Star Wars The Last Jedi: Film Review

Star Wars The Last Jedi- Film Review

Last December saw the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The film could easily have been described as far and away the most anticipated film of the 21st century (at the time,Avengers Infinity War swiftly brought an end to that), and had an effect like no Star Wars media has ever had on the fandom. The film, written and directed by franchise newcomer Rian Johnson, ripped a hole in the fabric of the most heavily populated media following of all time, as half the fandom left the hall enamored, while the other half left the cinema screaming bloody murder. As a die hard Star Wars fan myself, I went into the film with fairly high expectations. I was already familiar with some of his other work, particularly his darker pieces such as Looper and Brick. This film, acting as the second coming of The Empire Strikes Back, the darker of the original trilogy, made his prior repertoire a perfect reason to exercise some faith in his direction. And, looking at the film as a film and nothing more, it was faith well bestowed. The problem, and the bone that Star Wars fans pick most vigorously, is the the treatment of the franchise as a whole, and the way popular staples of the lore were disregarded, as well as the treatment of plot points introduced in the Force Awakens.

Purely from a technical standpoint, Rian Johnson directed a superb standalone film. It’s a visual spectacle, with engaging cinematography and exceptional effects and sound mixing. Some of the performances are excellent, the show being stolen by Adam Driver as Kylo Ren. Driver, or more specifically Ren’s character, received much criticism after the Force Awakens for having a shallow character, and replacing the menacing, evil air around Darth Vader with an “emo teenager”. Driver shone as Ren in this film, however, really giving the character depth and giving him that emotional leanness that he lacked in the first installment. The other performances were decent, barring Mark Hamill, an incredible voice actor but never really taking to the screen, and Kelly Marie Tran as Rose; but more on that later. Some of the shots were exceptional; the fight sequence near the end as well as, most notably, the light-speed obliteration of the First Order’s fleet by Admiral Holdo; and Johnson did a phenomenal job establishing the connection between Rey and Kylo, regardless of it’s nature. From a technical standpoint, Johnson made a film that in any other situation would have been seen as excellent. This, however, was not any old situation.

One of the main criticism of the film was the treatment of the questions asked and mysteries set by The Force Awakens. The Star Wars franchise is famous for it’s interconnecting web of characters stretching back centuries on the timeline. The idea that Snoke was as much of a nobody as Rey’s parents were is simply an unacceptable answer to the relevant questions, and I was among many who was ready to break things after seeing that. Rey’s lack of connection aside, ridiculous as it is, one simply cannot introduce a character with the weight of the most powerful force user since Yoda, who everyone seems to know, and then just kill him without explaining him. It is just not done, at all, not only the Star Wars franchise. It does not help that Finn, a promising character to say the least, was sentenced to a meaningless, forgettable, and frankly unnecessary casino sequence, romantically tied with the weakest character in the Star Wars universe. The whole thing needn’t have happened, including the inclusion of Rose’s character, had Admiral Holdo simply told Poe Dameron the plan for retreat in the first place, instead of playing useless mind games for reasons never really explained.

The biggest problem people had with the film was the way the franchise as a whole was treated. The portrayal of Luke Skywalker, while theoretically interesting, was an ill-advised risk to say the least on Johnson’s part. Star Wars fans have grown up worshipping this man who they’ve never seen use the indescribable force power he is told to have had. After all that time, Star Wars fans wanted to see him bring down a planet with his bare hands, but instead they were given a hologram, the most cringe-worthy lightsaber stance ever seen, and a touching death (which in fairness was a very well done scene). Star Wars fans walked into the film prepared to say goodbye to Leia Organa; when her son’s abstinence with the trigger was made irrelevant we were all ready, but instead she was resurrected in the way only Disney knows how, leaving her to pass off screen, which in the eyes of a Star Wars fan is a punishable offense. The aforementioned callous treatment of the connectivity of the universe only added insult to injury.

Rian Johnson took on the challenge of directing a franchise, no, the franchise film, and made the worst mistake he could have made: he disregarded the franchise. He set out to make a quality film, which is a truly admirable thing to do, and it’s an irreplaceable quality in a storyteller. One has to understand, however, that a Star Wars film is not seen as only a film. It is seen as another piece in the puzzle, a puzzle of intertwining and interrelating webs with characters that make up a story of good vs evil, a story which raised people. To pretend otherwise shows dangerous disregard for franchise filmmaking, and is disrespectful to fans who have spent their lives worshipping a story, a story that is indescribably important to them. Rian Johnson is an excellent filmmaker, a consummate storyteller who obviously believes in the purity of a story. Unfortunately, franchise filmmaking is handling a story that is bigger than a film, and in this case that larger story was not handled well at all.

This, however, is not an excuse. In more recent times, actress Kelly Marie Tran was bullied off of social media due to racist and hateful comments made about her, as a result of her portrayal of Rose in The Last Jedi. At the same time, Rian Johnson and many others involved with the film’s writing and development have been on the receiving end of hate messages and even death threats. Star Wars is in danger now of being remembered for the disproportionate hate from it’s fanbase instead of the message of justice and morality propounded by the films. There is a difference between disliking a film respectfully and the outrageous behavior some Star Wars fans are displaying at this time, just as there is a difference between having respectful reservations about a character’s place in a story and an actress being driven by hate from social media platforms. Star Wars can be as impactful a story as it wants, and it is, but when all is said and done, it is a story, and these are people’s lives. As the third installment of the sequel trilogy begins it’s shoot in a few months’ time, Star Wars fans need to re-evaluate their sensitivity. The Star Wars legacy is at stake.

– Aman Datta

Aman’s Score – 70/100                                                     Aryamaan’s Score –

Mission Impossible Fallout: Film Review

Mission impossible fallout
The best spy franchise in cinema history (Bond fans are screaming) made it’s sixth and absolutely not last appearance in the form of Mission Impossible: Fallout. Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt returns, not a day over 56, to the world saving business; as well as almost the entire core cast of the last film (barring Jeremy Renner who could not shoot due to scheduling complications), as well as the one and only Superman, Henry Cavill. It’s nuclear detonation prevention duty again for the IMF, who, in this film, are made to deal with intervention from now-Secretary Alec Baldwin’s old stomping ground; the CIA. Henry Cavill consequently joins Ethan Hunt and the main team as they infiltrate, double cross, and destroy all organizations and physical structures that come before them, as per usual, on their mission to save the world from missing plutonium.
            This film felt different from all the Missions that have come before. In other Missions, no matter how ridiculous it got, it always felt like Ethan Hint had a plan, like he had it under control. This film tosses that concept unceremoniously out the window, as Ethan Hunt is plunged into the world of not-knowing-what-the-hell-you’re-doing-while-piloting-a very-heavy-and-also-flammable-helicopter. There is no identifiable moment in the film where the situation feels under control or anyone feels like they can rest; which, while changing the mood of the old films, makes for one of the most breathless, pulsating action films I’ve ever had the pleasure to watch. Most of the action, even the sub-zero ones, are done without a soundtrack. On a literal level, this means that you can hear engines, gunshots, and lots of heavy breathing and grunting during a lot of the film, which gives the action a raw, natural feel that makes the outlandish stunts (all really done by Tom Cruise, even the f*****g helicopter) more heart-in-mouth and suspenseful. The action does not slow down either, not an ounce of drag on the film, and the audience is on the edge of their seats at every single moment of the film, waiting for what comes next.
            I wish I had the space to mention the franchise nods, which I’ll cover in a full franchise review soon, but instead it’s time to acknowledge some of the mistakes in this film. The screenplay, principally the dialogues, were lazy to say the least. Really very poor writing in some fairly important moments, and the majority of the comedy, despite Simon Pegg’s quality, felt often forced. The performances were all as good as ever, but Henry Cavill made a very poor impression in his role, never cementing his intentions as (slight spoilers) as a villain. I just wasn’t convinced that his character gave a damn, and he ended up being an accessory to Solomon Lane instead of his own force. Maybe this was fault of a very poor set of dialogue, but it wasn’t that he wasn’t convincing, it was that he was thoroughly unconvincing. Tom Cruise, who is a much better actor than most people understand, did a decent job portraying an Ethan Hunt out of his element, but even he was a little shaky at times. I’m personally not sold on the relationship between his and Rebecca Ferguson’s characters’. There’s no real sign of affection or attachment, the odd soft look here and there and the last scene of the film are all the hook the audience is given, and I’m so sorry but I don’t care. The relationship with Hunt’s wife in the third film, and (slight spoilers) even this one was developed to be so much deeper, and they managed that in one film (and like thirty seconds of another).
            This film was billed as a tie-up, and the most emotionally satisfying aspect of the film, for me, was the closure about Hunt’s wife, Julia. That was a fantastic relationship, really well developed and sold, that turned into a powerful characterization of Ethan Hunt in the fourth film when her disappearance from the films is explained. There’s real substance to the characters in this franchise, which is what sets it apart from most other action franchises in my opinion. Either way, her surprise appearance in this film, back in the thick of the action, and the way the film ends, provides beautiful closure for that aspect of the characters, and was probably my favorite part of the movie. Julia’s banter with Luther, the look on her face when she understands the world she’s been dragged back into, it’s tastefully well done and that emotional closure MI faithful get at the end is matched only by the relative awkwardness of Ilsa’s final scene with Hunt.
            To sum it up, or to try to, Mission Impossible: Fallout was a pulsating, thrilling edge-of-the-seat action film. I can’t say it was the best of the franchise, it was too different from the other films to say that, but it was without a doubt the rawest and authentic of any of the films before it. The action was pure excitement, pure tension, with the nail biting suspense left down to the last actual second. The double crossing and the trickery is fluid (I counted like 5 or 6 double crosses in one scene), and the character treatment is, for the most part, excellent. The resulting catharsis is wonderful, and I’d recommend this film to pretty much anyone, even those who don’t typically fancy themselves action fans. This one is not your typical action film.