Article by Brad Smith, follow him on Twitter @brad2534
Let me stop you before you say anything. Yes, some film-goers are calling this one of the worst Star Wars entries ever. Yet I dare to say the opposite. I say that this is the best film in the entire series. How could I think that? Do I know nothing about Star Wars? Do I know nothing about MOVIES? Tune in and keep an open-mind. Wait…I’m probably talking to Star Wars fanboys here…. well, shoot. Here we go. [THERE ARE SPOILERS AHEAD]
Episode I: Rise of the Nostalgia
I grew up on the original trilogy. I got to see them all re-released in theaters and was immediately engrossed and in my opinion, was one of the reasons I want to be a filmmaker today. The characters were likable and complex. The story was simple, but human. And the action and effects were amazing to behold even some twenty-years later.
Here’s the deal: it’s one thing to look back at an older movie and enjoy it still today. It’s a completely separate issue when you let your nostalgia-filled brain control everything you see in the present. Don’t get me wrong, the original Star Wars trilogy is still fantastic to this day. The themes hold true. The action is still fun. But sometimes you have to hold two things up beside each other and just realize one has aged. And the other is pushing the boundary.
To say Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi (referred to as TLJ from here on out) is the worst movie from a clear-cut filmmaking perspective, is quite frankly ridiculous in my opinion. TLJ features the best visuals and action set pieces to date in a Star Wars film. The first scene, pulled me in and had me believing I was in a different world. The direction was filled with modern grace and wonder. I also just recently watched the original trilogy. Again, great movies (you’re going to get tired of me saying that). Sorry to say it, but oh my goodness, the age. They were still enjoyable but not nearly as gripping and awe-inspiring as TLJ. I could just see the green screens. The practical effects looked like a high-school project. They just, didn’t bring me in as much. And to argue that somehow the original trilogy has aged so well to be just as thrilling as Rian Johnson’s masterpiece? Foolish.
Episode II: Return of the Plot Complaints
Let’s set OG Star Wars aside a moment. One of the other main complaints were a couple of major plot elements. TLJ was not perfect in this aspect. There were some holes. But the driving narrative was the most complex and riveting fare that any Star Wars movie has been able to muster. Rey and Kylo Ren. That’s the relationship I continue to think about. It had me thinking that one character was going to succumb to the other at any point. Luke’s story. One of redemption, failure, misguided-wisdom, and strength. Finn’s arc that had me 100% believing he was going to die at one crucial juncture and was heart-wrenching.
This is a phenomenal plot. Again, there are holes. But guess what? The original trilogy did too (yeah, I had to bring it up to hold the dogs at bay). No other Star Wars movie was willing to boldly climb into a new level of storytelling. Until now, safe has been the key word. They thrilled, they made you love fictional characters, but never has one made me think and grapple with what was happening on-screen as much as The Last Jedi did.
Episode III: The Final Breath
I’m going to drop some spoilers here so, seriously, all TLJ virgins turn back now if you didn’t heed the first warning! Some crucial characters die in this movie that had people absolutely outraged. My response? The deaths were handled in a logical, fitting, and course-changing way. It was not just- hey, let’s kill off this character to get some gasps. There was a purpose.
I’m going to write about one character in particular to help me prove my point: Snoke. He was supposed to be the big bad-guy behind the scenes throughout the series. Similar to Emperor Palpatine in the original trilogy. Fans had come up with lavish theories and were hoping he was going to be a key reveal down the road that linked to something from (again) the original episodes. Guess what? In a moment of being pulled slightly away from the dark side, Kylo Ren used the force to put a lightsaber through his side about halfway through the movie. Fans absolutely freaked out at this development thinking it was a cop-out.
- Rian Johnson and the rest of the writing crew toyed with your expectations. This is one piece of filmmaking that is so underrated these days. Fans complained about how The Force Awakens played it too safe. Stuck to the original blueprint. Johnson blew up the blueprint as he does throughout the movie. And now that’s a bad thing? Snoke ended up being a stepping stone and a plot device that will drive Kylo Ren’s story.
- There’s still one movie left in the trilogy. Maybe Snoke’s story (or an associate of his?) comes back and sheds light on who he was in episode IX. It might not. But for angry super fans to just assume that is it for that storyline and make it a major reason why they hated this movie and in doing so call it one of the worst Star Wars films ever? Is just plain churlishness. Think about it.
There’s so much more I could say about this fantastic film. But for now, I’ll lay down my cinematic weaponry. I’ve done all I can. I’ve used all the energy I have at the moment… Time to watch two suns in the distance fade away.