Kyle J. Steenblik

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is an Epic Adventure in Uncharted Territory [Review]

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Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi
Directed by: Rian Johnson
Written by: Rian Johnson
Based on Characters by George Lucas
Starring: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, Benicio del Toro
Runtime: 152 min
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence.
Production company Lucasfilm Ltd., Ram Bergman Productions
Distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Release date December 15, 2017
5 stars out of 5

The Last Jedi picks up shortly after the events of The Force Awakens.  The republic is in ruins and the First Order is not the ruling power.  The Resistance is on the verge of collapse as they are hunted down by General Hux, Kylo Ren, and Supreme Leader Snoke.  Force to abandon their base the Resistance, now the new Rebellion, must escape for hope to remain alive.  Meanwhile, Rey must convince the self-exiled Luke Skywaker to train her in the ways of the Jedi and return to defeat the tyrannical First Order.

The Last Jedi is not a re-imagining of The Empire Strikes Back, and fearlessly pushes the boundaries of Star Wars into the unknown reaches of the galaxy.  Writer and director Rian Johnson took some substantial calculated risks which could have easily failed, but the execution was nearly perfect, and each moment landed home.  Johnson managed to take a franchise that was just beginning to back away from the brink of becoming repetitive and take the saga in a new and exciting direction by addressing what many saw as the mistakes or flaws in J.J. Abrams’ The Force Awakens.  This is definitely a film that deserves multiple viewings and discussion.  It would unfortunately venture into spoiler territory to expand that point of discussion further.

There are a multitude of exceptional performances from the cast, but of note are Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, Kelly Marie Tran, and Laura Dern.  Hamill returns to, and breathes new life, into the character of Luke Skywalker.  What we are shown is someone that has resigned themselves to suffocating under the weight of their own failures, but remains the same person we met forty years ago.   This is bound to be the defining performances of Hamill’s career.  Then there is Adam Driver, whose career is one astounding performance after another.  Driver took the character of Ben Solo to new heights, displaying understated depth and range in a character that appeared almost two dimensional in the previous film.   Much the same could be said for Daisy Ridley who also added nuanced depth to her character allowing the audience to truly believe she may be as dangerously powerful as she appears.  However, my two favorite performances came from new cast members Kelly Marie Tran and Laura Dern.  Tran, playing Rose, was disarmingly charming from her first appearance to her last, making her one of the shining stars in a film filled with spectacle and wonder.  She was honestly one of my favorite parts of this film.

All of these performances are set in an expositional tapestry of loss, redemption, failure, and sacrifice.  There are literally dozens of narrative elements to each scene and character interaction.  Rian Johnson took some serious risks, and could have easily given us a film that was an expositional mess filled with unfocused characters obscured by insanely beautiful visuals.  What Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi was a cymographic symphony where the orchestra carries the dropped notes to the very last frame.

Don’t forget to check out Rants and Reels for my first impression review as well.

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