Lea, the boys, and I are just back from a Saturday morning matinee of Star Wars: The Last Jedi at Monaco Pictures.
The Saturday morning matinee is proving quite an effective counter to my dislike of large crowds early in a blockbuster’s release. I would love to just wait—makes little difference to me whether I see it now or in two or three or four weeks—but the spoiler menace lurks. You have to go see a Star Wars film quickly as inoculation against spoilers. Otherwise, your only alternative is to withdraw from society until you see it.
Of course, with a Star Wars film just about anything can be considered a spoiler. Different things matter to different people, and nothing matters to no one. So, as with my review of Episode VII, I’ll keep this general.
Episode VIII is assertive filmmaking. While the previous movie never felt tentative per se, it carried a little establishing baggage that is only fully apparent with its sequel available for comparison. The Force Awakens “knew” it had work to do—the unenviable task of proving that the most beloved film franchise in history had been passed to competent people who weren’t going to screw it up.
“We got this,” says director and writer Rian Johnson. That’s how it feels from the first minute. There is a confidence here that speaks to a deep understanding of the Star Wars universe, as well as a willingness to manipulate its most established and revered components freely. There are some amazing new things. There are pleasingly evolving old things. And there are fearless turns taken. The story doesn’t mirror The Empire Strikes Back like The Force Awakens does A New Hope, but there are definitely thematic parallels. The Last Jedi is a darker movie, just as Empire was. The narrative is satisfying but obviously only paused, just as it was that summer of 1980.
The balance of drama, action, suspense, and humor is good. In terms of how these elements work together, there really isn’t a “typical” Star Wars movie. They are adjusted to serve the narrative from film to film, and the adjustment is much more effective in the original trilogy than in the prequel trilogy. In this regard, the kinship is with the originals.
Our friends Rey, Finn, and Poe are back. (And wow, I do hate crushing on a woman along with the entire free world, but I adore Daisy Ridley as Rey. She’s so lovely, and her character is tremendously appealing.) We get to know them a bit better. They make a few new friends. Some big pieces of their respective stories fall into place (or, in some cases, point in interesting new directions). They’re ours now. They belong. We’ll enjoy them for decades.
I should mention that this film has generated considerable discord in some quarters. It’s impossible to go into details without significant spoilers, so I won’t. I will say that I don’t share any views that this film is inherently defective, or has somehow betrayed what has come before it. Perhaps I’ll write some more about it when it’s not quite so current (though I’ll say I have a feeling time is going to heal these perceived slights).
I don’t necessarily want to sound like a gushing fanboy, but I think this is another outstanding effort. I have no complaints that aren’t nits, and there really aren’t even many of those. I’m not sure how The Last Jedi could be much better. We’re looking forward to owning it and enjoying it again at home.