Sunday, December 17, 2017

Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

Written for the screen and directed by Rian Johnson that is based on characters created by George Lucas, The Last Jedi (Star Wars: Episode VIII) is the story of a continuing conflict between the First Order and the Resistance as a young woman finds Luke Skywalker in the hopes he can help out the Resistance while being trained in the art of the Force. The second part of a trilogy that explore the chaos of war, the film is also an exploration into the evolution of the Force in which Skywalker discovers a power that drove him away many years ago as he is played by Mark Hamill. Also starring Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Domhnall Gleeson, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Gwendoline Christie, Anthony Daniels, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, Benicio del Toro, Joonas Suotamo, Jimmy Vee, and Carrie Fisher in her final performance as General Leia Organa. The Last Jedi is a visceral yet rapturous film from Rian Johnson.

Picking up where the previous film left off, the film revolves around a resistance who find themselves trying to evacuate their base to find a new one as they’re forced to confront the First Order who have been tracking them. With Resistance forces dwindling and little options left, the Resistance led by General Leia Organa is on a cruiser that is damaged and running low on fuel. Meanwhile, Rey (Daisy Ridley) is trying to get Luke Skywalker back on board as he is reluctant to help the Resistance as he’s still coping with his own faults believing he failed his apprentice Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Rian Johnson’s screenplay, with contributions from Carrie Fisher, is filled with a lot of complexities as well as a lot of narrative arcs that relate to the Resistance struggling to survive as their fleet is in tatters. Rey's character arc with Luke that include Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and R2-D2 (Jimmy Vee) has her trying to find her place as well as get Luke to train her where he realizes the power that she has. Yet, Rey would find herself communicating with Ren through the Force which lead to some trouble and revelations about why he betrayed Luke.

Another narrative arc involves a leadership struggle in the Resistance following an attack on a large First Order ship where Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) has to deal with the Resistance’s deputy leader Vice Admiral Amilyn Hodo (Laura Dern) who is trying to decide what to do next knowing that the First Order can still track the Resistance through light-speed. Poe would strategize a plan to disable a tracking device from a Star Destroyer with Finn (John Boyega) and the droid BB-8 (voice of Ben Burtt and Bill Hader) teaming with a mechanic in Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) to find a hacker to disable that tracking device. It’s an arc that showcases not just Poe’s own development as someone who is very impulsive and reckless in his actions as he needs to know how to be a leader as well as Finn trying to find his place in the Resistance where he befriends Rose who is dealing with loss. Another arc play into Ren’s rivalry with First Order leader General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) in trying to win the approval of the First Order’s leader Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) who wants to destroy the Resistance while that narrative also showcases Ren’s own struggle with himself.

Johnson’s direction is definitely astronomical into not just the different worlds that the characters go to but also have half the film’s narrative set in space where the Resistance is being pursued by the First Order. With much of the film shot on Pinewood Studios in London as well as scenes shot on location in Ireland, Iceland, Mexico, and Bolivia, the film showcases a world that is starting to come apart as well as see some of the darkest aspects of war. The film begins with the Resistance in evacuation mode where it is immediate as it showcases what the Resistance tries to do but also how the First Order would retaliate. It’s a massive sequence which also has elements of character development that showcases what Poe would do to confront the First Order but it comes at a great cost as there is a lot of drama that goes on where General Leia rightfully scolds Poe for his recklessness.

Johnson’s usage of the wide shots capture not just some of the damage that goes on in war but also into the vast world of the galaxy that the characters are in that include Rose and Finn’s journey to this planet that houses a casino for the galaxy’s wealthiest people. It’s a sequence that is strange as it play into a reality about war where it’s a world of decadence and riches that Rose knows and despises where she and Finn try to find this mysterious hacker where they meet this mysterious man named DJ (Benicio del Toro). There are some close-ups and medium shots that Johnson would use as it include these unique Force conversations between Rey and Kylo who are both dealing their place in the Force. It’s told with some unique reverse shots and scenes that are surreal while Johnson would also include a flashback sequence of what really happened when Kylo betrayed Skywalker.

It’s among these chilling moments as well as the scene where Rey meets Snoke for the first time as it would lead an intense sequence that is about the ideas of the Jedi and the Sith. Johnson would also infuse some humor into the film as it include moments of humility for Poe as well as Snoke’s confrontation towards General Hux. Yet, it is all about this battle between good and evil where the latter has put the former into a corner where the film’s climax is about survival with all that is left for the Resistance. It’s a majestic sequence that has a lot happening as well as characters coming together for a moment that could be the end of everything or just the beginning. Overall, Johnson crafts a riveting and gripping film about a group of resistance fighters trying to survive against an evil empire intent on ruling the galaxy.

Cinematographer Steve Yedlin does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography from the naturalistic look of the scenes set in the planet of Ahch-To where Luke has been hiding out to the low-key and stylish lighting for the scenes in the spaceships, the casinos, and at the caves in an old Rebellion fortress. Editor Bob Ducsay does excellent work with the editing with its usage of stylish dissolves and match-cuts as well as some rhythmic cutting into the action and suspense as it add some intrigue and establishing what is at stake. Production designer Rick Heinrichs, with set decorator Richard Roberts and senior art director Phil Sims, does amazing work with the look of the cruiser and transport for the Resistance in its interiors to the look of the lavish casino that Finn and Rose go to as well as Snoke’s main room inside the large Star Destroyer.

Costume designer Michael Kaplan does fantastic work with the costumes from the dresses that General Leia and Vice Admiral Hodo wears to the clothes of the people at the casino. Hair/makeup designer Peter King does superb work with the look of Vice Admiral Hodo with her purple hair as well as the people at the casino who look very posh and decadent. Creature designer Neal Scanlan does incredible work with the look of the tiny creatures at the planet of Ahch-To known as the Porgs as well as some of the inhabitants of the planet and at the casino and the caves. Special effects supervisor Chris Corbould and visual effects supervisor Ben Morris do marvelous work with the design of some of the visual effects for the scenes in space as well as in the design of some of the creatures with its mixture of old-school practical effects and computer-created visual effects.

Sound designers Ben Burtt and Ren Klyce, with sound editor Matthew Wood, do remarkable work with the sound with the sound effects in how the droids make their sounds including an Imperial BB-unit and the sounds of some of the creatures in the film. The film’s music by John Williams is phenomenal for its bombastic orchestral score that is filled with lush string arrangements and themes that range from heavy to somber as it is one of the film’s major highlights.

The casting by Nina Gold, Milivoj Mestrovic, and Mary Vernieu is great as it feature some notable small roles from Timothy D. Rose as Admiral Ackbar, Mike Quinn as Nien Nubb, Veronica Ngo as Rose’s bomber sister Paige, Billie Lourd as Resistance lieutenant Connix, Jimmy Vee as Luke’s old droid R2-D2 who is dealing with Porgs and wanting Luke to come home, the voice of Ben Burtt and Bill Hader as the droid BB-8 who provide some funny and cool moments in the film, Justin Theroux as a big-time gambler at the casino, Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca with special consultation by Peter Mayhew who deals with trying to get Luke home and the Porgs, Anthony Daniels as the protocol droid C-3PO who frets over the situation of the Resistance, Lupita Nyong’o as the famed pirate Maz Kanata who provides Poe some information while dealing with a war involving other pirates, and Gwendoline Christie as the Stormtroopers commander Captain Phasma who has a huge grudge towards Finn as she is willing to go after him anyway she can. Benicio del Toro is superb as a codebreaker/hacker named DJ as a man who is willing to help anyone all for money to display his own cynical views on war.

Domhnall Gleeson is fantastic as General Hux as a First Order military leader that is hell-bent on destroying the Resistance and wanting to win over Snoke where he’s not afraid to be a punching bag in some of the most hilarious moments. Laura Dern is amazing as Vice Admiral Amilyn Hodo as a Resistance leader that briefly takes over for an injured Leia as she spars with Poe over what to do as she is someone that knows what is at stake and what needs to be done as it’s a very graceful performance from Dern. Kelly Marie Tran is wonderful as Rose Tico as a Resistance mechanic who aids Finn and BB-8 in a mission to find a codebreaker to help the Resistance evade the First Order as she is someone who is aware of the corruption of the galaxy as well as being someone that is willing to fight for what is right. Andy Serkis is brilliant as Supreme Leader Snoke as the mysterious Sith lord and leader of the First Order who is eager to know who Rey is and what he can do for her as well as ordering Kylo to bring her in an attempt to get back in his favor.

Oscar Isaac is excellent as Poe Dameron as the Resistance pilot who copes with the leadership struggle in the Resistance as he tries to create a secret mission as he’s forced to deal with some of the reckless decisions he’s made in his need to learn how to be a leader. John Boyega is marvelous as Finn as a former Stormtroooper who decides to take part in a secret mission created by Poe as he would see exactly what is happening and what the First Order is trying to do. Adam Driver is remarkable as Kylo Ren as Luke’s former apprentice who has turned to the dark side of the Force as he copes with failures in the past as well as his own internal conflict into the role he wants to take. Daisy Ridley is incredible as Rey as a scavenger who is trying to find out who she is and her place in the galaxy while trying to get Luke back into the Resistance while dealing with all sorts of things as it’s a powerful performance from Ridley.

Mark Hamill is phenomenal as Luke Skywalker as the famed Jedi master who has distanced himself from the art of the Jedi as there’s an air of nihilism about Luke’s view on the Jedi due to the fact that he’s consumed with guilt over Kylo and his reluctance to train Rey which lead to some revelations over his failures as a Jedi master. Finally, there’s Carrie Fisher in a radiant performance as General Leia Organa as the Resistance leader who is trying to carry a sense of hope for the Resistance as she knows how grim things are as it’s a performance of grace and elegance where Fisher delivers a performance that is one for the ages as it’s a fitting finale for the late Carrie Fisher.

The Last Jedi is a tremendous film from Rian Johnson. Featuring a great cast, dazzling visual effects, a riveting script with many revelations and character arcs, John Williams’ sumptuous score, and high-octane action. It’s a film that manages to be a lot of things expected in a sci-fi epic while also taking some risks to showcase some of the dark aspects of war and the idea of failure and redemption. In the end, The Last Jedi is a spectacular film from Rian Johnson.

Star Wars Films: Star Wars - The Empire Strikes Back - Return of the Jedi - The Phantom Menace - Attack of the Clones - Revenge of the Sith - The Force Awakens - The Rise of Skywalker

Anthology Series: Rogue One - Solo: A Star Wars Story – (Untitled Star Wars Anthology Film)

Related: The Star Wars Holiday Special - Caravan of Courage - The Battle for Endor - The Clone Wars - Fanboys - The People vs. George Lucas

George Lucas Films: THX 1138 – (American Graffiti)

Rian Johnson Films: Brick - The Brothers Bloom - Looper - Knives Out - Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery - (Knives Out 3)

© thevoid99 2017


Brittani Burnham said...

I'm glad you liked this! I did as well.

Chris said...

Definitely a divisive Star Wars film among fans. I enjoyed it, but I think it's flawed and a bit overrated by critics. The story should have elaborated on who Snoke is, which Force Awakens set up, and the humor often fell flat. To me, Force Awakens was more entertaining.

thevoid99 said...

@Brittani-Same here as I'm glad we had fun watching it.

@Chris-I don't mind the flaws although I too would've liked to know more on who Snoke is. I actually enjoyed the humor which was more subtle though I will agree with you that The Force Awakens was more entertaining.