Running Through The Temple - Star Wars: The Last Jedi
I don't often call filmmakers brave. They are not pulling people out of burning buildings. They aren't facing down hostile gunfire. They are telling make-believe stories. But when Rian Johnson struts into the Church of Star Wars and starts tipping over sacred statues, a label close to brave is warranted. If The Force Awakens was an effort to build credibility for this new trilogy, The Last Jedi is an effort to forge a new path. It is wholly disinterested in the fan theories and the sacrosanct way the franchise is usually approached. As someone who has never been a die-hard Star Wars fan, I welcome this break from the past, but I can definitely understand the ways in which some may not. But regardless of what you think about the direction the franchise is heading, there is no arguing this isn't a new path.
The action picks up with the Leia Organa's (played by Carrie Fisher) Resistance forces facing down the First Order. In a matchup that pits Kylo Ren (played by Adam Driver) against his mother, some of the familiar battle lines that animate Star Wars are on display. To bolster Resistance forces, Rey (played by Daisy Ridley) must travel to a remote location in the galaxy to recruit Luke Skywalker. Luke is resistant to the idea of leaving his self-imposed seclusion, but Rey persists.
Meanwhile, Finn (played by John Boyega) is on a quest to find a codebreaker than can help the Resistance overpower the First Order's defenses. He winds up joining forces with a newcomer, Rose Tico (played by Kelly Marie Tran), and they are lead to a casino where they are told they will find someone. After plans go awry, they ultimately wind up making it back to the Resistance, ready to face down the First Order.
The Force Awakens ends with Rey coming face-to-face with Luke Skywalker in this big climactic scene meant to raise the stakes. In The Last Jedi, Luke starts that face-to-face meeting by tossing aside the lightsaber she has brought him--a clear signal that the events of this movie were going to unfold in unexpected ways. And when the issue of Rey's parentage is brought up, the film does just that. It unfolds in ways that are at once faithful to who these characters are at their cores, but totally dismissive of the conventions some fans demand be in every Star Wars movie. The result is a film that is irreverent, fresh and original. Couple that feel, with the multi-ethnic cast on display, and it feels like a total reimagining of the Star Wars universe.
This reimagining mostly works. Though two and a half hours is inarguably too long, and the film does take a while to get going, it is hard to argue the final product isn't thorough. Star Wars has always been overhyped, but this latest entry is uncommonly deep. Whether it is the introduction of concepts like war profiteering or the isolation of good and evil, the film finds strength in its sophistication. If The Force Awakens was a re-tread bridge to the past, this is a bold, new bridge to the future and I am here for it.
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