Star Wars: The Last Jedi – a movie review [SPOILER FREE]

 

LastJediRey

At some point, far, far into the future, I’ll write an annotated synopsis of Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi in my 15-Minute Force project. That will have to wait until I get past Rogue One, the original Star Wars trilogy, and Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens. At fifteen minutes a week, it will be, as I already said, far, far into the future.

However, I just saw Last Jedi in the theater today, in 3-D, while my wife and granddaughter went to see Pitch Perfect 3 (getting out about an hour before I did as well). For my personal tastes, I think I made the correct movie choice, as they did for their own. I have been avoiding watching or reading anything about the movie because I didn’t want it spoiled for me, as Rogue One had been, at least a little. Since I subscribe to a lot of Star Wars related content on Facebook and on WordPress, this has been a challenge. But, I succeeded. I went into the movie today without any prior knowledge about it.

This review will be spoiler-free, as advertised in the title, because I’m still sensitive to those who haven’t seen the movie yet. When I finally get to the 15-Minute Force edition of the movie, it will be chockful of spoilers. You have been warned.

Short version of my review of the movie. I liked it. I liked it a lot, in fact. After the movie comes out on Blu-Ray and I watch it again, I might even love it. But, for now, it’s just intense like. I don’t even begrudge the hefty sum paid for my ticket, popcorn and small Coke, and I am a notoriously cheap man.

It just occurred to me how difficult it is to write a review without spoilers. So, I’m going to be especially cryptic. A couple of major things I wanted to know from The Force Awakens went unanswered in this movie (or insufficiently answered, in the case of one of these). And, a couple of major characters die in this one, but neither was the one I fully expected to die. How’s that for cryptic?

All of the usual Star Wars tropes are trotted out on the screen. Star Destroyers, AT-ATs and TIE-fighters. X-wings and droids and lightsabers. It’s all in there. No Han Solo, of course. He was killed by Kylo Ren in the last movie, and I don’t think that’s still a spoiler at this point. But, everyone’s favorite wookiee, Chewbacca, is there, along with the iconic Millenium Falcon. Luke Skywalker and General Leia Organa (or is it Solo?) are also there, representing the old guard, along with C-3P0 and R2-D2. R2’s role is rather small, in order to highlight the younger, cuter droid BB-8. Time marches on.

That is a theme in this movie, I think. You can feel the generational shift from the older movies to the new. This one is mainly about Rey, Finn and Poe on the Rebel side, and Kylo Ren, Supreme Leader Snoke, General Hux and Phasma on the Empire (excuse me, First Order) side. Snoke and Phasma don’t get as much screen time as Ren and Hux. Plus, we have new characters, including the wonderful Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) and Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern). Benecio del Toro has a minor role that I think may be fleshed out in Episode IX as a character definitely in the morally-gray spectrum, if not heavily leaning towards the dark side.

The special effects are amazing, of course, and we expect no less these days. I’m not sure how the 3-D effects will translate to non-3-D when I watch the Blu-Ray, but we’ll see. Director Rian Johnson included many shots unlike anything else I’ve ever seen in a Star Wars movie, while still honoring the visual language established by his predecessors. I’m happy to report that the opening crawl was there, along with that now-iconic Star Wars pan down. And the full John Williams treatment on the musical score.

The story was engaging and fast-moving. There’s some plot stuff in the middle that seemed slightly padded, but still interesting anyway. I’m happy to report that there were no pod races and we didn’t go to Tatooine even once. The end of the movie came much sooner than I expected, which is a good indicator of how well it captured my attention.

There is humor in the movie as well, but never in an intrusive Jar Jar Binks way. Even C-3PO is more restrained than we’re accustomed to seeing him, but again, this is another example of the changing of the guard, I think. The new character that was in all of the movie advertisements, the Porg, was indeed cute, and made a good new companion for Chewbacca. I found the creature to be endearing the way Baby Groot is endearing, not cloyingly cute like the Ewoks tried—and failed—to be.

Is this a perfect film? Absolutely not. There are things I don’t like about it, but they’re not things I can discuss without spoilers, as it turns out. But, there’s nothing that detracts from my overall enjoyment of the movie. This is the middle of the new trilogy, and it hits some of the same notes that Empire hit, the way Force Awakens was structured a lot like A New Hope. There’s some Jedi training, and a tree, and the expected showdown between Rey and Ren, with some unexpected results. The ending is a little more hopeful than Empire‘s, but bittersweet since we know Carrie Fisher is no longer with us. The movie was dedicated to her, our “Princess.”

Yes, I am inclined to like all things Star Wars. And, yes, I liked this movie. Go see it.

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