Fandom in all its forms is equal in its ability to disappoint and awe. You can’t please everyone and thus is the eternal struggle of the working artist. Rian Johnson has come from humble artistic origins to helming a geek property with a rabid fan base quick to swarm perceived failings. As a casual fan of the Star Wars franchise that will lose in spectacular faction at whatever trivia you can conjure there are few fatal flaws that this reviewer will dig up within the internal mythology. As a result in conjunction with being a fan of Johnson’s filmography The Last Jedi takes the series to near euphoric heights that previously felt out of reach.
Without boring anyone with regurgitating plot bears I’ll say just this to begin–this is not your father’s Star Wars. Rian Johnson admirably zigs when geeks everywhere expected him to zag, boldly interpreting this universe in his own unique way. By doing so the director explores complex and–sit down for this–NEW concepts behind where this universe could evolve. What that means for our beloved franchise is that characters may not behave or grow in ways we expect which many fans misinterpret as weakness in Johnson’s vision and refuse to accept a unique interpretation that isn’t just fascinating–sit down again–it also fits.
Cry for my geek cred to be revoked if you must–I don’t know how official any of these things are to begin with. So many people are focused on their own idea of how this franchise should have continued without stopping to realize we all have our own process for internalizing ideals and Star Wars is not immune to those seeds growing into something bigger or just (gasp) different from the original impetus. George Lucas opened this door for us all and were eternally grateful, but let’s face it, he nearly allowed the door to be welded shut forever. Now Johnson has stepped through the door lovingly opened once again by JJ Abrams with a swagger audiences simply aren’t attuned to–which is fine, but don’t assume that Johnson’s tune is inferior.
The Last Jedi doesn’t pander to fans coming back with rose colored glasses–especially as it pertains to Luke Skywalker or the his thus far. Sure, Luke’s arc is unexpected in how it undercuts the journey we’ve seen thus far, but The Force Awakens was criticized for not taking enough risks and following the SW formula. The Last Jedi is hitting stricter backlash for taking the risks that TFA didn’t make–further proof that as an artist you can’t please everyone.
If you can’t get on board with the story, one thing is certain–this is hands down the most beautiful Star Wars movie to date. The stunning color contrast of the salt planet with red soil during the climactic battle to the breathtaking visuals of a shattered ship after a collision at light speed. Johnson has created some of the most iconic and visually astonishing shots and sequences within the franchise to date. A throne room light saber battle takes center stage as the film’s most memorable moments–it’s color scheme, choreography, technical skill and audacity is unrivaled within the many films in canon.
The film’s biggest missteps consist of an unfortunate side mission for Fin involving a trip to an illustrious casino planet chock full of the galaxy’s most obnoxious creatures–though it does stuff in a timely and affecting theme. To counter it’s faults though, Johnson stuns with a number of clever emotional beats that pays off fumbled set ups while also having a little something to say about modern times with a wit that we simply could never have squeezed from latter day Lucas.
Episode VIII has proven to be one of the most challenging entries to the Star Wars universe when it comes to fans loyalties. It is without a doubt time for fans to let go of their preconceptions and…in the words of the wise Luke Skywalker, “Just breathe”. Rian Johnson is a filmmaker who’s passion is rivaled only by his own fandom and that’s why his direction of the franchise cannot and should not be shrugged off or maligned, but embraced with a ferocious Wookie hug. The Last Jedi isn’t just one of 2017’s best blockbuster offerings, it’s one of the finest Star Wars entry to date.
Beer Recommendation: Coming from a galaxy far far away–well Iowa anyway–comes Intergalactic Warrior from Toppling Goliath Brewing Company. Nestled in Northeast Iowa Toppling Goliath pumps out world class beer left and right–despite transparent contract brews that somewhat tainted their standing for passionate beer geeks across the globe. Galaxy and Warrior hops combine to catapalty a juicy yet pleasantly bitter kick of citrus that collided with a full and crisp mouthfeel. The beer’s earthy finish cements Toppling Goliath’s unique approach to hop bombs that have made them the talk of the Midwest. Pairs perfectly with epic lightsaber battles and roasted Porg.