Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi hit theaters and there could not be a larger divide between critics and fans. At current rankings on Rotten Tomatoes critics are giving the film 90% positive reviews where the fan support is a disappointing 49%. I guess the fans have not been the biggest supporters of the latest film. I am both a fan and a critic and regardless, I loved this film. Yes, I have a couple of problems but they are minute when looking at the overall film.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi picks up where The Force Awakens left off. Rey arrives at the island home of Luke Skywalker, hands him his old lightsaber and his reaction is surprisingly funny. I knew that I was in good hands from that point on. The Last Jedi’s plot needs no introduction and I won’t ruin it for those who have still not seen it. Suffice to say, The Last Jedi has everything I look for in a Star Wars film; treacherous villains, dashing heroes, amazing visuals and solid storytelling.
Rian Johnson has pulled double duty both writing and directing The Last Jedi which is no small task. He has written a terrific script which really fleshes out Rey and Kylo Ren’s characters. There is an interesting dichotomy between the two and it is written exceedingly well; one of them might not be all good and one of them might not be all bad and I will leave it at that. I have revealed no spoilers here so you can relax and still enjoy the film. There is a fascinating tug of war between these two characters and Johnson’s script is thoughtful and intelligently written. Adam Driver (Kylo Ren) and Daisy Ridley (Rey) are both excellent in these roles and they service the material well.
Mark Hamill as Luke returns and this is his finest performance in his long career. His Luke is now a bitter, old and cynical man. Worn down and filled with disappointment, Luke is ready for the whole ordeal to be over. He is tired and wants to be left alone. Carrie Fisher (in her last performance before her death last year) does much better this time around. She is given more screen time and she does a fine job. Her performance is a fitting tribute to her contribution to the Star Wars saga. John Boyega as Finn returns as does Oscar Isaac as the ace pilot Poe Dameron. Both have some great scenes together and when the story sends them in different directions, they still have some solid contributions to the story.
There is a lot going on in Star Wars: The Last Jedi and I was stunned at how fun it all was. People have complained that the first hour is slow and dull. I had absolutely no problem with it. Digging into characters and seeing what makes them tick is interesting and it did not disappoint me here, either. I honestly don’t know what people were looking for in this film. It has everything; double-crosses, narrow escapes and grandiose battle sequences. There are some clever lines spoken and little dabs of humor that I found endearingly original and do I need to even say just how great John Williams’ score was? Is that even necessary at this point?
Rian Johnson has been heavily criticized for his vision of this Star Wars film. He has since announced that he will be creating his own Star Wars trilogy and if that is true and comes to fruition, sign me up. If I had any problems it is with Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux. He is a fine actor but for some reason, here he overacts and it borders on campy. His nostrils flare and he gets a look on his face that is rather humorous but I doubt that is what they were going for. Laura Dern has a small role as Vice Admiral Holdo and she is serviceable but really is a throwaway character and can we dispense with the explosions in space, please? There is also one scene involving Leia which seemed far-fetched. However, I did enjoy a new character, Rose Tico played with spirit by Kelly Marie Tran and I am interested in where they take her character.
The stunning disappointment that a lot of fans have had for Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a quandary for me. I had loads of fun with this film and loved the character development of some of the lead characters. It sets up the next film and I cannot wait to see where they go from here. At two and a half hours in length, this is the longest Star Wars film in the franchise but, I was never bored and the time flew by. Frankly, I don’t know what people were looking for or expecting but Star Wars: The Last Jedi, for my money, is one of the year’s best films.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi – ****1/2 out of 5
Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Rated PG-13 for violence, some language and scenes of peril
Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Runtime is 150 minutes
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is now playing in theaters. Check your local listings for times and locations nearest you.