Star Wars: Episode VIII—The Last Jedi (2017)

After the live-action Star Wars series was brought back into cinemas after more than a decade of dormancy, fans complained that the new movie was little more than a re-skinned copy of the first film franchise. That wasn’t a completely unfair criticism; Star Wars: Episode VII—The Force Awakens has many similarities to the original Star Wars. It is a comfortable, familiar movie, and a very good way to re-introduce the property into the public consciousness. Now the filmmakers are allowed to take it in a different direction. And, to an extent, they do in Star Wars: Episode VIII—The Last Jedi.

The film follows directly on the heels of its predecessor, following the same characters we’ve grown to know and love over the course of anywhere from 1-4 films. The story is split into several different branches. Rey (Daisy Ridley) tries to convince Luke (Mark Hamill) that the resistance needs him, but he’s a grumpy curmudgeon in his old age. Meanwhile, she also makes a telepathic connection with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), with both characters believing they’ll be able to convince the other to join their side.

Finn (John Boyega), the former stormtrooper, teams up with a new character, Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), to try to locate a codebreaker so the Resistance can break into the ship of the bad guys, disable a tracking beacon, and escape pursuit. Poe (Oscar Isaac) wants to use blunt force to win, but has to learn that tactics matter. General Leia (Carrie Fisher) plays a mentor-type role to Poe in this one. Are those all the main ones? I think so.

Besides, if I said any more than a brief description of what each character initially gets up to, fans would jump on my back and declare that I ruined the movie with spoilers. So we’ll leave them there. The point is that they’ve got enough to do—even if some of it doesn’t always feel terribly consequential—and most of it either advances the story or the characters. A couple of them get taken in especially interesting directions. They’re not entirely destinations, but they’re welcome nonetheless.

Star Wars: Episode VIII—The Last Jedi is a very good movie that is a step in the right direction for the franchise.

The main theme of The Last Jedi is, to put it simply, “out with the old; in with the new.” Characters paraphrase exactly that, and it becomes clear from a pretty early point that we’re at the point that it needs to stop relying on nostalgia and start crafting new stories and ideas. The last film started this, but relied too heavily on references to the past. This time around, the film actively tries to clear that out.

Fans will have to accept that. Nostalgia is a strong presence in the heart of the fan, and this movie attempts to move past that. I mention this as a warning about what to expect. Sometimes people’s expectations color what they think of the product overall. This isn’t another The Force Awakens. This is progression. It’s a step forward. It might not be the best Star Wars movie ever but it is a necessary one—the type of movie that, if capitalized on, will progress the franchise back to the great heights of the original trilogy.

This one’s mostly entertaining, too. It’s relatively funny, it has good characters and strong acting, and the action is solid. It might not fit 100% into what you’re expecting, but that’s fine. It does have a couple of awful standout moments, though. I don’t want to spoil them, but they’re … some of the worst things in the live-action theatrical Star Wars movies. One in particular is just so bad that it’s hard to imagine it made it into the movie. Whatever. There are a couple of small, terrible moments in what’s otherwise a solid movie.

Star Wars: Episode VIII—The Last Jedi is a very good movie that is a step in the right direction for the franchise. Yes, even if that results in a less-than-perfect movie at this point. Its prevailing theme of pushing forward and not focusing on the past is exactly what it should be doing. It has solid action, good acting, interesting characters, some funny jokes/lines, and it’s pretty entertaining overall. It even has a couple of twists that delight. It’s a very good movie.

Conclusion: Star Wars: Episode VIII—The Last Jedi is a very good movie and a step forward for the franchise.

Recommendation: You’re seeing Star Wars: Episode VIII—The Last Jedi anyway. Get on with it.

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