Wednesday, December 20, 2017
In the grand Star Wars catalog, The Last Jedi falls squarely into the mid-tryptic model of The Empire Strikes Back. Whereas we meet new characters in the first of each trio and find closure by the third, the second films surround an extended retreat and regrouping. That leaves time to explore the spiritual side of the Force and learn a bit more about the motivations for our beloved gang of star warriors, most of whom we re-meet, including many from the original series as well as Finn, Rey, and Poe from The Force Awakens, within the first 15 minutes. In that vein, The Last Jedi is a successful and pure entry into the catalog, and a very entertaining film, and yet, like at the end of Empire, you’re left wanting a bit more.
The storyline centers on the First Order’s attempt to wipe out the struggling rebel resistance, with Jedi-to-be Rey heading to a remote island to enlist the services of a reluctant Luke Skywalker, who’d rather end the Jedi order once and for all, considering the destruction it’s caused when its members wind up on the Dark Side. Nowhere is that more apparent than in Kylo Ren, the son of Han Solo and Princess now General Leia Organa; this former student of Luke’s turned dark and is hell-bent on running the bad guys, despite a deep connection with Rey. (Their Force-enabled banter through the ether is the only part of the film that feels, well, forced.)
Along the way, we meet a number of fantastical beasts — Luke milking the teets of seaside creatures, Chewbacca almost eating a cute owl-like bird, crystal doggies showing rebels the way — watch droids save the day, and witness some epic lightsaber-play. As usual, we also encounter visually stunning settings, including a raucous casino full of wealthy arms dealers and young slaves with newfound Rebel hope, and a planet where the white-salt-crusted, red-soiled earth makes for one of the entire series’ most striking battle scenes.
If there’s any relevant social commentary, it’s that peddlers of war machines sell to everyone, and that money doesn’t take sides — although that message muddles the righteousness of the Rebel cause a bit. Perhaps it would have proved too trite and transparent to attack today’s Orwellian drift head-on, but, thankfully, the heart of the Star Wars message will certainly suffice: Even when your heroes are gone and your comrades are dwindling, hope springs eternal against the oppressive overlords. And the Force, of course, unites us all.