Not to say that the movie doesn’t successfully echo Empire Strikes Back, fulfilling George Lucas’ original intent for each episode of a trilogy to “rhyme” with its counterparts in other trilogies. But, it may be safe to say, that the final stanza that is Episode IX is slightly more different than one would expect.
At a 150 minutes, The Last Jedi is now the longest Star Wars movie–and it makes good use of every minute, with seemingly unnecessary bits turning out to hold relevance and consequence later on.
In fact, Rian Johnson’s greatest achievement (alongside delivering a movie even the most hardcore of fans wouldn’t be able to predict) is celebrating the low points of the franchise: the “remastered” Original Trilogy, and the Prequel Trilogy with those seemingly unnecessary moments but quickly justifying them.
Another crowning achievement of The Last Jedi would be the contrasting tones that the movie easily achieves with humour despite being easily the darkest entry in the Star Wars universe yet.
While, sure, there’ll be those in today’s audience who prefer the pretentious and faux dark tones a la the DCEU who would take issue with characters being intelligent enough to be funny and possessing wit in the face of danger, they’d be hard-pressed to accuse The Last Jedi of anything that the Original Trilogy hadn’t done with Han’s inappropriate timing to crack jokes or the quirkiness of Yoda in Episode V.
Despite Poe Dameron being the obvious candidate for the Han-style humour, the real MVP happens to be Luke, with Mark Hamill’s performance echoing traits of Yoda on Dagobah. Thankfully, despite the return of Luke Skywalker himself, the narrative of The Last Jedi remains strongly in the hands of Rey and Kylo Ren, promising that this Sequel Trilogy would be more than just Skywalker family drama.
Another point of note would be the influence of Rogue One. Regardless of how Star Wars may feel about the first non-Episode movie, fact is the singular adventure of that ragtag crew has somewhat changed what a Star Wars is all about.
The understanding of the realities of war seems to have had a bit of an influence on Rian Johnson’s world view regarding the Star Wars universe. Survival and strategy are given more consideration, and sub-plots that may have been thrown away in the Original Trilogy are not only given room here, but allowed to stand independently of the greater narrative.
Admittedly, this makes for some congested story-telling, but it is far from unnecessary. If anything, it makes you wonder why it took us this long to get this side of the Star Wars universe.
For all my love for The Last Jedi, I’m still conflicted as to where it stands on my list of Star Wars episodes. In many ways, it is superior to The Force Awakens, standing alongside Empire in defying expectations and delivering the unexpected–but it also shatters pre-conceived notions and that impact can be somewhat jarring.
For now, I’ll hold judgement and wait to see how things pan out in Episode IX.
Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi is out in theatres now!