Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi successfully takes the franchise in new directions and sets a new course for the concluding chapter of Lucasfilm’s sequel trilogy, J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: Episode IX. By most conventional metrics, The Last Jedi is currently rated among the top films in the entire saga with critics and fans alike.
In fact, Johnson’s made what is unquestionably the best entry of the Disney era – although can’t quite match the brilliance of the originals.
The Last Jedi Is Better Than The Force Awakens (This Page
Why The Last Jedi is Better Than The Force Awakens
The Force Awakens – the first installment in the Lucasfilm’s new Star Wars trilogy – masterfully revived the franchise after a 10-year hiatus and gave audiences everything they loved about the original trilogy, packaged in a brand new film that kickstarted a series of its own. Of course, that meant rehashing key sequences from George Lucas’ Star Wars, as well as relying heavily upon simple conveniences to progress the overarching narrative forward. That doesn’t mean the movie was inferior to past Star Wars films, but it does present a sense of unoriginality in addition to nostalgia.
Johnson doesn’t repeat the same mistakes The Force Awakens made and actually takes bold steps in distinguishing his movie from the previous installments, all while still feeling somewhat familiar. The Last Jedi stacks up against The Force Awakens marvelously. The sequel does feature callbacks to the original trilogy and sometimes rehashes old moments (e.g. cave scene, AT-AT assault, apprentice turning on the master, etc.), but those scenes are neither forced nor are they prominent enough to make audiences groan at their sheer existence. Rather, they feel earned and natural to the story.
The film also baits-and-switches the plot narrative to differentiate itself from the original trilogy by having Supreme Leader Snoke die relatively early on (and remain mysterious), thus leaving Kylo Ren to become the new Supreme Leader. Ben Solo is still no Darth Vader, but his grandfather never ascended to the Emperor’s throne, so giving Kylo that opportunity in The Last Jedi allows for a potentially interesting story and conclusion in Episode IX.
But what The Last Jedi does best is it steps away from the franchise’s traditional customs and paves a new path. There are little things. This is the first Star Wars movie ever to start without a time jump; the lack of one is crucial to the film’s story, and it’s non-existence allows the movie to build directly off the raw emotions left brewing at the end of The Force Awakens. Bigger, audiences receive answers to some of their biggest questions without those answers actually meaning anything, and that’s something Johnson executed admirably. Having something that was seemingly essential to a character’s arc become somewhat extraneous is difficult to do, especially in Star Wars – but he did it.
Up until The Last Jedi released, one of the biggest mysteries was Rey’s lineage. Who are/were her parents? Someone as powerful as Rey couldn’t possibly be just anybody, right? Wrong. That’s exactly who she is: nobody. But her past doesn’t define her as much as Kylo’s past defines him. His hatred for Luke Skywalker and Han Solo defines who he is as well as every action he takes. That distinction not only embodies the dark side of the Force but sharply differentiates Kylo Ren from Rey; someone who isn’t willing to let their past die compared to someone who is moving forward and bettering herself, despite learning her tragic past.
And what makes The Last Jedi truly stand apart from The Force Awakens is that, while it continues the Skywalker saga, it negates the notion that only the Skywalkers and Kenobis of the franchise can make a difference to the galaxy. Here, audiences have a hero, Rey, who comes from (literally) nowhere and turns the tide of the war, and at the same time convinces a Jedi Master to return to the fold. Yet she isn’t even remotely related to anyone involved. In fact, it’s something that Luke himself wonders. Luke asks Rey the question that everyone’s been asking for two years: “What makes you so special?” And the answer is nothing. That wasn’t exactly what Abrams and co. seemed to be going for with The Force Awakens – that film felt like it was all about the Skywalkers – but it ended up working out in the end.
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