Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Star Wars: The Last Jedi review

After seeing a character survive being in space without a spacesuit in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, we can say the Star Wars franchise is not science fiction. You can call it science fantasy. Keep that in mind, fans of hard science fiction when you watch this film.

The movie picks up where Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) left off. General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) is leading the Resistance in an escape from their base. However, they can't escape the Empire... I mean the First Order who have a way to track the rebel fleet even if they make the jump to hyperspace. Meanwhile, Rey (Daisy Ridley) has made contact with Luke Skywalker. (Mark Hamill) Pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Issac), Finn (John Boyega) and new character Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) come up with an unauthorized plan to free the fleet from the First Order's tracking device. Rose and Finn would go to a space casino and enlist an expert to sabotage said tracking device. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), a master of the dark side of the force and hence evil is running around trying to please Emperor er... Superme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis). He detects a disturbance in the force that's either Rey or Skywalker or both.

It's good to hear Mark Hamill finally speak! It was a rip-off in The Force Awakens when Hamill merely shows himself. Anyway, Hamill as Skywalker is excellent as the weary and depressed Luke Skywalker. He's worn down by big failure which I won't spoil. The other performances also shine. Oscar Iassac as Poe, John Boyega as Finn and Carrie Fisher in her last film know their characters well and you readily believe them and their actions. Snoke is your generic power hungry dictator but Andy Serkis makes him bleed evil.

Writer and director Rian Johnson does a fine job staging large action set pieces. The editing and lighting are some of the weaknesses in this movie. Again, as in most modern cinema there's an over reliance on fast cutting to convey excitement. This leads to confusion and motion sickness. Then Johnson's lighting at times is too dark. I really wanted a clearer view of the actors faces even in caves. But the biggest strength and problem with The Last Jedi is the screenplay. First, here's he good part of the story. It's original. There's a nice touch of humor and I liked how Johnson depicts the Force as a metaphysical power.

The big problem in Johnson's screenplay nearly throttles the movie. It is that his story has too many plot threads. The Force Awakens introduced new... ahem, younger characters and there is the fact that Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill's days of "galloping around the cosmos" are nearing their end. (That quote comes from Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan) These final three films after the original trilogy should be mostly about them. Yes, I know Star Wars creator George Lucas thought about doing movies about the old Luke, Leia and Han. (Wikipedia) But while the three actors are  still alive, everybody is going to wonder what happened to them in the future.  Fisher has since passed away.   While introducing a couple of new characters is a great idea, introducing six (Rey, Finn, Poe, BB-8, Ren, Rose) is too much. You could see Johnson looking for scenes  to feature all of them. To be frank, giving Poe and Finn separate plot threads took away from the Rey-Luke relationship. And it got worse. At the casino, Johnson introduces DJ played by Benicio Del Toro. He's a great actor but his hamming for the the camera ate up even more time that could have been used for the Rey-Luke plot thread.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is an original,  entertaining but flawed movie.   It's worth seeing if you are a Star Wars fan.  Though hard science fiction fans won't enjoy it as much since they're probably going to wonder with all those hull breaches in space how any person can not be immediately killed.  The grade is B.  

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