REVIEW | ‘The Last Jedi’ is fragmented but still an amazing cinematic experience

December 17, 2017 - 10:03 AM
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Daisy Ridley as Rey in 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi.'

At two hours and thirty-two minutes, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” boasts of having the longest running time in the franchise and you can feel it. The film’s story is divided into three parts and not all of them stand on equal measure with each other.

The most interesting of the three parts is the story of Rey (Daisy Ridley) as she tries to convince Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to join the resistance and discovers a connection with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver).

The second part involves rebellion pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and his reckless and daredevil heroics clashing with Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and capping the overall story of the rebellion.

Finally, the weakest of all the stories involves Finn (John Boyega), who meets ground crew member Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) and takes on a mission to help save the rebellion from destruction.

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” takes off right after the events of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and puts us squarely into a battle between The First Order and Princess Leia’s rebellion. The energy is high, the suspense is palpable, and the stakes are huge. It’s a terrific opening for the much awaited installment in the series.

But the moment the action splits and the story fragments into the three parts, it starts to falter. Rey, Kylo Ren, and Luke Skywalker’s story stands out because it’s rooted in each character’s personal goals but those goals are very much interwoven into the larger plot of the series.

These are three key figures in the battle between The First Order and the Rebel Alliance and they have to solve their inner conflicts first before they can make large contributions to either side of the battle.

BB8 and Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron in ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi.’

Ridley, Driver, and Hamill are working so well off of each other. Ridley is captivating as the scavenger who discovers she has a powerful connection to the Force and she makes you believe in her desperate attempt to find her place in this war.

Driver’s intensity works to his advantage, creating a fractured Kylo Ren at the cusp of a breaking point. Hamill’s tortured Luke Skywalker is a shadow of who he was and the effect is dazzling.

Their segment in the film is the most emotional; it draws you into their personal conflicts but it clear in its place within the story. These three characters and their choices can make or break this war and it holds the most interest in the film.

Poe Dameron’s story is personal and it falters because his story uses the war to develop his character, instead of the other way around, like Rey’s, Kylo Ren’s, Luke Skywalker’s. It’s interesting because of the very high stakes involved.

Isaac and Fisher have great rapport and throw into the mix a fantastic performance by Laura Dern as Vice Admiral Holdo, who also clashes with Poe Dameron’s way of doing things, but the focus is on Poe Dameron’s lesson than it does with the battle against The First Order. This segment, while still engaging with the main plot line, feels small because the learnings here only really affect Poe Dameron.

Kelly Marie Tran and John Boyega in ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi.’

For Finn and new character Rose, their story ends up feeling like a subplot that hardly fits into the big picture. Their mission takes them out of the main action into a world that doesn’t quite mesh with the whole movie and most of the story elements here progress because of fortunate events and not character choices.

There’s a lot of deus ex machina elements at work and Finn and Rose just seem to be getting through because of fortunate circumstances. It feels the least developed and the least connected to the overall plot.

But despite all of this, there’s a lot that is done great in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” Director Rian Johnson keeps the action moving with fantastic transitions and exceptionally great use of music to heighten every scene.

There is also the clever use of dark and light to symbolize the battle between the authoritarian rule of The First Order and the rebel forces. Many times, the scenes are dark but there are always shafts of light bursting through and trying to illuminate the characters. It’s an inspired choice.

There’s a lot of action to go around and edge-of-your-seat moments. There’s humor and there’s touching moments. It’s never dull. It just seems bloated but the final thirty minutes of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is great cinema fit for the largest screen possible with the best sound system that you can avail. Despite the flaws, it’s an experience that will leave you breathless and applauding.

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is brave enough to challenge the franchise’s own ideas about the rebellion and The Force, in turn, making hard statements that are very relevant and apt for our times with regards to authoritarian governments and strict adherence to religion. It’s a brave movie wrapped up in a fun, science fiction adventure that is worth the ticket price.