Star Wars: The Last Jedi Is A Polarizing, Mixed Bag In The Star Wars Saga

This review for Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi is coming later than usual because I wanted to think about the film I saw on opening weekend before plunging ahead with words about its merits…and faults.

The first part of this review will be spoiler free and talk about the latest Star Wars film in general terms. The second half will discuss in more details my impressions, which will go into spoiler territory.

Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi continues the saga of the universal struggle between good and evil in a distant galaxy. It takes place shortly after the last film where fledgling Jedi, Rey (Daisy Ridley), finds the long-lost Jedi Master, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) on a distant planet called Ahch-To. She wants to be trained and enlist Skywalker’s help in the struggle against the First Order, the despotic government that rose from the ashes of the Galactic Empire.

Meanwhile the ragtag group she belongs to, the Resistance, is in dire straits and on the run from the First Order. Its leader, Snoke (Andy Serkis), and his apprentice Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), are determined to wipe out the pesky Resistance once and for all and destroy Skywalker, who is the film’s titular character. This largely sums up the plot of Star Wars: The Last Jedi without giving anything away.

The eighth film in the main Star Wars trilogies is a mixed bag. There are so many powerful moments and unpredictable developments. These will resonate not only with fans, but with the overall saga. Admittedly, this film borrows elements from The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, but only superficially. Certain expected narrative beats never occur and the film left me guessing as to what would happen next. The unpredictable nature of the latest Star Wars film will leave viewers unsure about the fate of characters, which creates genuine tension. We genuinely wonder if certain characters will survive by the end of the film. The film also takes time to examine the Force, the mystical energy wielded by the Jedi and the bad guys. Unlike those stupid midichlorians, the Force in this film rightfully returns to its metaphysical roots as the film explores its nuances. For the eighth film in a franchise to be this unpredictable and out of the box is a testament to the skills of writer and director Rian Johnson.

Unfortunately, there are too many flaws in logic and gaping plot holes that cannot be waved away with a Jedi mind trick. As skilled as he is, Johnson failed to think through the plot. Too often, we keep asking “why did so and so do that? Why don’t they just do this and be done?” This is a problem Johnson displayed with his acclaimed (and overrated IMO) film Looper, where cool concepts were undone by flaws in narrative logic. Honestly, this makes me wonder about the quality of the new trilogy he will oversee.

Just as crippling is the film’s pace. It starts with a blast, but meanders in the middle and feels uneven, though the final 45 minutes are terrifically nail biting. Certain characters fly off on meaningless quests in scenes that could have used another pass in the editing room. Other characters are given well-rounded and satisfying arcs that allow them to grow and change. Others should have not appeared at all.

No matter where one stands with it, Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi is a very polarizing film. It is unlike previous Star Wars films, which will disappoint many fans. On the other hand, story and character wise, Star Wars: The Last Jedi strikes bold new directions that anyone would have to admit bring new and much-needed wrinkles to the Star Wars saga.

Alright, this is the final warning for anyone who has not seen Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi and does not want to be spoiled.

 

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi Teaser Is Finally Unleashed

After much anticipation and wait, the teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi is finally here and is about two minutes or so in length, longer than usual teasers. It starts with glimpses of Rey on an island being trained by Luke Skywalker similar to his own training from Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back.  Not much happens for the first minute or so, besides a shot of General Leia (from behind), until the second minute when we see fast cuts of space battles which look very nice and shots of new landspeeder-type vehicles in a snow-covered desert environment. We also see Finn in some kind of stasis, but we don’t know why.  Maybe he’s still healing from the wounds he received from Kylo Ren.

 

We also see Poe Dameron in action with his custom black X-Wing caught in an explosion inside a hangar potentially putting him in harm’s way. The trailer finally leaves us with a tantalizing plot point at the very end of it when Luke Skywalker states that he knows that the Jedi must end. This is an interesting idea that maybe Luke is disillusioned from the seemingly endless battles between the light and dark side of the Force, which always leads to suffering for the whole galaxy. Perhaps seeing his nephew and former protégé Kylo Ren succumb to the dark side finally pushed him over the edge. This may lead to an inevitable confrontation with Ren as is hinted with the teaser poster showing both Luke and Ren divided by a lightsaber. How this will affect Luke’s relationship with Rey is to be seen and should be something to look out for.

rey the last jedi

Overall, this first look at Star Wars: The Last Jedi has some intriguing bits but was a bit lacking in action. Nevertheless, it should keep Star Wars fans satisfied until the next trailer surfaces in a few months. Hopefully some of the new characters  played by Benicio Del Toro and Laura Dern will appear along with a clearer picture as to the plot of the movie. This is usually what full length theatrical trailers are for and should be something to look forward to. Take a look down below and leave a comment or two on your thoughts of the teaser for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

C.S. Link

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Revives The Star Wars Saga

episode 7 poster

After a decade-long sabbatical the Star Wars saga returns to theaters with Star Wars: The Force Awakens or more accurately Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Fans will rejoice as if they are seeing an old friend who was away for too long. The film is a direct continuation of the original Star Wars films being that it takes place years after Return of the Jedi. While it is a sequel to the original trilogy and pays tribute to those classics, Star Wars: The Force Awakens marks a new path for new fans as it introduces new players to the universe that George Lucas created nearly forty years ago.

Alright, many of you reading this are asking the nagging question: How does it compare to the other films? More importantly, is it any good?

On the whole, yes, this is a fun film that is worthy of the Star Wars title. But there is something lacking in the film. Perhaps it needs George Lucas’ direct touch. His influence is felt in the film, but it doesn’t feel like a George Lucas Star Wars film. There isn’t any way it could top the first two Star Wars films, but it’s a better made film than Return of the Jedi. As to the prequels, it’s better than the first couple of prequels, but Episode III was a better made film. The reason probably has to be that it doesn’t gel quite as smoothly with the other films. Being that it lacks Lucas’ input it feels apart from the traditional Star Wars film, but it does try its best. Thanks for that is due to director J.J. Abrams.

As a major Star Wars fan, J.J. Abrams pays proper homage to the original films and sets the saga’s course in a new trajectory with eye-popping special effects, detailed sets and thrilling sequences. It should be mentioned that although the film uses practical effects, there are times in the second half that its usage of CG sets is quite obvious, which is distracting.

old han and chewy

What truly helps the film are the new characters and the actors playing them. They are intriguing, well acted, full of fire and it’s easy to see that the actors are thrilled to be playing in the Star Wars universe. Even actors who returned to their old roles shine in the film, particularly Harrison Ford as the iconic space pirate Han Solo. Unlike Return of the Jedi where he seemed bored, here Ford plays Han as if he’s glad to put on an old pair of comfortable shoes. Han still has spunk and verve and he is one of the greatest highlights.

rey and finnAs for the new characters, Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega) and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) pop out and instantly become worthy Star Wars characters. Clearly, Abrams outdid Lucas when it came to casting when comparing this film to the prequels (Ewan McGregor aside). The only weak character was regrettably the villain Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). The actor does what he can with the role, but as a bad guy Kylo just can’t compare to Darth Vader or even many of the prequel villains. He lacks the gravitas, the poise, and even the power. Instead he’s too emotional, it’s as if young Anakin Skywalker has been outfitted with a Vader knockoff suit and told to let loose.

Kylo Ren

As mentioned earlier, it is difficult to pinpoint why this film, despite its merits, feels off. It probably has to do with its pacing and story. Characters come and go without explanation, sometimes they’re missed, sometimes not, which is a problem. There are times when Abrams is in too much of a hurry with the characters and just wants them to go from point A to point B without any nuance or proper buildup. Worst of all, the bare bones of the story strongly echo the very first Star Wars film. Some may call it an homage, but others will rightfully call it for what it is: lack of originality.

Spoilers: The film centers around the pursuit rey and bb8of a droid called BB-8. At the start of the film, Luke Skywalker has been missing for many years and the Republic and its Resistance force along with the First Order (the remnants of the old Empire) want to locate the last Jedi for opposing reasons. On the planet Jakku, BB-8 is given a map by his owner Poe, an ace X-wing pilot, before he’s captured by Kylo Ren. The map happens to details how to locate Luke. Rey, a lonely scavenger on Jakku, finds the droid and feels compelled to return BB-8 to its owner. The Resistance pilot is able to escape thanks to Finn, a stormtrooper who develops a heart and turns against the First Order. Finn is separated from Poe, but eventually meets Rey and the droid. With the droid a hot commodity, the three escape the planet on an old junk ship the Millennium Falcon with the aim of returning the droid to the Resistance. Pursuing them are Kylo Ren and the First Order, who have constructed a massive planet-killing weapon out of a planet. Along the way, the trio encounter ship’s previous owner, Han Solo and his first mate Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), and at this point Rey and Finn become more embroiled in the galactic conflict as they play pivotal roles in it.

xwing fight

There are many questions the film leaves unanswered by the time the lights come back. However, the fact that the film builds up enough interest about the makeup of this universe is a good sign. Hopefully, the next episodes will satisfactorily answer the questions.

Thankfully, as the first of a trilogy, Star Wars: The Force Awakens isn’t an embarrassment like Episode I even though stalwart fans of the original films will have their complaints. Nevertheless, it’s great that Star Wars is back and this film offers enough thrills and joy for old and new fans.

José Soto