The Last Jedi
Two and a half hours of Star Wars galore shortly before christmas? Sign me up. Rogue One had gotten me back into a Galaxy Far Far Away hype after Episode VII simply felt too scared to diverge from the original trilogy for my taste. I mean it even had a new, bigger Death Star, for christ sake… I can understand the reluctance to strike out anew with the third trilogy of main movies in the Star Wars Universe, as it might have crippled the franchise for good. But that wasn’t enough for me to have more than an enjoyable watch. The Last Jedi started similar, as I’d dreaded after watching the trailer with its Episode V vibe.
With the length of the movie came a pause at the 75 minute mark, and I’ll use this instance to break the movie into two near equal halfs. It’s interesting that it fits so well, because in the pause I was writing friends, who asked how the movie was: “It’s good, but nothing more…” And then, a few short minutes later, everything changed for me.
The thing is, Episode VII starts off with a bang. The Rebel Alliance is being driven into a corner by the First Order, their home base under attack not only by iconic Star Destroyers (or their simulacrums), but by a ship that dwarfes everything yet seen. It should be the end of the Resistance, but at the start of a movie, how could anyone believe that? What follows is a Star Wars action scene extravaganca with the near insurmountable odds being beaten through a sly move by the skilled Rebels. That such a move should have met with disaster in 99 of 100 tries is simply the trademark of the franchise.
After this explosive opening, the movie bogs down in the flight of the Rebels and the unwillingness of Luke Skywalker to follow Rey and again become the pillar for the Resistance. Luke has become a disillusioned old man waiting for the final fall of the Jedi Religion, unwilling to help Rey with her burgeoning powers, and the Rebels are finally out of options (as so often). Of course there is a crazy plan to get out of the clutches of the First Order and even Luke isn’t so far gone as to be unassailable by Rey’s persuasion attempts. In so far, this first half is recognizably Star Wars, if clad in somewhat more somber clothes and less vibrant colors. There are of course high points in this first half, like the opening battle and some breathtaking shots. But that was only good cinema, nothing that could bring back the full power of the Star Wars Universe, the magic it inhabited especially with its first trilogy of cinema history. And there are some low points too, like a near unrecognizable Luke, some deus ex moments, a cringe-worthy chase scene, and obvious franchise-bolstering through adding “cuteness”.
The second half however changed the movie to the best in the Franchise after the original three. With room to spare. It’ll be hard to explain why, because I don’t want to spoiler anything, but I’ll try.
Same as the trailer, the first half builds certain expectations, fitting for a Star Wars movie. Then everything changes. What we thought of as the red string of Episode VIII’s story becomes misdirection marred with the realism so often missing in this Space Opera. The somber tones become darker as everything balances on the point of a light saber. But there also comes beauty and grim struggle in the fight of the Resistance, the best Jedi fights yet seen, and a climax full of the Star Wars Magic we crave. You’ll not be sitting at the edge of your seat. Instead you’ll be trying to sink in deeper into its warm embrace as the dramatic struggle of the last few fighters of the Rebellion engulfs you with the thought: “this can’t be happening… can it?”. There are still some cop out situations as well as annoying references of important scenes from the original movies, but all in all it’s a refreshingly dark and powerful story in the Star Wars Universe detailing the desperate struggle of an outgunned Resistance and an inexperienced Jedi.
Of course, even with all the praise I give (mainly) the second half of the movie, there are still some annoyances here and there: like how can a Resistance numbering around 400 sentients be in any way a threat to the First Order, with its numerous and much stronger ships, greater man power, and led by a very powerful force user? Should be an open-and-shut case, even accounting for rebel ingenuity. But well, that’s Star Wars, am I right? And regarding Snoke, I have to admit that he had a much larger presence (no pun intended) as a hologram than in person. Yes, we’re shown he is an incredibly powerful force user, but his real self doesn’t exude that power very well.
I can only recommend the movie, because even with its lackluster first half, the second is great cinema and a new (old) face to the Battle between Jedi and Sith, Rebellion and Empire. I’m looking forward to the last movie in this trilogy very much and am finally happy with where the franchise is at the moment and hopeful for the direction it’s going.