‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Spoiler-Free Review: ‘Empire Strikes Back’ struck down
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I’m not going to say anything about the plot of Star Wars: The Last Jedi in this review, but I will have a lengthy spoiler-filled piece coming out at the start of next week after I have another chance to see the film.

It isn’t every day that I see a blockbuster and am intrigued enough to rush out and see it three times in a week, but here we are. Rian Johnson may have beat George Lucas at his own game, as Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the most vital installment of the franchise since The Empire Strikes Back, and it very well might be better than that film depending on whether or not you have a deep-seated investment. He tears up your traditions and resets the franchise as we know it, and in doing so, sets a path forward for the series that seemed impossible to begin with. It is a towering achievement in blockbuster filmmaking, and is downright magical at points.

What Johnson has succeeded at so well in this film is in capturing the moments of childlike wonder and deeply felt emotion that captivated us from the start of this series. Sure, JJ did his best to make the last film feel like the originals, but Johnson expands the visual palette of the series in an amazing way while retaining that key emotion. There are moments of true beauty, like the assault on Crait, with its streaks of red dirt ripped up from the salty ground by the stabilizers of Resistance speeders, and moments of quiet truth. There’s a scene with Luke (and Mark Hamill is genuinely fantastic here) at the absolute bottom of his arc, that feels like it could have been ripped straight out of an unused draft of the Empire script. He crafts his character arcs perfectly, giving each and every member of the main ensemble a recognizable internal conflict and the external catalyst to drive them to action. It complicates its characters in a similar way to the best moments of Empire, whether it’s Poe’s struggles with the Resistance leadership or Finn’s battles with his own selfishness, and succeeds at making those arcs work. His work with the young cast and the series staples is even better than it was in the last film, especially that they’re given so much to chew on.

Is it a bit too long? Of course, most modern blockbusters are. Are there jokes that don’t land? Yes, absolutely.

But The Last Jedi has heart and humor to spare, and a great deal of surprises in store for even the mildest fan of the series. Johnson has thrown out the playbook, and he’s not out to bullshit you with puzzles for the next installment: The mystery box is as closed as it ever will be, and you will find plenty of the answers that you’re looking for from The Force Awakens in this film. It is as satisfying and complete as any film in this series, often times feeling more like the end than the middle part of an ongoing trilogy. And that’s the thrilling thing about this Star Wars film: For the first time in my life, I’ve seen a Star Wars film and felt totally comfortable with it ending. I didn’t freak out about when the next one was coming out, or what tantalizing mysteries there were to be answered in the future.

There was just peace.

 

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