By Matthew Moorcroft
- Directed by Rian Johnson
- Starring Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Mark Hamill
Welcome to Star Wars Wednesdays! Every Wednesday I’ll be talking about/looking at a new piece of Star Wars media, starting with the movies and going onwards into the shows, games, and maybe even comics and books if people are interested. These will work differently from my normal reviews as they will be also discussing the piece as it works within the canon of Star Wars as a whole.
It’s kind of a shame, really, that The Last Jedi‘s reputation online tends to lean so far into divisive, toxic discourse that it’s become nigh impossible to actually talk about it. Hell, for months after it’s release, Star Wars fandom quickly became the most annoying and insufferable thing to be apart of, and it’s pretty much made that corner of the internet have a bad reputation ever since (albeit, it’s a justified bad reputation).
Frankly, I rarely try to bring in outside of engagement into my own analysis, but with The Last Jedi it’s nigh impossible to discuss this without it. The Last Jedi is so misunderstood by a large chunk of the internet from it’s detractors and even several of it’s defenders that it’s no wonder people won’t shut up about it. And indeed, I certainly won’t shut up about it either cause The Last Jedi is unequivocally, and unsurprisingly, one of the best blockbuster films released in the past 25 years and it’s not really that close.
From it’s opening shot which speeds through the last remnants of the Resistance fleet to it’s glorious, emotional final shot that harkens back to the fairy tales of old, The Last Jedi is the closest that Star Wars has gotten since 1977 to Lucas’ original intent. It’s a fairy tale in space, an allegorical war drama, a rollicking action-adventure flick, and a romantic opera all rolled into one; a mish-mash of everything amazing about film that also happens to be a killer, shockingly subversive Star Wars film.
Similar to A New Hope, The Last Jedi draws on Kurosawa but while that film aimed for Hidden Fortress, this film is drawing from Rashomon and Throne of Blood, and all of the themes that entail from those films. Rashomon‘s multi-perspective structure is brought over here to great effect as we see how one event changed the galaxy’s fate forever and in different perspectives. To one, it was a simple mistake, to another it was a betrayal of a mentor figure. And to the audience, it was a tragedy of happenstance. And yet, one where both sides are completely understandable to the audience. Luke’s character here is still on the hero’s journey, albeit the third act – the return of the hero, which is woefully forgotten in many circles as it’s the most difficult part to get right. When you come back a hero, where is there to go?
The Last Jedi uses this to question our relationship with authority figures as well as presents an interesting, new perspective on the Star Wars mythos. Instead of a world dominated by constant revolving door of bloodlines and magical fate, it instead presents a galaxy that is defined by the people in it. Rose and Finn’s trip to Canto Bight, which is a wonderful piece of pop artistry that harkens back to not just classic cinema but also the days of the prequels with it’s bizarre aliens and gorgeous locales, showcases the worst of the universe – which happens to be people profiting off the death and destruction that goes along with war. Something that, as an audience, we are already intimately familiar with after Rose’s sister is killed in a daring sacrifice. For once, the Star Wars universe feels strangely realistic in a way beyond just the lived in, and it’s a hard pill to swallow but it’s a necessary one.
Rian Johnson’s directorial style also turns out to be a stellar fit for the franchise, mixing in his trademark precision cutting and pans as well as his deft balance of humor and snark. While it tackles heavier subject matter then The Force Awakens, which was more comfortable being simply a grand old time at the movies, Johnson always remembers who the real audience of these movies are. The humor aims young and old alike, and while some of it may not be to everybody’s tastes it’s line with Star Wars films of the past. In fact, it’s probably one of the more consistently funny films in the series, particularly an opening “your mom” joke which unexpected but also ball-bustlingly funny. This balance of tones also extends to the cast, which Johnson is able to make otherwise lines of mystical babble sound like actual things that people could say.
It also just looks incredible. It’s hard to pick exactly what is the best looking movie in the saga as the majority of the franchise (in it’s theatrical form at least) tends to look fantastic, for my money The Last Jedi should at least be in contention for the top spot. The vibrancy of the way it looks, the precision of every angle, the calculative nature of the way Johnson uses montage. The Crait battle alone ranks as one of the most beautiful segments in the series, with every dust red cloud just popping off of the screen. And of course, the throne room battle, which is just amazing from top to bottom.
There is so much to discuss here and yet, it honestly just comes down to the same traits of The Last Jedi simply being a great film. It’s rare that we get a blockbuster that is just so good at what it does, and it’s the kind of film I feel like more studios should aspire to make – director driven, passionate blockbusters that are both crowd-pleasing while also artistic works worthy of discussion. Art is meant to be discussed and analyzed, and to me, the greatest thing one can say about The Last Jedi is that it’s worthy of passionate of discussion.