Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Posted on 21 December 2017 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

cinemadave.livejournal.com

When I began writing “Flicks” 18 summers ago, Star Wars: Episode I -The Phantom Menace was the most hyped movie of 1999. Unlike previous Star Wars movies which opened on Memorial Day weekend and stayed on the big screen past Labor Day weekend, Star Wars: Episode I lost momentum after the 4th of July weekend. For the next six years, two more Star Wars movies were released to a good box office, but with critical disdain. Creator George Lucas claimed the Star Wars story was over, but Disney purchased the franchise and we have seen three movies that last three holiday seasons. Star Wars: Episode VIII- The Last Jedi, is the most recent endeavor.

The Last Jedi picks up where Star Wars: Episode VII -The Force Awakens left off. The good guys — the Resistance — are under assault from the bad guys — the First Order. Hot shot pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Issac) defies General Leia Organa’s (Carrie Fisher) orders and ignites a space battle with Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). The battle is decisive for the Resistance, but with a great loss for the heroes.

Meanwhile on an abandoned planet, Rey (Daisy Ridley) has found legendary hero Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who is old, disillusioned and cantankerous. As Rey tries to persuade this war hero to help fight the bad guys, Luke feels grief over his nephew’s conversion to the dark side and the rise of the First Order. Luke’s nephew is Kylo Ren, who is the son of Princess Leia.

In terms of understanding the narrative information leading up to The Last Jedi, the pedigree between mother, son and nephew is all one needs to know to enjoy last weekend’s box office champion. Director Rian Johnson does a fine job revealing a fresh story with archetypal conflict. The lessons of war are presented with reverence, filled with clear and concise visuals. The computerized special effects enhance, but do not distract, from the fast-paced narrative drive.

Given that the director was only 3 years old when the original Star Wars (known as Episode IV: A New Hope) was released, The Last Jedi emphasizes the theme of passing the generational torch. The robots from the first six movies — R2-D2 and C-3PO — are given less screen time compared to the new prodigy, BB-8. Harrison Ford’s character is gone and we know that the late Carrie Fisher’s character will not return, so Episode IX will revolve around the conflict between those kids, Rey and Kylo Ren.

Yet, being the longest Star Wars movie on record, The Last Jedi does not cheat on entertainment. There are moments of pure Saturday matinee popcorn-eating fun that transport the ticket buyer to the thrilling days of yesterday when Flash Gordon battled Ming the Merciless. Of all the performers, Mark Hamill does a fine job balancing the serious nature of Luke Skywalker’s dilemma, with a humorous wink to the Star Wars core fanatics.

With the recent passing of my publisher David Eller, my old boss Rick Shaw and colleague Skip Sheffield, 2017 marks the end of an era. Given my generation’s 40-year history with this film franchise, Star Wars: The Last Jedi taps into the collective grief of our days. Yet, in its darkest moments, The Last Jedi draws from the need to be optimistic and celebrate our loved ones in this world and the next. Without meaning to, The Last Jedi says “Merry Christmas!”

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