A disclaimer on the Last Jedi, art, and toxicity: you're allowed to not like this movie just as you're allowed to like this movie. You are no less intelligent based on your opinion; you are no less of a fan based on your opinion. I love this movie and I have very good friends who definitely did not. That is okay. I'm sorry if you felt the Last Jedi ruined your childhood or ruined Star Wars for you; but please don't attack the people who put every ounce of love they had into this piece of art. Don't personally attack Rian Johnson and don't attack the actors for doing their job; and certainly don't ever attack anyone because of race, sex, or just who they are as a person. You're allowed to not like this movie; just don't hate the cast and crew behind it. That way lies madness.
Now for the review:
I found this movie to be great. To people who found the Force Awakens to be too similar to A New Hope, this movie presented an alternative path. Rian Johnson delivered what any Star Wars fan would crave: an epic space opera that expands beyond its predecessors while delivering extremely satisfying visuals accompanied by a mostly satisfying story.
Writing/Direction: Rian Johnson is a Star Wars fan and it shows big time. He has a lot of love for these characters and to explain every narrative beat would be tedious and unentertaining. He took several risks with already established characters and most of them paid off. I personally like what he did with the ideology behind the legend of Luke Skywalker. In addition, his final act was classic Jedi and perfect for his conclusion. And while I wish I could have seen more of the late Carrie Fisher, I felt her lessons did not go quietly into the night. Johnson writes three plot lines that weave together coherently and cross in extremely effective ways. Poe's leadership arc was solid and I'm sure will pay off going into the final chapter. Finn's rebel arc might be my only big problem with this movie; it was not quite as resonant but it's understandable what progress he had to make to become the best kind of rebel scum. Rey's arc is wholly satisfying and creates a new path for the Skywalker saga to continue. The interesting thing is how Rian gave such an arc to Kylo Ren; villains are mostly these mysterious, intimidating badasses without much context. Darth Sidious was just some powerful Sith and Darth Vader was originally just a good guy turned bad. In this film, we see that adding multiple dimensions to Kylo Ren is satisfying in every way possible; speeding up his parallel course then shifting it shows his true character. Overall, the script takes some risks and talks about how heroes are perceived as well as how the past is seen. I'll let people draw their own conclusions, but I feel like this movie gave room for Star Wars to grow beyond what it is. Aside from the writing, the direction is excellent. Rian coaxes finely tuned career-best performances from nearly every cast member and has a visually swell time doing it.
Performances: so so so so many things to say. Where to start... Kelly Marie Tran is a fine performer and while I don't entirely agree with her character, Rose, on paper, her individual performance is convincing and just ecstatic. (Please don't attack her for who she is physically.) Domnhall Gleeson is on point as always. He takes the humorous side to his character in stride while remaining totally believable and providing some of the best humor in the film. Andy Serkis is probably one of the most notable actors of our time due to the fact that he can do so much acting with a bright light constantly shining in his face (give him an Oscar already!). Benicio Del Toro is clearly just hopping along for a nice little ride and proving his consistent acting prowess while he's at it. His stutter was an interesting choice and it doesn't exactly distract, I just felt like it didn't entirely fit in. Anthony Daniels - sir, how do you do so much acting inside that tin man suit? Well done. Laura Dern was fine enough and executed a somehow organized rebel while she was at it. Carrie Fisher will be dearly missed. She has so much love for Leia and all things around her. She chews the scenery with every word and every action. Mark Hamill gives possibly the best performance of his career; a man tired of the legend and teachings of the Jedi who gradually realizes what the force must be for balance to be properly obtained. He may have disagreed with some character choices but that didn't stop him from bringing his A-game. Adam Driver kills it in a similar way; his Skywalker is so well executed and driven. He brings a new villain to the galaxy and shows actual character growth in the best way possible. John Boyega is admirable as Finn; a rebel who gradually gains a cause and learns about the difference between fighting what you hate and saving what you love. Oscar Isaac is one of the most underrated actors of our time. He gets more to work with this time around and does not disappoint as he goes from desperate rebel to confident and understanding leader. Daisy Ridley... just wow. This heroine is my heroin. She takes her character to the best and somehow most balanced of extremes; she becomes a Jedi through the sheer power of acting. She is so good. I can't say it enough. They all were.
Anything else I had to say was said first. The production itself however was amazing. On-point visual effects, wonderful lighting and cinematography, immersive production design, well-world-worn costumes, and an iconic score help this movie to feel even more like the Star Wars we know and love.
This movie exists and it's canon. It happened in the Star Wars universe. It's not up to us, the audience, how this universe is supposed to run. We're passengers along for this incredible ride of cinema that George Lucas opened our eyes to 40 years ago. Isn't it a fun ride?
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