Review Round-Up: Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Reviews of the eighth Star Wars film, The Last Jedi, have started coming in following the lifting of the review embargo. And the overall consensus is that writer/director Rian Johnson (who also wrote and directed the excellent Brick and Looper) has made a Star Wars movie for the ages. (As I write this, The Last Jedi has a 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, making it the best reviewed Star Wars film since The Empire Strikes Back.)
Alissa Wilkinson, “The Last Jedi is a magnificent next step for the Star Wars universe”:
For decades, each Star Wars installment has explored those ideas, moving from hope to despair and back again as a fundamentally moral political battle wages between a dark side bent on its own immense power and a scrappy bunch of rebels who dare to think everyone matters. And now, 40 years after it all started, the eighth installment in the Star Wars series, The Last Jedi, retreads that basic setup with a mastery that isn’t just reminiscent of the series’ best entries, but takes its place alongside them.
Germain Lussier, “The Last Jedi Takes Star Wars to a Fantastic New Level”:
The Last Jedi picks up right where The Force Awakens left off. The Resistance has won an important victory against the First Order by blowing up Starkiller Base, but lost its allies in the New Republic. At the same time, Rey has finally tracked down Luke Skywalker, hoping to enlist his help. Those two storylines make up the bulk of the movie and Johnson hits the ground running with both. He instantly creates a tense, engaging tone for the film, because from moment to moment, you truly don’t know what’s going to happen next. Any time things seem to be going one direction, they don’t just zig or zag, they blast off into another dimension entirely. And it happens again and again.
Kevin Jagernauth, The Last Jedi is “Rian Johnson’s Daring & Dazzling Deconstruction Of Destiny”:
Star Wars has always been about destiny, fate, and legacy. However, perhaps like no film in the franchise yet, The Last Jedi seriously considers the hubris that comes with certainty, and how knots from the past that can keep you bound from moving forward. The Force has been awakened, but with that discovery comes restlessness, fear and awe; it’s the frailties of being human that even that universal power can’t solve.
Dave Schilling, “The Star Wars Film That Finally Lives Up To Empire Strikes Back”:
The genius of The Last Jedi (and its direct predecessor, The Force Awakens) is that it’s not shy about exploring the reckoning that’s befallen the Baby Boomers. Good and evil doesn’t seem quite so clear. Everyone’s hands are dirty in one way or another. Greed, lust for power, and self-interested cynicism won out. Whatever New Hope Star Wars represented in 1977 is in retreat. How can one make a cathartic action romp about space Nazis in a time when actual Nazis are reasserting themselves in the national political conversation? Simple: you make a movie about how hope dies.
Syfy Wire Staff, “[The Last Jedi] is going to shock you, then make you cry”:
The Last Jedi walks a fascinating line. It’s a film that is at once intensely loyal to its predecessors and tremendously determined to tread new ground. Every time you think It’s headed to familiar territory, it swerves, and it swerves in an astounding way. Rian Johnson is a filmmaker with an intense understanding of this franchise. As such, he has found ways to somehow be faithful to it and subvert it at the same time. The Force Awakens was often criticized for its reliance on our own familiarity with the galaxy. The Last Jedi wields that as a weapon. It takes the familiar and constantly transforms it, from character motivations to action sequences to plot twists.
Matt Zoller Seitz, “Everything that a fan could want from a Star Wars movie and then some”:
Johnson’s script does a better job than most sequels of giving the audience both what it wants and what it didn’t know it wanted. The movie leans hard into sentiment, most of it planted in the previous installment, some related to the unexpected passing of one of its leads (Fisher — thank goodness they gave her a lot of screen time here, and thrilling things to do). But whenever it allows a character to cry (or invites us to) the catharsis feels earned. It happens rather often — this being a film preoccupied with grieving for the past and transcending it, populated by hounded and broken people who are afraid hope will be snuffed out.
David Edelstein, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi Is Shockingly Good”:
There’s no such thing anymore as a straight, single-strand narrative in this kind of “universe” movie, which has a mandate to look backward and forward as well as sideward at any character with the potential to be spun off into his or her own vehicle. But the new writer-director, Rian Johnson, isn’t an impersonal technician (or a rote imitator, like Abrams). He pinpoints the intersection between characters’ desperate need to belong and the special effects that will lift those longings into the realm of myth. He achieves what no one else has since The Empire Strikes Back: a fusion of junkyard genre parts and passion.
Needless to say, these review bode well for the movie when it opens wide later this week. But they also seem to bode well for the brand new Star Wars trilogy that Rian Johnson will be overseeing, the one that will take us to previously unseen and unexplored corners of the Star Wars universe.