Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi
Length: 152 minutes / 2.53 hours
After the success of Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015), director Rian Johnson had to strike a fine balance in the following sequel, Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi (2017). Since The Force Awakens was essentially a flashy, rehash of Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977), The Last Jedi needed to separate itself from the predictable path already laid out in Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980). Unfortunately, the formula employed in Empire Strikes Back has become so integral to sequels that deviating from it could prove to be disastrous. While I’m curious where Episode IX will go from here, I hope it builds upon what Johnson has done here. The tensions of war helped drive the characters into interesting moments of growth, defiance, and desperation, but much of the story was well wrapped up by the time the credits rolled.
The real balance of this film came from paying homage to the past, while also going in new and fascinating directions. I feel Johnson succeeded, mostly on the strength of breaking away from the standard Star Wars mold. The Last Jedi not only felt like a film about war but also finally embraced the aesthetic of the samurai films Star Wars pulled influence from in the one place it mattered: the fight sequences. It was clear that some of the “war” and “samurai” elements made more evident in Rogue One (2016) were put to much better use in this movie. As I was already a fan of Johnson’s previous work, Looper (2012), it was clear how his creative use of sound helped to create an impactful series of events that drove the plot of the sequel trilogy forward.
While I certainly loved this film, and I think it does things to help the Star Wars brand from becoming stagnant, one staple of the franchise seemed to be out of place in this film: the music. Don’t get me wrong, John Williams’ score is great, it just felt like there wasn’t anything “new” in it, as it hit all the cues already present in previous installments (or merely remixed some of them to suit the environment). In a film that did a lot of new things with Star Wars, this was a disappointing development.
A great film that shows what new and fascinating things can happen in the Star Wars universe, I give Star Wars – Episode VIII: The Last Jedi 4.0 stars out of 5.