Movie Beat: “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” good but flawed


by Jenniffer Wardell

Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence.

Written by Rian Johnson, based on characters created by George Lucas

Directed by Rian Johnson

Starring Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Oscar Isaac and more.

Grade: Three stars

 

I really liked it, but I can see why other people didn’t.

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” the second installment in the newest trilogy, is one of those movies that remind me of those old 3D optical illusion posters. Look at it one way, and it’s an exciting adventure with several examples of interesting character development and a delightful sense of humor. Look at it another way, and it’s a complete mess.

“The Last Jedi” takes the unusual step of beginning almost immediately after “The Force Awakens” ends, with the New Republic leadership blown up along with their planet and the First Order seeking revenge for the destruction of their own base. Elsewhere, Rey has finally found Luke Skywalker, and attempts to convince him to join the fight against the First Order.

Telling you anything more about the plot would cheat you of the full “The Last Jedi” experience, except to say that everything that follows springs directly from those instigating events. There are also a few surprises, though of course I can’t tell you anything about those, either.

There’s always a risk with middle movies that the plot will feel like a filler, killing time while moving people into position for the big finish of the third movie, but in “The Last Jedi” things move rapidly enough that there’s no chance of being bored. The movie is too busy telling its own story to worry about setting things up for the next film, and as a result stands more easily as an independent film.

Not that it’s an easy experience to have, sometimes. Those familiar with the original trilogy will remember that the middle movie is usually where things take a much darker turn, and that’s true here as well. At the same time, though, there’s a strong overlying message about the importance of hope, and how big a job it is to keep that hope alive, that not only is a balm to those watching the movie but a message that I’d love to see carried out into the world as well.

Of course, some people interpret the plot completely differently, which is unfortunately a knock on writer/director Rian Johnson. There’s an old writer rule – if half the people don’t understand what you’re trying to say, you’ve written it wrong.

Thankfully, the humor in “The Last Jedi” is more reliably successful. The movie is surprisingly hilarious at times, more so than “The Force Awakens,” but the humor never cheapens or takes away from the seriousness of everything else that’s happening. It’s a wonderful balance (like the Force should be, ideally).

The character development experienced by various characters is fascinating, but on retrospect is unfortunately spotty. Poe Dameron officially takes his rightful place as the third member of this trilogy’s central trio, with just as much growth and development as the other members of the trio, and while Finn’s storyline seems less integral to the overall plot it gives him a chance to think on a grander scope than his life has a stormtrooper has previously allowed him. Rey’s character development, however, is more complicated – it fits her character, though it feels less full of promise than what the boys experience, and Johnson sometimes uses her too much as a foil for Kylo Ren. She’s allowed to make mistakes and be wrong about things, but it should have been more about her.

Mark Hamill is fantastic as Luke, and while I can understand people feeling Luke is out of character on a certain plot point I feel that was a problem with “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” as well. I don’t know if I agree that Luke, Leia or Han would have handled things like the new trilogy says they did, but since those choices are inherent in the new universe I’ve sort of learned to accept it.

(Photo © Disney)

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