Somehow, in 2017, we have finally gotten to the point where they are making great STARS WARS films. Not just good ones, or ones that meet our measured expectations, but great films. THE LAST JEDI is not a perfect film, but it is entertaining and manages to balance fan expectations with actually being a good movie. Above all else, however, it is a shining beacon of hope in this incredibly crummy year.
Spoiling a STAR WARS films is akin to high treason amongst my tribe (i.e.: nerds) so I will keep the plot synopsis vague. THE LAST JEDI picks up just where THE FORCE AWAKENS lets off. Rey (Daisy Ridley) has arrived to a remote island on an unnamed planet to retrieve our only hope for the resistance: Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). In the meantime Poe (Oscar Isaac) is still a hotshot pilot doing his best hero impression and going against General Leia (Carrie Fisher) when he feels the impulse. Finn (John Boyega) is with the resistance too, and gets his own adventures.
Herein lies my only, microscopic criticism of THE LAST JEDI: the gang is not all “here.” Nearly each of the major characters is off on their own mission. The biggest strength of THE FORCE AWAKENS was uniting the galactic dream team, and yanking them apart makes the plot of the film a little clunky for my liking*. It feels more like a smoothly edited anthology than a unifying battle cry. Given the nature of the film’s story this lack of cohesion amongst the characters makes total sense, but I still would have gotten a kick out of seeing more unity on screen.
Beyond that nitpicky detail, THE LAST JEDI is an amazing film and by far the most political. The casting reflects the franchise’s dedication to diversity and inclusivity, which is in line with the galactic rebellion and a welcome change to the typical tokenism in other big budget films. The plot also spends more time addressing animal welfare and class inequality in ways that we have not yet seen in these films. These issues are not necessarily central to the plot, and are more related to one character’s personal growth, but they are not shoved into the audience’s noses.
Above all of those social issues, THE LAST JEDI comes at a necessary time in America’s dismal political situation. It is easy to feel like we are outnumbered, unrepresented, steamrolled, and forgotten. Just like the rebels, we are fighting for good in the universe and for the rights for all others too. The power hungry dictators on screen are far worse than our current administration (for now), but the emotional reaction can be the same. But no matter what happens, we persist. Fighting the good fight is always worth the risk, because lying down is not an option.
STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI is a wonderfully directed, acted, and progressive film. Though it takes place in a galaxy far far away, the emotions and politics are very much here on earth today. The film is absolutely worth watching, just as the fight is still worth fighting.
*Think of it as THE LAST JEDI is to MUPPETS TAKE MANHATTAN, as THE FORCE AWAKENS is to THE MUPPET MOVIE, if you will.