Written by Richie Pepio
During the 124 days before the release of The Last Jedi, I’m reviewing all 124 minutes of the theatrical version of
The Empire Strikes Back. Join me and together we will watch Star Wars…
The last credits are rolling but who cares?! It's December 15th, 2017!
The Last Jedi's official U.S. release date is today and that makes this the final installment of 124 Days of Empire: A Star Wars Countdown. We've laughed at Han and Leia's bickering, we've relived the shock of Vader's famous reveal, and we've dissected the big and small moments of the best Star War. Honestly, this isn't the easiest movie to review; many of these entries often turned into love fests. How do you really break down a movie you've watched repeatedly since childhood, which holds as special a place in your heart as The Last Jedi will probably hold for the next generation of audiences? In terms of choosing the best lines and performances in each individual minute, it was often a tossup. Each moment is packed full of too many classic exchanges: Solo and the Princess are often shouting iconic quips in rapid fire and Luke usually interjects a memorable word or two between Yoda's teaching moments or Vader's lightsaber swipes.
If Star Wars is the perfect Star Wars movie - one that the rest of the franchise has been chasing since 1977 - then Empire is the perfect movie-movie. The best combination of space and opera that a space opera could hope to be. The other films in the saga have fallen somewhere between. And where does The Last Jedi land? Here's just one fan's brief opinion, sprinkled with a helping of SPOILERS -
so avoid if you haven't watched it yet...
On first viewing, it seems like this might be the next greatest installment behind Empire and A New Hope. It's action packed, poignant and emotional when it needs to be. Many reviewers have harped on how it drags in the middle, but if I'm being honest, I never felt bored. Still, the middle wasn't without issues. The casino world of Canto Bight is a more colorful and entertaining version of Bespin, but Finn and Rose's objective just doesn't seem as heavy as the greater conflict facing the fleeing Resistance fleet or the Rey/Luke duo. Their chemistry is enjoyable, but this reviewer's had a hard time buying Finn as a character since The Force Awakens: he's able to serve as a turncoat or a rogue with a heart-of-gold or a clumsy wimp or an expertly trained fighter whenever the script needs him to play these roles. John Boyega gives Finn a fun energy but he and Rey can be plucky underdogs one minute and then have superhuman Matrix fighting skills whenever the plot dictates. Luckily, the newcomers (Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, and Benicio Del Toro) make the most of their material and it's the fresh character pairings that shine here. Oscar Isaac keeps the Rebel drama interesting playing between Carrie Fisher and Laura Dern while Daisy Ridley amps up the tension balancing Hamill's Light Side teachings against Adam Driver's dark temptations. And Chewie and the Porgs kill it, particularly in one campfire scene.
There are a lot of connections to Empire here, (the walkers on Crait versus the walkers on Hoth, the First Order's long pursuit of the out-of-fuel Resistance reminiscent of Vader's fleet tailing the hyperdrive-less Falcon, the wise learner teaching the young Padawan, the Dark Side caves, the betrayals of Lando and DJ, etc.), but The Last Jedi feels like more of its own movie than The Force Awakens did. And yet, much of the pre-release hype centered around big twists and I couldn't help but assume that the reveals would be as big as "I am your father." Sure, Twitter is blowing up about ruined childhoods but outside of spectacular fights, some new camera-work, an opening with Marvel-style banter, and a sendoff for a certain major character, nothing is on par with the 1980 reveal of Luke's parentage. The biggest surprises revolve around the most theorized backstories (Rey's parentage and Snoke's origin) simply serving as red herrings in favor of a larger through-line that seems to mirror the struggle in the Original Trilogy more than I would have expected. Despite all this, it's nice to see a movie where everything matters, where the urgency is always present, and the appearances of long-distant characters feels less like fan service and more like a reunion with old friends. As someone who was a little disappointed with the repetitive nature of The Force Awakens' last act, The Last Jedi stands out. And although they didn't know it while filming, TLJ gives Leia an even better farewell than we could have possibly imagined (although I'm still hoping she makes an appearance in Episode IX, through deleted footage or Force magic or both).
As AV Club's review states: The Last Jedi "doesn’t always juggle its multiple storylines with the grace of, yes, The Empire Strikes Back. But by the rousing final act, Johnson has brought an apocalyptic grandeur to the lightsaber duels and airborne combat. His often-stirring addition to the saga finally lands on an affecting point about the importance of preserving essential cultural tradition without clinging too strictly to the dogma—and the texts—of the old way. In that philosophy, contrasting hard with the burn-it-all-down zealotry of Kylo Ren, Star Wars locates a promising path forward: old virtues, new cool."
It's a worthy successor to The Force Awakens that elevates the characters and situations from that movie while flying us toward a trilogy's conclusion that isn't quite as predictable as before. I have no idea how they're going to follow this movie, but December 20th, 2019 can't come soon enough. Even though The Last Jedi is no Empire Strikes Back, several memorable sequences reach the quality of the 1980 movie and that's a pretty high compliment.
The Empire Strikes Back - Overall
Best Performance by a Human: Each member of the cast is given something to do but nobody can compare to the deadpanned swagger of Han Solo.
Best Performance by a Non-human: The X-Wing rising from the swamp to the tune of John Williams' "Yoda's Theme."
Best Line: For pop culture impact - "No, I am your father."
Rating: 92.5 out of The Last Jedi's 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
This was originally posted on Mindctrlaltdel.tumblr.com