Star Wars – The Last Jedi
Director: Rian Johnson. Starring Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver. Length: 152 minutes.
The fight between the forces of good and evil goes on without quarters in the galaxy. The First Order star fleet, constantly breathing down the neck of the rebel forces lead by princess/general Leia Organa, has created a technology capable of tracking the Resistance ships even after hyperspace jumps.
While on a nearby planet former stormtrooper Finn must search for a mysterious master codebreaker capable of erasing the advantage of their enemies, daredevil pilot Poe Dameron is wracking his brain between a starsiege and a few issues with discipline. On the opposite front, the tortured Kylo Ren is torn between the lack of approval as new lord of evil and the guilt for the blood on his hands.
Meanwhile, on the farthest planet in the galaxy, young Rey has found the Last Jedi Knight, Luke Skywalker. The last hopes of saving the galaxy from darkness apparently rest in his hands.
There are two ways to judge this movie, either seeing it as destined to be compared against the awesome mythlogical legacy resting on its shoulders, or as an original adventure destined to win new audiences.
The Last Jedi is the eighth instalment in the original Star Wars canon (or the penultimate chapter in a triple-trilogy body of work), but above all, it’s the link joining the past of the famous saga – which is coming to a close – and its future, entrusted to the plannings of Disney which, now in possession of the exclusive rights to the whole narrative universe, has promised to expand it the coming years with a multitude of ramifications.
A few weeks before the movie’s release in fact, news came out that Rian Johnson – here serving both as director and writer – had been entrusted with the creation of three more movies (though he will direct just the first one) that will explore a corner of the Star Wars universe still unknown. And, seeing what Disney previously did with Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, you can bet they are just getting started.
It’s a complex issue then, because as a new chapter of the story, the movie disappoints, but as an original story aiming to redefine coordinates, atmospheres and themes, the movie works. Inevitably, The Last Jedi is exactly what it should be: Disney’s big holiday movie, conceived for the new generations, not shying away from many a wink to the older audiences – whose appetite for nostalgia had already been satisfied by the beautiful Rogue One (2016) – but with the intention of dismissing it without appeal or too many preambles.
Actually, going back two years, there has been a preamble: the previous episode, The Force Awakens (2015) had had the function of tying temporal nodes back together, resuming narrative lines, recapping every detail, reiterate (for the last time) what had already been told, and then welcome and boost what was new.
If that movie had to bring old and young audiences together, this one can maybe do without the former, not in a numerical sense (who would dream of missing it?), but maybe in an emotional one. That’s what’s new!
The Last Jedi is, in fact, an irreverent movie, and here lies his ambivalence. The more experienced viewers could feel betrayed. The younger ones by contrast, prefectly at ease. The more devoted fan could be bothered by the absence of a coherent expressive tone: to be clear, the old episodes of the saga were quite autoironic on their own, but here the bits intended to lighten the mood veer more towards the self-parody, and that’s when the so-called suspension of disbelief disappears.
Perhaps the younger Facebook generation might not perceive this double registry as schizophrenic, but their parents, who grew up with the myth of Star Wars, will find here neither the true epic nor the authentic childlike spirit which defined the original movies. Moreover, if The Force Awakens was almost annoying for how slavishly it followed every cliché, The Last Jedi – in an exactly opposite fashion – systematically betrays every expectation about characters and story.
The repeated disregard of these expectations (we won’t say more, because the plot twists are many) could even be considered a plus, except that in the long run, such boldness ends up revealing its programmatic nature, and becomes corny by doing so. More handiwork than work of art.
And yet, in shutting out the adult viewer, the movie is everything but uninterested in the maturation of the younger one. This can be observed in the representation of the struggle between good and evil which, with every right, does not depict a manichean juxtaposition but a war fought within the hearts of the characters, all in some degree facing doubts, fears and temptations (Kylo Ren’s arc of the villain “tempted” by goodness, especially, seems like the most intriguing point of view of all).
It can also be seen in an unexpected detour in social critic (for the first time in the whole saga we are shown “rich people”, not as power figures but as wealthy privileged people, in contrast with the poor and exploited) and from an impromptu reference to weapon dealers getting rich by selling armaments to bad and good guys too.
It looks like the “galaxy far far away” created by George Lucas is losing more and more its references to the classical epos in order to handle its universal themes by filtering them to explain today’s world. Maybe it’s a good thing.
The masterpieces of the past (the incomparable original trilogy from the 1970/80’s) becomes even greater by comparison. The mythology is intact, but only by completely switching gears can the Star Wars saga enter the third millenium. So, dear Star Wars fans, to quote a popular line from Back to the Future, “I guess you guys aren’t ready for that yet… but your kids are gonna love it”.