Friday, December 15, 2017

Review of STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI: Fortifying the Force

December 14, 2017

Two Decembers ago, the reboot of the Star Wars franchise with "The Force Awakens" (J.J. Abrams, 2015) (MY REVIEW) took its loyal and new fans on a fantastic ride. I personally gave it a 10/10 by having the perfect balance of nostalgia and innovation. It set a very high standard for the next Star Wars films to come. The anticipation for the next installment is very high as the final scene with Rey meeting Luke promised so much in terms of story. Finally that time has come to pass.

The rebel forces continued to be under attack by the First Order led by its Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) and his Admiral Hux (Domhnall Gleeson). Dissatisfied with seemingly weak leadership of Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) who took over from Gen. Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) conspired with Finn (John Boyega) and their new friend Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) to hatch a more aggressive plan to disable the First Order tracking device with a code-breaker.

On his remote island, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) initiates Rey (Daisy Ridley) with the basics of the Jedi Force but he was still very much consumed by his failure as master to avert Kylo Ren's turning to the Dark Side. Meanwhile, Rey and Kylo Ren (Andy Driver) have mysterious visions where they are able to communicate from a distance. They each try to convince the other to join the other side. 

Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher are prominently billed first here, and they were really the heart and soul of this Episode VIII. the less I say about them the better, lest I go into spoiler territory. By this time, we already know the new generation characters Rey, Finn, Poe and Kylo Ren and are now fully invested in their stories. In this new film, all four of them got to have their own distinct individual threads to weave into the reinvigorated Star Wars fabric. A major new character was introduced in the person of Rose Tico, a maintenance worker who befriends Finn. It was good to see an Asian actor prominently in the mix this time around. 

Like how it was in the last film, there is a possibility that a major character or two may lose their lives, who may or may not be the ones you are expecting. These scenes were executed in a way that kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time -- so good! The action scenes were plentiful and amazing as expected, just the way fans love their airborne fighter battles and light saber duels. That final showdown on a field of white salt that turned scarlet when disturbed was such a spectacle of visual drama on that big screen. 

The humor was also there, usually care of the creatures and the robots as before. The runaway favorite creature this time are those adorable round-eyed birds called the porgs. Any scene with Chewbacca and the porgs were too cute, especially the one at the campfire where Chewy was about to eat. R2D2 had a profound moment of drama with Luke in the Millennium Falcon. BB-8 can do anything it seems, and is becoming a predictable easy way out of our heroes in many of their tight spots. 

While in past Star Wars we only saw seedy dusty cantinas, this time we were brought to Canto Bight, a planet which was one opulent elegant casino of the rich. There are gigantic horse-like creatures there called Fathiers bred to race for sport. We are introduced to some poor kids who live under oppressive conditions at the edge of this society. It seems to suggest that these kids may play a bigger role in future films. 

I am not going to argue with critics who are calling "The Last Jedi" the best Star Wars film since "The Empire Strikes Back." Fully meeting all expectations, new director Rian Johnson came up with another entertaining epic film that captures the nostalgia of classic Star Wars while continuing to steer the franchise into a whole new direction. If I were to compare though, I felt a tad more awe as the closing credits were rolling up after the last scene of "The Force Awakens" than this one, but not by much. 9/10. 


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