Stunning ‘Last Jedi’ effectively deviates from formula
Often alternating between being stunning and heartwarming, the second part of the new “Star Wars” trilogy, “The Last Jedi,” reveals some important answers, originally posed by the previous film, “The Force Awakens.”
But, the beloved sci-fi film series deviates from formula, while still adapting familiar themes. So, it isn’t a rehash of “The Empire Strikes Back,” which some have dreaded, since “The Force Awakens” had been criticized by some as practically a remake of the original “Star Wars,” 1977’s “A New Hope.”
To those who were skeptical about director Rian Johnson (the perplexing “Looper”), he proves himself worthy of handling this film populated by adored classic and relatively fresh characters alike. “The Last Jedi,” aka “Episode VIII,” is occasionally funny, and a pleasant continuation of the Skywalker family’s story, now in its penultimate part.
The Resistance is caught in the act of escaping the forces of the tyrant, Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis). Led by General Leia Organa (the late Carrie Fisher), the fleet is defended by ace pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac). Meanwhile, Rey (Daisy Ridley) attempts to convince aging Jedi Master Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to once again help in the fight for galactic freedom.
A side quest brings ex-Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) and Resistance member Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) to find a mystery man who can help their group flee their pursuers. And Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), conflicted by his triumph and defeat in the last episode, is trying to prove his devotion to the Dark Side of the Force anew.
It is bittersweet to see Fisher in her final film. Leia Organa has metamorphosed well into a wise, sagacious leader, while her twin brother Luke has become a hermit, serving the rest of his self-imposed exile on a peaceful planet.
But, there are stories untold after Luke’s victory in the original “Star Wars” trilogy. And this mystery and the resulting enmity with his nephew are some of the angles focused on well.
There is a polarizing revelation about another character, as well, and questions that still need to be answered, including Kylo’s history with the antagonists. In any case, things are made even more exciting than the previous instalment, despite some storytelling hitches.
Visually and narratively, the space battles and lightsaber duels are given new twists (best seen on big screens, like the Imax or A-Giant). Many of the characters’ connections are properly utilized, clearly showing each one’s complexity amid eye-popping scenes.
Rey’s questions regarding her identity and purpose, and Luke’s reasons for the Jedi’s failure and extinction, give new layers to the bigger picture in this “galaxy far, far, away.”
Thankfully, “The Last Jedi” deviates creatively from its more formula-sticking predecessors. In a time of wearying real-world chaos, it revives our big-screen heroes as it introduces distinct new ones.
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