Star Wars: The Last Jedi, 2017.
Written and Directed by Rian Johnson.
Starring Daisy Ridley, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Carrie Fisher, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, Laura Dern, Kelly Marie Tran, Benicio del Toro, Billie Lourd, Gwendoline Christie, Lupita Nyong’o, Jimmy Vee, Tim Rose, Warwick Davis, Hermione Corfield, and Veronica Ngo.
The Last Jedi has arrived on Blu-ray, ready for you to hate on it or love it, depending on your preference. If you enjoyed it, you’ll appreciate the bonus features included here, such as the 95-minute documentary that covers the making of the film from start to finish.
Let’s get something out of the way first: The Last Jedi is just a movie. If you’re like me and you saw the original Star Wars trilogy in theaters in the 70s and 80s, rest assured that this film will not (repeat: WILL NOT) destroy your childhood memories. I’ve seen it twice and can attest to that.
I won’t recap the plot since you can read that in about a million places online and you’ve likely seen the movie already, in which case you’re free to skip down to the part of this review that discusses the bonus features. Or perhaps you want to see what I think of The Last Jedi so you can blast me in the comments section. (Yes, there are a few spoilers below.)
This film is surely not without its flaws, but I have a feeling that anyone who puts The Last Jedi in the “pretty good” category, like I do, has a difference sense of what those flaws are. Just like The Force Awakens emulated the movie that started it all, this one clearly tries to be The Empire Strikes Back of the sequel trilogy, which is much better than trying to be the Attack of the Clones of the trilogy.
Just like Empire subverted many expectations filmgoers had – the good guys get their butts kicked across the galaxy, the big battle is a land-based one about 20 minutes in, and the hero finds out the villain is his dear ol’ dad – The Last Jedi certainly turns many preconceived notions upside-down, although not every limb that director Rian Johnson crawls out on manages to hold narrative weight.
To make this easy, I’ll go ahead and bullet-point my thoughts, starting with the good:
- I love Mark Hamill, but I disagree with his feelings about Luke. I liked the exploration of the idea that Luke has decided that the Jedi order was simply a flawed concept from the start and needed to come to an end. Keep in mind that that doesn’t mean that the Force itself goes away, nor that other people can’t become Jedi-like. It just means that maybe the galaxy can keep on turning whether the Jedi are around or not.
- And let’s not forget that Luke does help his friends in the end, performing the ultimate sacrifice in the process. This movie is so bittersweet for me because the heroes I grew up with from the original films are now gone. But as I said, the galaxy will keep turning. (For what it’s worth, Hamill does air some of his reservations in the documentary on this Blu-ray, which was appreciated.)
- The humor mostly works in this film. Even the opening scene, which I wasn’t originally sold on, worked well upon a second viewing. It has shades of Harrison Ford’s improvised “We’re all fine here – how are you?” scene in Star Wars.
- The three-way struggle between Kylo Ren, Rey, and Snoke is interesting and layered. It’s not a traditional “Let’s fight with lightsabers” thing, which I appreciated.
- I liked the break from the traditional end of a Star Wars movie by taking us back to Canto Bight and putting one of Chekhov’s proverbial guns on the mantelpiece. I’m sure that kid will show up again somewhere, maybe in the new trilogy that Johnson has been given.
And here’s the bad and not-so-good:
- Sea cow milk? WTF?
- Leia saves herself by using the Force to fly through space and return to the ship. Sure, why not? Actually, no – that was a bad idea.
- I guess we need to learn Snoke’s back story through the ancillary novels and comics? That’s annoying.
- Why didn’t Poe just let Holdo know about his plan? It seemed like a good idea that would get him back in her good graces.
- And speaking of Holdo: Such a waste of an interesting character. She could have at least performed her sacrificial maneuver a little sooner, rather than waiting until nearly all the transports were destroyed.
- Same for Captain Phasma, who was never really developed much as a character in her two movies, and Benicio del Toro’s DJ, whose betrayal is meant to flip the “scoundrel with a heart of gold” trope on its head but which instead just feels “blah.”
- Yoda seemed off to me. I realize that they went back to the original puppet mold, but his face seemed a bit bloated, like he was in his Vegas Elvis stage. He also didn’t talk the way I’d expect from Yoda at such a momentous occasion.
Sure, I have more items in the second list than in the first one, but on the whole, this was a pretty good movie. I appreciated the risks Johnson took, even if they didn’t all pan out. I don’t want every Star Wars movie to just rehash the same basic plot.
This Blu-ray + Digital edition I was sent features the movie on one Blu-ray disc, with a code for a digital copy. The only bonus feature on the film disc is a commentary track in which Johnson talks about his approach to the movie, anecdotes from the set, and much more. If you enjoyed the film, it’s well worth a listen. If you hated it, I suppose you could argue with his commentary as it plays.
Over on the second disc, the 95-minute documentary The Director and the Jedi covers the making of the movie from the early days to the end, with tons of fly-on-the-wall moments from the set. Johnson, many members of the cast and crew, and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy all chime in with their thoughts. One thing I appreciate in these new movies is the use of practical effects – CGI is a useful tool, but not every creature and ship needs to be created in a computer.
The other main bonus feature serves up 23 minutes of deleted and extended scenes with an introduction by Johnson and an optional commentary by him. It’s understandable why all that stuff was cut, especially given the final film’s 152-minute running time, but I always enjoy any chance to visit the Star Wars universe one more time.
Here’s what rounds out the bonus stuff:
- Balance of the Force (10 minutes): Johnson talks about how he thinks of the Force, why Luke ended up in self-imposed exile, and Rey’s motivation in pursuing her training. He’s clearly thought through this part of the Star Wars universe and how it will propel Rey’s story into Episode IX (and beyond?).
- Scene Breakdowns (33 minutes): This consists of three pieces packed with interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. They breakdown the big space battle, the showdown with Snoke, and the final confrontation on Crait.
- Andy Serkis Live! (One Night Only) (6 minutes): Here’s Serkis’s motion-capture performance as Snoke, before he disappeared behind the CGI.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★