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Star Wars: The Last Jedi

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There is a tension within the latest instalment of the Star Wars franchise. On the one hand there is the industrial behemoth and immense legacy that is Star Wars. On the other hand there is writer-director Rian Johnson, coming from a background of independent filmmaking that includes Brick and Looper. This tension creates problems and also benefits. The biggest problem is the film is overly long and, despite having the structure of a chase thriller, Johnson presents three parallel plot lines, one of which is overdone and lessens the overall tension. This narrative baggyness is partly due to the apparent need of new Star Wars films to pay homage to what has come before, as much of The Last Jedi echoes The Empire Strikes Back while its third act is reminiscent of Return of the Jedi. Competing against this homage is Johnson’s innovations, such as this film largely picking up immediately after the events of The Force Awakens and his allowance for characters to ponder their choices, whereas JJ Abrams largely had characters making decisions at hyperspeed. These innovations are also a major benefit, with new directions for this most hallowed of cinematic sagas. The mythos and history of the Force is explored in more depth than previously seen, especially in terms of the hubris and failure of the Jedi. Explosions rock the drama both internally and externally, as ships explode in true Star Wars fashion, and interpersonal strife plagues both the Resistance and the First Order. Perhaps the most ferocious battles rage within the souls of Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and Rey (Daisy Ridley), both trying to forge a place for themselves within a chaotic galaxy while (F)orces pull them in all directions. The overall result is mostly a creative and dramatic success, The Last Jedi delivering as a thrilling space chase of legacy and identity, with a surprisingly egalitarian subtext.

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