. They usually cost $150 million at the absolute minimum, and that's before you factor in the cost of marketing them in various territories all around the world. When those monumental costs are in play, it's pretty easy to see how blockbuster films have begun to resemble one another to their own detriment.
But the Star Wars franchise is on a whole other level. Arguably the film franchise that pushed the mega blockbuster further than any before it in the 1970s and the 1980s, it's monolithic status has afforded it the rare opportunity to occasionally go off the rails with less risk involved. The built-in audience allows Star Wars to take more risks, sometimes for the better (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story), sometimes for the worse (Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones).
Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi is easily the most ambitious Star Wars movie to date, and one that won't be anything short of divisive.
It's rare to see a film literally wield your expectations against you like a weapon. Whenever I hear a character in a film say a line like "This is not going to go the way you think," I usually roll my eyes. By the time Luke Skywalker says that in The Last Jedi though, the film has more than earned the line. The Last Jedi is going to floor fans of the franchise up to this point. It makes bold decisions that I love, ones that are not going to sit well with everyone.
And now I hit the roadblock of Star Wars reviews: Making sure not to spoil anything. It's incredibly difficult to review these films in particular due to the seven films worth of legacy building up to this (eight if you count Rogue One), so it's especially important to tread lightly.
The plot I can talk about picks up right after The Force Awakens, with General Leia's Resistance desperately attempting to stay alive while Rey tries to convince Luke Skywalker to teach her the ways of the Force. Again, neither of these main stories go the way you think they will. The other major subplots concern ace pilot Poe Dameron butting heads with the Resistance Leadership and Finn going on a covert mission with a new character Rose to help the Resistance's odds of survival.
Again, neither of these stories go the way you think they will. What I'll say about both of them is that it's impressive to see how the film is willing to let these characters to grow, and sometimes in painful fashion. That does come at the cost of pacing though, the second act being extremely long and I can't help but wish that the sub-plot with Finn and Rose was a little tighter. That being said, the ideas the sub-plot plays with in terms of morality in the Star Wars universe is downright fascinating and eventually necessary to the larger story.
The other thing that makes these several plots work though are the performers at play. All of the new actors are killing it and Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill in particular are standout performers. They aren't glorified cameos but real characters that fit into the overall larger story perfectly. And Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, and Adam Driver are all still as effortless as ever.
There's so SO much I want to talk about with The Last Jedi, but it dives deep into spoiler territory. I'll say that this is an especially beautiful Star Wars film, not that the other films look cheap mind you, but that the cinematography here is expertly constructed. Also, Rian Johnson, serving as the writer and director, has some very unique depictions of the Force. That's all I'll say there.
Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi is going to piss people off. There's no way around it. But I loved it and I hope you love it too. The possibilities it opens up for the future of Star Wars are wildly exciting to say the least. The playing field for the franchise has permanently changed and I'm simultaneously excited and terrified for where Episode IX will go after this.
And man, I'm really really REALLY looking forward to whatever Rian Johnson's trilogy of Star Wars movies turns into.