Hello and welcome to the movie blog of author John DeFrank - FilmZ and Guy Sobriquet Malone - Researcher

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last Jedi review by FilmZ

The Last Jedi is the best Star Wars film since The Empire Strikes Back.  I realize that might be considered as damning with faint praise, especially after the sheer garbonia (garbage with a foul odor) the series has produced, from Ewoks through young Anakin.  In 2015 came the reboot with The Force Awakens--or should we say the remake of A New Hope?--with the familiar swings from wooden acting to over-emoting and gung-ho corniness.  Then came Rogue One, a B-level Guns of Navarone.  So, yeah, as the lights lowered, our belief was that only the "Star Wars" label saved these films from a stint on Mystery Science Theater.  Then came the thrilling strains of John Williams score and the opening crawl, and I returned to 1977 and my own new hope.  This time, it was rewarded, and credit goes to new writer-director Rian Johnson who, as scribe, created an original, layered story, infused with passion; as director, he actually directs the actors, coaxing honest, believable performances out of most of them.

We pick up where we left off with Rey (Daisy Ridley), having flown with Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) to the remote island where Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), AKA The Last Jedi, is holed up in a state of self-loathing Depression.  We've been waiting two years for Rey to hand off that lightsaber, and as she does, Luke becomes, shall we say, difficult.  Rey is nothing if not determined.  Refusing to leave, she splits time between meditating and haranguing Luke to train her.  During the former, she makes a psychic connection with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), and begins to develop the notion that she can turn Ren away from Snoke (Andy Serkis) and the Dark Side.  Luke is doubtful, given his experience with his former padawan, not to mention Ren's homicidal history.

A subplot follows the ragtag band of Rebels as they try to survive a race across space, pursued by First-Order dreadnoughts and destroyers, led by General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) and Ren.  It opens with flying ace Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) leading a squadron of X-Wings in support of bombers, trying to down a dreadnought (yes, we mean down, for, in Star Wars outer space, somehow gravity exists--bombers descend when hit, the bombs drop down from bombers).  The Rebels prevail, but at such a cost of bombers and crews that Poe incurs the wrath of Gen. Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) and Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern), whose prime directive is to escape the pursuing First Order while saving as many rebels as possible.  They don't reveal their strategy in what seems like a hopeless situation, which drives Poe to the brink of mutiny, as he wants to attack (with equally hopeless odds).  A third subplot is murky and, ultimately pointless, other than to give Finn (John Boyega) something to do--and, most hopefully, provide the seed for another spinoff film.  On the positive side, it introduces two terrific characters to the SW universe.  The first is Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), a resourceful mechanic smitten with Finn who also wants retribution for the loss of her bomber pilot sister.  The second is DJ (Benicio DelToro), a safecracker Finn and Rose recruit to assist is the Rebels' escape.

Smash cuts from plot to subplot to subplot move faster than we can sort at times, and, although the story moves forward only incrementally it becomes deeper and richer.  With a runtime of more than two-and-a-half hours, TLJ could have easily cut a couple cycles.  The film is never boring, though, just redundant at times, mainly the flying combat and Finn's adventure, though the hand-to-hand and lightsaber fights are well-choreographed--the fight in Snoke's throne room is one of the best in the entire series.  And Johnson makes room for welcome humor.  As the pompous but ineffectual Hux, Gleeson shows a deft comic flair that serves as a release valve during some otherwise heavy scenes.  Tran is a find; her Rose is both offhandedly brilliant techie and exuberant fangirl.  And Johnson even made inventive use of a nuisance: On Luke's island, so many puffins disrupted filming that the director decided to CGI them into adorable "porgs" that bring some soulfully comic moments with Chewbacca.  And then, of course, there is every scene BB-8 steals.

Perhaps the greatest improvement is the acting, and in this, we can make direct comparisons with just two years ago.  Actors from whom we expect top performances, based on their other film work deliver this time around.  Oscar Isaac is less hammy flyboy and more passionate warrior, Adam Driver is no longer Emo-Vader; he is a psychologically damaged young man, resentful of his abandonment.  In 2015, we didn't have a book on Daisy Ridley; for all we knew her ever-present threat-level midnight grimace comprised the extent of her talent.  In TLJ, we see her performance nuanced--searching, ardent, determined; in short, Rey is a character we can identify with, have feelings for.  With John Boyega, it's a little different.  Like Ridley, in The Force Awakens he was unimpressive; in TLJ, it seems like he's trying to imitate Denzel.  Oh well.  Special effects, of course, are a Star Wars specialty, and as the years have advanced, so have they.  The aerial battles still push the edge of our patience, but the new creatures are cool.  In addition to porgs, there are "caretakers," creatures indigenous to Luke's island that look like amphibian potatoes; "fathiers," space horses raced competitively; coolest of all, "vulptices," crystal foxes that can light the way at night.  And finally, that most consistent of the series stars, John Williams' score.  His variations on the basic theme and specific motifs still drive both our nostalgia and adrenaline.  Enjoy The Last Jedi, folks, just as Rey handed the lightsaber to Luke, Rian Johnson will be handing the baton back to J.J. Abrams for Episode IX.
8.0 out of 10 on an Entertainment Scale
7.0 out of 10 on an Awards Scale (potential nominations in technical production catagories)


Post a Comment

Free WordPress Themes Presented by EZwpthemes.
Bloggerized by Miss Dothy