Fans may be frustrated with the lack of twists and big reveals in the new Star Wars movie. But personally, I’m glad there isn’t anything big. We don’t want these films to merely become fan pandering. Vehicles for countless Easter Eggs with the stories becoming second fiddle.
This is the middle act of a trilogy. It’s meant to keep the story going while presenting the perfect amount of conflict and resolution, balancing both. If it tries to do too much, it risks losing its identity and any cohesiveness developed so far.
Although J.J. Abrams directed Episode 7, and is slated to direct Episode 9, it was a good choice to get Rian Johnson on board to direct this installment.
While Abrams is a lover of popcorn entertainment that’s big and full of audience-craved plot points, Johnson isn’t as concerned with that. He’s focused more on giving us what we actually need. He builds up momentum slowly and knows how to give us the proper climax.
Johnson also directed 2012’s Looper, which I wouldn’t say I love, but I can still appreciate it. Looper can be poetic, but doesn’t really come together until the end.
Although the two films are apples and oranges, this was still my fear with The Last Jedi. But since it utilizes The Force Awakens to help set up much of the story, it doesn’t have to focus on that as much here. And the poeticism works well for this one as the middle act. Though I wouldn’t want all of the films to be like this. I like my Star Wars a bit more popcorny–just like J.J. Abrams.
The Last Jedi starts off pretty slow. It takes place immediately after the events of the last film, and noticeably struggles to pick up the well-built momentum of its predecessor as well. Much of the first half is spent with Leia and the Resistance trying to survive attacks from the First Order. It’s interspersed with Rey trying to convince Luke to train her to become a Jedi Master.
This film is also much darker than the last. We’ve seen now that Johnson is also a big fan of the theme of finding hope amidst despair, yet constantly reminding us of that despair. Certain moments are very potent. Use the end of Rogue One for reference.
A truly bright spot in this film is the introduction of Benicio Del Toro’s computer hacker character, DJ. His moral compass points to neither good nor bad. He plays for himself and adjusts accordingly. And they brilliantly utilize him to parallel Kilo Ren–albeit a less monstrous version. Both men are capable of being empathetic and selfish at the same time. Del Toro’s existence in this movie is absolutely no throwaway.
As much as The Last Jedi will pride itself on staying true to its goal of telling a solid and important story first, it still has it’s fair share of surprises. Naturally though, there aren’t as many. We have to remember that these new stories must stand on their own at some point too.
As far as major plot points go, this film makes all the right decisions. It may not feel like a Star Wars film in the traditional sense, but it’s a really amazing story executed at the highest mark.