Written By: Dan Geer


Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a very safe film for Star Wars fans. It brought us back to a universe of familiarity, mirroring various themes and plot points from the original trilogy. Sure, it also introduced us to quite a few new concepts and ideas that we had never seen before in a Star Wars movie, and did it very well. But those things were surrounded by a safety net of nostalgia. It tasted great. It was the filet mignon you always order at your favorite restaurant, and you do not mind. Not one bit. I never tire of ordering The Force Awakens. It’s a great film.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi, however, is more akin to that menu item that you always notice, but are afraid to try because you have never had it before. You always default to the steak. It’s a safe choice you’re always happy with. So when you do finally gain the courage to try something new on the menu, you are not entirely sure you even enjoyed it at first, maybe savoring certain flavors but put off by the texture. It’s so different from the steak, and yet you’re still sitting in the same restaurant.

The Last Jedi is a very different Star Wars film than what we’re used to, containing different textures and flavors that almost do not seem like Star Wars upon first viewing the movie. I knew this going in, but nevertheless the first time around was very jarring for this reviewer. I did enjoy many aspects of the film, but because some aspects of the movie were very fresh for Star Wars, and because I did not get everything I was hoping for after two years of speculation, the question entered my mind as to whether or not the film was actually enjoyable. That first viewing was an unnerving experience, even though I did like the film. I just didn’t love it at that point.

I reserved writing this review until having the chance to check out The Last Jedi a second time. That way, my expectations were tempered. I knew exactly what I was going to receive this time around. I knew what questions I had that would not be answered, or not answered in the way I thought they would be. I knew exactly what director Rian Johnson’s approach would be in terms of film-making techniques. I knew going in where the jarring parts would be, and was ready to simply relax and enjoy the show for what it is, rather than what I thought it should be.

Having gotten that all out of the way, this film is an amazing Star Wars film, but it took a couple of viewings to come to this conclusion. It still has many elements that totally feel like Star Wars, but the story challenges the boundaries of where this franchise can go, in terms of story and the characters, taking incredible risks with the audience in that it goes where we may not want it to go, or travels to unexpected places that may not sit so comfortably the first time around and take getting used to. This is a good thing, but we must be willing to go there as an audience. The film asks for an awful lot from us, delivering loads of information and new things to the table to the point where it really does take multiple viewings to absorb and process the film before we can accept it all.

Rian Johnson also incorporates some new techniques to tell the story that are unconventional for Star Wars. While for the most part, the films carries over the same cadence we are used to for the Saga, there are various nuances that are hard to accept and take getting used to as well. There are other little things, such as certain uses of humor that definitely seem out of place and probably shouldn’t have been used. They do not ruin the film, not by a long shot, but are probably too modern or “earthly” to be used here.

The Last Jedi is actually a very funny film. While the expected dark aspects to the story are there, the movie really does not feel any darker than The Force Awakens, which is totally fine. Star Wars is meant to have witty humor and be loads of fun, and for the most part, Rian Johnson totally pulls it off. This is one of the most funny Star Wars films to date, and the audience generally welcomes it with open arms. It keeps that optimistic sense of adventure and wonder firmly in place as we travel to and fro with our heroes as they battle the First Order.

Where the film is at its finest, however, is where it explores uncharted territory with the characters and the lore of Star Wars. The film blows the lid right off of what we thought we knew about this universe and shoots the audience right into light speed in these areas. In particular, the ideas explored for the story with Rey (Daisy Ridley), Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) are completely new, offering some of the best storytelling we have ever had for this franchise. There are things that happen, and situations that go down that are incredibly fresh for this franchise.

The overarching story really takes us to a place we have never been before, and it is a great place for the franchise to be sitting right now because, once again, we have no idea where this story will go from here. The sheer impact of the events that unfold leave the Saga wide open for the future, and that is a very good thing. It may feel uncomfortable, at first, but if one is willing to let it all sink in for a while, it becomes very clear that the direction this film takes is the right one.

Sure, even after a second viewing, there are a couple of things this writer still feels should have been addressed. Plot points from The Force Awakens that were sort of left open-ended were not addressed in this film, and they probably should have been by now. We still have Episode IX to maybe address those things, but because of the way The Last Jedi unfolds, it seems like the story has already moved beyond addressing anything more from The Force AwakensEpisode IX‘s focus, it seems, will be more about addressing what happens in The Last Jedi and embracing the future of this universe, not the past.

This film has so much to offer for the audience with not only the story, but also with great characters. We get incredible performances from the actors, particularly with the late Carrie Fisher as General Leia and Mark Hamill as an old, beaten down Luke Skywalker. They both deliver some of the best performances of their careers, and Hamill in particular definitely gives the best performance as Luke Skywalker that he has ever done. Just incredible acting on his part. The rest of the new generation of heroes and villains are amazing as well. Everyone brings their A-game here, thanks to the amazing story being told and incredible direction from Johnson. Everyone gets plenty of time in the spotlight, including new characters like Rose Tico, played beautifully by Kelly Marie Tran.

The film is full of surprises, shocking moments, spectacular action and fan service done right. But The Last Jedi is definitely a risky film for Star Wars, and we must be ready to embrace it because of the possibilities it presents for the future. Different is not always bad. Different can be a good thing. “You must unlearn what you have learned,” as Master Yoda would say, when watching this film. That is not to say the film doesn’t feel at all like Star Wars. It most certainly does. But because the direction that the story is taken may be uncomfortable at times, going in places we never thought it would (or should) go, and because sometimes different storytelling techniques are used on occasion – the audience may feel uneasy at times. That uneasiness could very well be interpreted as disappointment, when really it is not if the audience is willing to chew on it for a while before coming to conclusions.

The Last Jedi is not comfort food. It’s an acquired taste. Sophisticated, even. While it may not necessarily be what fans initially want, maybe even containing a few missed opportunities – overall it is what the franchise needs in order to move forward, and we should be excited about it. Our favorite restaurant has so much more to offer than we realized.

Rating: starrating3half (out of four)

For more spoilery territory on why this film is great, check out /Film’s ‘The Last Jedi’ Doesn’t Care What You Think About “Star Wars’ – And That’s Why It’s Great.”

More Star Wars reviews:

– Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
– Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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