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Star Wars: The Last Jedi

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Star Wars: The Last JediFor the third time in as many years, a new Star Wars movie hits theaters just before Christmas. As Disney/Lucasfilm cranks out its annual offering from a galaxy far, far away, fan excitement gives way to expectation. It’s not enough that the movies are being made, they have to be good. Luckily for everyone involved, Star Wars: The Last Jedi rewards excitement and meets expectation. Fans can be forgiven for being wary of new entries into the franchise, considering the widespread ambivalence toward Episodes I-III. The stakes seem particularly high for this movie. Its analog in the original trilogy, The Empire Strikes Back, is a fan favorite, so comparisons are inevitable. As the second of a three-part story arc, it’s not easy to craft a plot with a satisfying resolution that sets up the next movie. To this end, The Last Jedi is largely successful and will stoke flames of anticipation for the next installment in 2019.

Picking up where 2015’s The Force Awakens leaves off, the story hits the ground running and hardly lets up. There’s a relentless quality to this film’s pacing that makes its run time of over two and a half hours feel short. The third act is an especially white-knuckle ride, one which smartly weaves together varied characters and their respective predicaments. Daisy Ridley is back as Rey, and Ridley nimbly walks the line between intensity and vulnerability. It is through Rey that the film’s most compelling relationships take shape. Just as the original trilogy was essentially a story about Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamil), this trilogy so far has been successful by making Rey the focal point. She is the heart and soul of this story.

Star Wars: The Last JediFor all its success, The Force Awakens borrowed liberally from the original 1977 film. The similarities were obvious, but for the record, they didn’t bother me. The Last Jedi doesn’t lean quite as heavily on Empire, but there’s enough similarity that it’ll be part of the conversation. This is where writer and director Rian Johnson deserves a lot of credit. Johnson threaded an incredibly tight needle in deciding when to borrow and when to stray from what had come before. Yes, this movie borrows from its predecessors too much for it to completely stand on its own, but so what? The prequels, Episodes I-III, didn’t feel enough like Star Wars movies to satisfy. Star Wars is an adventure story and there’s a good reason why nobody makes movies about space politics.

It feels unfair to constantly compare the post-Lucas films to the maligned pre-Disney prequels, but the comparison is telling. The contrast shows how invested fans are in this world, its characters, and its tension between good and evil. The prequels made a ton of money despite disappointing fans. As beloved as this franchise is, for it to endure, the movies have to be good. The road to get here hasn’t always been easy. Director changes and extensive (and expensive) reshoots on Rogue One and the upcoming Han Solo movie suggest Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy recognizes the importance of getting it right, whatever the cost.

Star Wars: The Last JediWith CGI-driven movies the norm, standing out has become harder and harder. This movie manages to do just that, if without some of the polish of J.J. Abrams’ Force Awakens. Whereas Abrams’ visuals were beautiful and awe-inspiring, even when nothing seemed to be happening, Johnson’s influence shines during action sequences. The visual impact is stunning, especially in the third act. As long as Star Wars movies reach this bar for quality, Disney can essentially print money every year. The franchise is in good hands, but fan trust only goes so far. I hear they’re considering a Jar Jar Binks standalone movie…

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)
  Director:  Rian Johnson
Studio:  Disney , LucasFilms
Genre:  Science Fiction, Drama, Action
MPAA:  PG-13
Release Date:  December 15th, 2017
Author:  Jason M. Brown
Jason MBrown Seattle native Jason M. Brown traded liquid sunshine for the real thing when he recently moved to San Diego. Jason graduated from Washington State University with a Humanities degree focusing on English and has worked as a copywriter. An avid fan of comedy, horror, and almost any movie that started as a comic book, Jason lives in California, but still loves Seattle Seahawks football, apologies to the Chargers.

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