'Star Wars: The Last Jedi': The Gizmodo Review

Days removed from seeing Star Wars: The Last Jedi, I still can't believe it's a real movie. I can't believe what writer-director Rian Johnson did: He took all of our preconceived notions of what a Star Wars movie is and evolved them. The movie is genuinely shocking at times - multiple times - but it also feels fully authentic to the Star Wars universe. And this is why The Last Jedi is so good, even if there are a few hiccups along the way.

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.

For example, parts of the film are very funny - like, almost too funny. The humour can, at times, feel overboard from what we're used to in Star Wars. And yet it works. Then there are parts of the film that are incredibly weird and almost surreal - moments that seem more fit for an avant-garde movie. But they work too, because the very nature of Star Wars is that anything is possible. From scene to scene Johnson is basically saying, "Look, if we can have talking slugs, laser swords, and lightspeed, why can't I do this?" And then he does it.

Thankfully, all that quirk and surprise never comes at the expense of spectacle, and The Last Jedi has plenty of it. Epic lightsaber fights, huge space battles, one-on-one duels - there's rarely a moment when something amazing isn't happening onscreen. And yet, that Star Wars iconography is always punctuated with Johnson's personality. John Williams' excellent score can be soaring on the soundtrack, or some familiar setting or ship can show up, and Johnson still manages to put his own unique spin on it.

The film's epic 150-minute runtime allows plenty of room for Johnson's inventiveness, but there's also a tiny bit of fat in the middle of the movie, specifically in the Canto Bight scenes with Finn and Rose. The casino city itself is gorgeous and has some crazy-cool characters, plus Finn and Rose's presence there shines a light on some new, worthwhile themes for the Star Wars franchise. However, in terms of the overall story, the whole escapade feels a little pointless and small. It doesn't help that Benicio del Toro's new character, DJ, who is part of the same storyline, is largely insignificant.

Everyone else in the movie is given heightened significance, though. If you loved what Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver did with Rey and Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi is going to blow you away, as both characters evolve in mesmerising ways. Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) has tons more to do and we're all better for it. The same goes for General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), who is arguably the funniest character in the film, as well as Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), who is deliciously evil and confident. And while Finn and Rose might not have the best storyline overall, John Boyega and Kelly Marie Tran are each wonderful throughout it. Their chemistry feeds into the energy that permeates The Last Jedi. Finally, Laura Dern's new character, Vice Admiral Holdo, gives the film a strong new leader and some of the movie's best scenes.

Then, of course, there's Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher. Hamill's return to Luke Skywalker is as complex a performance as we've ever seen in a Star Wars movie. You can feel the conflict and pain on his face in every scene. Fisher too has an expanded role, and the more she does and says as General Leia, the more emotional the movie gets, resulting in a worthy farewell performance.

Once The Last Jedi kicks into its final act, the film's somewhat saggy middle is forgotten and forgiven. The final hour or so of the film is filled with truly intense and shocking moments - all while Johnson also finds time to examine more complex things that Star Wars has never dealt with before, like celebrity, war profiteering, and the importance of letting go of the past. By combining the spectacle and this thoughtfulness, Johnson has made the entire experience of The Last Jedi incredibly rewarding.

"Experience" is a good word for it, too, because that's what The Last Jedi feels like. It's a movie, sure, but it's somehow more than that. Maybe that's just because it's Star Wars. Maybe that's because it's so densely packed with mythology and entertainment. But either way, The Last Jedi is a top-of-the-line, A-plus Star Wars and scifi movie - one that we'll be watching and discussing for as long as there's a galaxy far, far away.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi opens today.

Here's a video review too:

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Comments

    Movie was C.. C+ At best. Kyro Ren is still disappointing and not loving the Ben Solo arc

      Bad bad oh so bad! The Finn and Rose story was a complete waste of time. I honestly though they were hinting at a Rey romance. Guess not! Totally unfunny jokes right at the start was the deal breaker. Just because it worked for you in Thor Disney doesnt mean it works in Star Wars. Mark Hamill, Driver and Ridley did the best they could but why WHY! Was Laura Dern in it at all? She bombed badly and was more wooden than the colour her hair dye came from. Yes in a galaxy far away Laura Dern has permed purple hair just to be spacey! Fuck no! This isnt Space 1999.

      Bad bad oh so bad! The Finn and Rose story was a complete waste of time. I honestly though they were hinting at a Rey romance. Guess not! Totally unfunny jokes right at the start was the deal breaker. Just because it worked for you in Thor Disney doesnt mean it works in Star Wars. Mark Hamill, Driver and Ridley did the best they could but why WHY! Was Laura Dern in it at all? She bombed badly and was more wooden than the colour her hair dye came from. Yes in a galaxy far away Laura Dern has permed purple hair just to be spacey! Fuck no! This isnt Space 1999.

        Purple Hair was UFO, not Space: 1999. Other than that totally agree with every single point.

    It had me hooked all the way up to the end. Not gonna spoil it but suffice to say if it annoyed you in TFA it’ll annoy you here too. Once you see the movie you’ll know what I mean. Still a lot of questions left unanswered and more questions have been raised. Huge improvement on TFA though. Felt much fresher and original. Still, it’ll never beat Empire Strikes Back.

    Having watched it last night here are my thoughts on it. I enjoyed watching it as a entertainment piece but it had a lot of issues. I wasn't a fan of TFA for reference and I am very tired writing this.

    - The pacing of the movie overall was horrible and the main suspense riddled with so many holes it wasn't funny. It just jumped quickly through some parts and dragged on others. With timelines that didn't make sense and gaping plot holes that left you wondering wtf they were thinking.

    - The humor was overdone and too much - it was almost as cringe worthy as fart jokes.

    - The Finn/Rose side story was pointless and didn't further toe story or character development in any way.

    My issues with the plot:

    - Leia wizardering her way back aboard the ship was just terrible and would of served the movie far better to kill her there and then

    - the speed of spaceships, they managed to make it look so pedestrian that a world war 2 plane could of flied circles around them.

    - the fuel fiasco and light-speed. This was a really badly done sequence which was riddled with plot holes. For starters why did tie fighters pull off, they had the rebel fleet on the rocks and suddenly disengaged from the position of supremacy because they were getting too far away... what could of turned into an epic "naval battle" turned into a turtle crawl through space. The we got to see the great plan of launching all the smaller shuttles which have light-speed in all the other movies but sneak to the closest planet (I guess they didn't have enough fuel, but then their cruiser still had enough to suicide run snokes), and now somehow, the first order which can track you through space don't have advanced enough scanners to see multiple ships coming from the only ship in space??

    - the lets just keep adding new force abilities because we can, just because you can doesn't mean you should.

    - Phasma - WTF was the point of this character in the movies - totally pointless.

    - Porgs - lets just blatantly market plush toys, I surprised we didn't get a shot of chewie drinking coke whislt using an iphone......

    Whilst totally watchable and entertaining you could tell that this movie lacked a director with a clear vision and has suffered strongly from Kathleen Kennedy pushing her own ideas and agenda's at the of a good story.

      Porgs - lets just blatantly market plush toys

      I hear you, but that's what Star Wars does. Whether its R2-D2, C3-PO, Yoda, Ewoks, Jar Jar, or BB8, merchandising has always been a significant choice for Star Wars stuff.

      I'd be more surprised if they hadn't had something like the porgs to be honest.

      I am glad to have never reached that point in adulthood, even in my forties, in which I can’t turn off the cynical and analytical part of my mind and enjoy something like this.

      Sadly “plot holes” is meaningless these days. It has come to mean: anything someone doesn’t like, something they didn’t hear the explanation for

      Point by point.

      Leia only feels like she should have died because she's dead irl. In the context of the movies it's beautiful she finally uses the force.

      Spaceships moving in empty space...no landmarks to compare too. What's your point.

      They specifically had to get far enough away from the destroyers so the ties had to turn back for fuel weapons etc. It was their plan. They said it blatanly as such in the film.
      They also made a point of showing these transports are different. These ones never had lightspeed in previous films mate cause the transport they are on is the only one that's existed. They left hoth and had to get on a big transport to leave. The first order don't have advanced ship tracking they locked on with a hyperspace tracker. That wouldn't shows small ships leaving in their blind spot. Did you even watch this film or just read a summary and complain? All your arguments of plot holes are clearly explained in detail.

      Now Finn's plot was slow and annoying. And the porgs and all felt a bit weird. Should have been higher quality and less funny but those are small issues in an amazing film imo.

      New force abilities? Being a force ghost is not new. Yoda did it in episode 5 and obi wan did in episode 4? Or 5 if we're talking physical. Luke just copied them.

        Doesn't being a force ghost mean you have to be...you know...dead? They suddenly gave Luke a new Jedi ability to do a Dr. Strange. Would have come in mighty handy during the Clone Wars.

          Isn't it a major point of Star Wars that Luke is the most powerful Jedi ever? Then why is it hard to believe he has force abilities that surpass other masters we have seen. Luke has also fulfilled his prophecy of bringing balance back to the force with Kylo = dark side and Rey = Light.

    Maybe I'm getting too old for this sh*t. I went into that movie with low expectations after TFA and RO and they weren't met. There's a chance we are going to come out the other end of this with a worse trilogy than the prequels, a slim chance, but I am not feeling confident about Ep IX. Some personal observations:

    1. The film still copied multiple scenes from other Star Wars movies, maybe they should have called this trilogy a reboot.
    2. For some inexplicable reason the whole film was played for laughs. It felt like it was directed by Oprah...You get a joke and you get a joke and everybody gets a joke.
    3. The acting was, as expected, below par, though I thought Driver was better this time. There really was a Harrison Ford sized hole in the movie.
    4. Who the hell designed those bombers? Worst ship ever.
    5. So Snoke and the reveal of Rey's parents huh, all those theories and rumours over the last few years really paid off.
    5. To me it felt more like I was watching a Harry Potter movie, this trilogy just doesn't
    feel Star Warsy to me. It looks like it, but the tone doesn't match the OT.

    I know many will love it and that's fine, I just think Star Wars has passed me by which makes sense as it was always designed for kids and it seems I'm not a big kid anymore.

      It’s sad but true.
      I found myself thinking, ‘is this over yet’... heresy ... but I guess that’s where i’m at these days. Enjoyed Rogue One a lot more

        I didn't enjoy Rogue One that much but now, in retrospect, I like it more because I think it is the best we are going to get.

    I wanted to love it but found it a bit of a navel gazing fest. Between the unnecessary and irritating fauna that seemed to pop up everywhere, the bloated length (seemed to end a couple more times than it should have) and what I think might be a ham fisted and cynical attempt at shifting the emphasis on a couple of relationships... I wanted to love it but couldn't; other than as a visually engaging moving feast...

      As per a previous comment... Moving really slowly at that. I mean... Why not send a ship or 2 (or all but one) ahead at light speed or for that matter in any direction, because space isn't a single plain, and then come at the turtle from above, below, in front... etc... Only one ship was running out of fuel as far as I could tell?

    Kyro Ren should have never shown his face in the 1st movie, and the mask should have stayed on for this one.

      I thought it should never have been removed in the first one, but it makes sense for it not to be here in this one.

    For me it keeps coming back to the words “this is not going to go the way you think”. Which works on so many levels, so much of it goes against typical Hollywood writing, in a theatrical concept of Checkov’s Gun type of way. It’s not often in a blockbuster do they continually set things up only to keep side stepping.

    So many brilliant ideas in there, so many ‘brave’ choices. Though amid all that I am pretty proud I worked out who’s Rey parents were.

    It was average at best and i don't understand the hype about Rian Johnson, and more so, based off this film, why he's been rewarded with a trilogy offshoot of his own.

    Parts i didn't like:
    - opening jokes were forced and jarring and took me out of the film completely
    - long stretches of bleh dialogue in the middle parts of the movie (i nodded off a couple times)
    - dialogue lines were so horrible, i feel for the actors, i wonder if they were thinking whether or no they were making a spoof campy version of The Last Jedi first before the real thing
    - fireball explosions and general physics (yes we know it's Star Wars but come on! Why do the Rebel bombers suddenly look like they're falling downwards once damaged, IN SPACE, why a bombing run that looks to be gravity activated IN SPACE.
    -FUCK

      - dialogue lines were so horrible, i feel for the actors, i wonder if they were thinking whether or no they were making a spoof campy version of The Last Jedi first before the real thing

      I'd argue that dialogue in Star Wars films has always been terrible :)

      I still enjoyed the film though.

    Avoided reading anything to go into it clean last night. Probably hyped it up too much in my own head but that was a downright terrible movie. Pacing was off, long boring stretches (Canto Bight?) and so many plot holes that "Space Opera" doesn't patch over it any more...

    Then I came home and read all the reviews I had been avoiding that called it "the most intelligent Star Wars film ever" and the like, it rocked me... I'm glad I've found my people in this comment section though at least

    So Leia can survive direct hit massive explosions now.....
    can be blown out of a spaceship with all the debris....
    she can breathe in space now....
    and can mystically float her way through space... back to safety.

    No seriously...Leia can do this now.

    And Luke, well... he doesn't even need to be in the star system to fight someone. Just does it with his mind. Yes, I know! His freakin' mind dude. But he dies if he does it.

    Anyone else wanna tell me why the whole movie the shots from snokes ship when fired at the cruiser arced? It’s space. Theres no gravity. They should go straight.

      There was gravity in all sorts of spaces it shouldn't have been.
      Ships with no fuel spin out of control.
      Bombs drop straight down.

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