Paul Shipper Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last Jedi left me speechless and shaken. I was not prepared for the “holy shit” shocking turn of events, the underlying emotion, the laugh-out-loud humor, the occasional ballsiness, and the bonkers weirdness. With Rian Johnson at the helm, I knew it was in good hands, but I was surprised to find it might be one of the best looking Star Wars films to date. It’s bold, it’s weird, it’s excellent. There are so many instantly iconic shots and so much to chew on.

I saw the film only a few days ago, and I’m still thinking about it. I definitely need to see the movie again, but for now, here are some spoiler-free thoughts.

Rian johnson Star Wars

This is a Rian Johnson Film

The look of The Last Jedi is even more distinctly Rian Johnson than Force Awakens was J.J. Abrams. Every shot has a distinct purpose, and in that respect, this might be the best looking Star Wars film to date. The opening action sequence is edge-of-your-seat spectacular. The choreography and geography of the action, the distinct eye for presentation, the escalation of the screenplay, the precise editing, the build of the John Williams score – together, it all feels like a masterclass in filmmaking.

The Force Awakens had so many cool-looking shots, but so much of what makes the action in The Last Jedi great is that every single shot is in service of the storytelling. While it’s unmistakably Johnson’s modern visual sensibilities, it also feels like a return to a more classic presentation of action storytelling.

And while Abrams’ films asked a bunch of questions and allowed us to speculate for years, Johnson’s film is more about answers and pulling the rug out from underneath you when you’re least expecting it.

star wars the last jedi crystal foxes

The Movie is Not the One You’re Probably Expecting

The marketing for The Last Jedi certainly gave off an Empire Strikes Back vibe, but the movie is not comparable. It’s so very different, but I think if you had to compare it to any previous Star Wars film thus far, I’d probably compare it to Return of the Jedi.

People complained that the worlds and story in The Force Awakens were more of the same and Rian Johnson has done the complete opposite. The worlds and stories in The Last Jedi are entirely different than what we’ve seen before, and sometimes that is a breath of fresh air and sometimes that is jarring.

It’s interesting because Abrams likes to maintain his “mystery box” and lock down everything about his movies, but The Force Awakens may have been the leakiest big film I’ve ever seen. I know or had some idea of almost all of the big plot points going into that first screening. The Last Jedi, however, was very different. Sure, you can piece together some things from the trailers, but most of it was not what I was expecting at all. The marketing had some excellent misdirection and I think it helps that (as my friend and former /Film writer Germain Lussier has pointed out), Johnson makes himself accessible, and thus fans don’t look at learning plot points as a game of solving a puzzle.

star wars the last jedi behind the scenes 1

The Last Jedi Goes to Some Weird Places, and That’s Wonderful

Star Wars is now owned by the big corporate mouse, and it would be easy for them to hire a filmmaker who isn’t going to take big chances or try interesting things. But Rian Johnson seems very interested in pushing this film to the limits, often times going in the direction you might least expect it to go.

For instance (very minor vague details in the next sentence), the film touches on the concept of mistreatment of alien creatures in this far away galaxy, the Force is used in strange trippy ways we’ve never seen before, and Luke Skywalker’s argues that the “Jedi”, a brand that earns Disney so much money, must die.

canto bight alien

Canto Bight Feels Right Out of the Star Wars Prequels

While Johnson mostly succeeds with his approach to creating different worlds and new challenges for our heroes, sometimes he takes a swing for the fences and gets a miss.  This is a spoiler-free reaction, so I won’t say much, but I will provide one example: the casino planet of Canto Bight.

The sequence looks like something out of the Star Wars prequels, which isn’t necessarily an insult as the prequels had an exceptional design, it’s just a very different aesthetic from the original trilogy palette. I suspect the design alone will result in a divisive response, but the story on this planet is probably my least favorite aspect of the film.

Luke Skywalker blind

While Last Jedi is Different, It Follows George Lucas’ Original Playbook

Rian Johnson made a conscious choice not to play to nostalgia or reference previous episodes, and while it’s probably much different than anything Star Wars creator George Lucas would have done with the franchise today, it’s worth noting that the core of the story could probably be credited to Lucas’ storytelling inspiration. Luke Skywalker’s struggle with Rey is directly out of the Hero’s Journey, the storytelling formula that Lucas explored in the original trilogy.

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About the Author

Peter Sciretta is a film geek and popcultured fanboy living in Los Angeles. He created /Film in 2005.