• [The Daily] Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi

    By David Hudson

    Swlastjedi12122017_large


    “Evil is ascendant,” begins Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. “The Resistance—an intrepid, multi-everything group whose leaders include a battle-tested woman warrior—has been fighting the good fight for years but is outnumbered and occasionally outmaneuvered. Yes, the latest Star Wars installment is here, and, lo, it is a satisfying, at times transporting entertainment. Remarkably, it has visual wit and a human touch, no small achievement for a seemingly indestructible machine that revved up forty years ago and shows no signs of sputtering out (ever).”

    “Spryly directed by J. J. Abrams, The Force Awakens (2015) brought welcome jolts of wit, energy and warmth back to the series,” writes Justin Chang in the Los Angeles Times, but “you had to wonder if the filmmakers had more up their sleeves than smart jokes, cute droids and an appealingly diverse new trio of leads. With The Last Jedi, those doubts have been laid satisfyingly to rest. Written and directed by Rian Johnson, it’s the series’ eighth official episode and easily its most exciting iteration in decades—the first flat-out terrific Star Wars movie since 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back. It seizes upon [George] Lucas’s original dream of finding a pop vessel for his obsessions—Akira Kurosawa epics, John Ford westerns, science-fiction serials—and fulfills it with a verve and imagination all its own.”

    “Johnson excels at coming up with lots of little things to keep us interested—a plan to access a hyperdrive here, a minor space mutiny there—but the broad, melodramatic passions that originally fueled the Star Wars movies, and helped win them so many fans, don’t register quite as strongly as they did decades ago,” finds the Village Voice’s Bilge Ebiri.The Last Jedi is a better film than The Force Awakens—it’s faster, funnier, and has both more sweep and more originality—but I still didn’t find any moments here as hauntingly moving as that earlier film’s first flight of the Millennium Falcon, or the death of Han Solo. The good news is that Johnson doesn’t really need them. The Last Jedi is the most entertaining Star Wars movie in many a moon, and that’s more than enough.”

    Last Jedi is both the funniest and most serious installment,” writes Filmmaker’s Vadim Rizov. “There is a topical emphasis, brief but surprisingly earnest/explicit, on the evils of arms dealers playing both sides against each other, which is location-wise conflated with the brief suggestion of child slavery. Eight installments in, a franchise which resolves around the perpetuation of eternal combat (We Have Always Been At War) while ostensibly seeking its resolution has always been fueled by an obvious internal contradiction that’s best to just roll with rather than interrogate.”

    For the Telegraph’s Robbie Collin, “Johnson’s film certainly feels like Star Wars: it even has a supporting cast made up of British character actors and gorgeously CG-augmented rubber creatures, including porgs, a kind of hyper-marketable cross between a puffin and a young Justin Bieber. But it’s not a Star Wars you’re entirely sure Lucas would or could have ever made himself. Rather than playing the hits, as J. J. Abrams’s franchise-reviving The Force Awakens did two Christmases ago, it flexes its fingers before riffing over old chord progressions in ways that will leave fans beaming with surprise.”

    “The character-driven face-offs are wonderful and the messianic succession crisis about the last Jedi of the title is gripping,” finds the Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw. “But there is a convoluted and slightly unsatisfying parallel plot strand about the Resistance’s strategic military moves as the evil First Order closes in, and an underwritten, under-imagined and eccentrically dressed new character—Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo, played by Laura Dern. . . . Like The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi offers variations on the mighty orchestral themes of the original trilogy, switching occasionally to muted tones and minor keys, before cranking the volume back up. This auto-reference has become an accepted and exhilarating part of the new Star Wars rhetoric.”

    “Watching Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” writes Matt Singer at ScreenCrush, “”one gets the distinct sense he’s been waiting his whole life to make this movie; to guide these characters, to make the Falcon fly. The people in Star Wars implore one another to fulfill their destinies. With The Last Jedi, Johnson fulfilled his.”

    “There are moments in Rey’s [Daisy Ridley] journey toward enlightenment that are genuinely thrilling,” writes Vanity Fair’s Richard Lawson, “from the sweeping shots of the rocky seabound island where she does her training to her intense mind-meld conversations with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver, deepening and clarifying his conflicted villain), which come laden with a troubling, intriguing chemistry. The Force is, to me, still silly Star Wars mumbo jumbo, but Johnson finds a way to underscore it with humanity, with a classical Greek rumble of true pathos.”

    But for Variety’s Peter Debruge, “although The Last Jedi meets a relatively high standard for franchise filmmaking, Johnson’s effort is ultimately a disappointment. If anything, it demonstrates just how effective supervising producer Kathleen Kennedy and the forces that oversee this now Disney-owned property are at molding their individual directors’ visions into supporting a unified corporate aesthetic—a process that chewed up and spat out helmers such as Colin Trevorrow, Gareth Edwards, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. But Johnson was either strong enough or weak enough to adapt to such pressures, and the result is the longest and least essential chapter in the series.”

    “In his previous films, such as Brick and Looper, Johnson adeptly worked within genres while also flashing irreverent humor and a sneaky cleverness that dodged and weaved around conventions,” writes Screen’s Tim Grierson. “From its familiar John Williams music to its trademark opening crawl, this is profoundly a Star Wars movie; but Johnson shows little strain within the creative straitjacket that such an undertaking demands—especially in how he both satisfies and subverts the assumptions viewers might have that the movie will be the darker, more despairing Empire Strikes Back to Force Awakens’ relatively cheerful A New Hope.

    Johnson “is faced with at least two major narrative challenges,” argues the Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy: “To advance the renewed face-off between the resurgent First Order and the beleaguered Resistance, and to further develop the characters introduced two years ago. As to the first issue, neither here nor in The Force Awakens is it convincingly shown how the demolished Evil Empire was able to bounce back so powerfully just thirty years after its destruction. . . . More crucial is building up audience interest in and sympathy for the new banner carriers for the Resistance, and the results remain mixed.”

    “How much you enjoy Star Wars: The Last Jedi may hinge on how seriously you take this franchise, and that’s good news for those of us who are casual users and not religious adherents,” writes TheWrap’s Alonso Duralde. “Johnson steps into this ongoing saga with an eye seemingly more aimed at the Flash Gordon serials that originally inspired George Lucas than at the terminal self-seriousness that so many fans inflict upon the material. If having pure fun at a Star Wars movie is wrong, I don’t want to be right.”

    “The real success of The Last Jedi lies not in the affection it clearly holds for George Lucas’s original trilogy, but the way it manages to move the story forward,” writes Hannah Woodhead for Little White Lies. “‘Let the past die,’ urges Ren, and he has a point. One of the criticisms levelled at The Force Awakens was that it felt too much like a greatest hits package tailored towards an audience who had grown up wielding plastic lightsabers around their backyard. Whether you agree with that sentiment or not, it’s difficult to level the same argument at The Last Jedi.

    “There is a welcome attempt, in The Last Jedi, to depict characters and their motivations in less stark and increasingly nuanced terms,” notes Glen Weldon, writing for NPR. “This is both smart and inevitable, for a franchise that's hung around long enough for its themes and plot-beats to become as pervasive as these have.”

    The Last Jedi turns the commercial restrictions of this behemoth into a Trojan horse for rapid-fire filmmaking trickery and narrative finesse,” writes IndieWire’s Eric Kohn.

    At the Film Stage, Conor O’Donnell argues that “where Abrams was cautious and calculated in giving fans exactly what they want, Johnson is bold and clever enough not to. Though there is surely fan service, and those winks and nods are among the worst moments, The Last Jedi, at its best moments, is far more concerned with where this franchise can go as opposed to where it’s been.”

    Updates: “Johnson is an auteur of sorts,” writes the New Yorker’s Richard Brody, “one whose talent is ready-made for a generation of critics desperate to have one who works in popular genres and achieves popular successes, for fear that their enthusiasm for individual inspiration will isolate them from the celebrity circus of mass-market movies. He’s like Christopher Nolan but better, the other side of Nolan’s showily dour Janus-face. Unlike Nolan, Johnson has an authentically enticing virtuosity, joining a sense of vision to a sense of glee. But Star Wars: The Last Jedi yokes Johnson’s formidable cinematic intelligence to an elaborate feat of fan service that feels, above all, like the rhetorical and dramatic gratification of a religious sect.”

    The Last Jedi becomes essentially bifurcated, thanks to one decisive, unexpected break from this series’s tradition-bound progression that reverberates across the film’s various narrative threads,” writes Sam C. Mac at Slant. “But The Last Jedi’s two-and-half-hour sprawl still includes an awful lot of clunky, derivative, and largely unnecessary incidents to wade through in order to get to its maverick last act.”

    “It’s everything a fan could want from a Star Wars film and then some,” writes Matt Zoller Seitz at RogerEbert.com. “Even the sorts of viewers who spend the entire running time of movies anticipating every plot twist and crowing ‘called it!’ when they get one right are likely to come up short here. But the surprises usually don’t violate the (admittedly loose) internal logic of the universe George Lucas invented, and when they seem to, it’s because the movie has expanded the mythology in a small but significant way, or imported a sliver of something from another variant of Lucas’ creation (Genddy Tartakovsky’s magnificent TV series Clone Wars seems to have influenced the last act).”

    “More than replicating the specifics of Empire, The Last Jedi preserves its general values, its spectacle and mysticism and downbeat Shakespearean drama,” writes A. A. Dowd at the A.V. Club. “Perhaps even more so than Gareth Edwards, who made last year’s bracingly bleak Star Wars prequel/spinoff Rogue One, Johnson rises to the occasion of mega-budget, space-opera blockbustering. It’s clear from the opening set piece that he has a three-dimensional, inside-out grasp of space, both outer and otherwise: The sequence deftly mingles coherent CGI spectacle . . . with the tactile human dilemmas happening simultaneously.”

    “Working with his longtime cinematographer Steve Yedlin, Johnson expands the visual language of the franchise, sometimes with breathtaking results,” writes the Playlist’s Kevin Jagernauth. “As for the score, it’s needless to say that John Williams’s work is strong; it’s part of the fabric of the series, but even having done this a while now, there are new motifs and angles with which he deepens the historic sonic palette.”

    “There’s nothing better than a great Star Wars movie. And this is a great Star Wars movie,” declares Jim Tudor at ScreenAnarchy. “The series has always been nothing if not a paean to cinema itself—a rooting that sets it apart from the vast majority of ‘geek culture’ filmgoing, as directly adaptation-based as most other such movies are. The biggest adaptation going on in Star Wars at this point is adaptation of itself. Before that, it stemmed from all of movies. And before that, lest we forget, epic myth.”

    “Johnson may be the first guy since 1977 to make a Star Wars movie feel like a personal one,” writes Matt Lynch at In Review Online. “At its very frequent best, it seems downright off-brand.”

    Updates, 12/13: “Jedi wannabe Rey (Daisy Ridley) strives to compel Jedi hermit Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to teach her about the Force,” writes Michael Sragow for Film Comment. “Meanwhile, the fascist First Order, spearheaded by Darth Vader manqué Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), struggles to quash the Resistance, led by Luke’s twin, General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher). By the end, whether the Resistance can restore moral balance to the universe remains in doubt—but there’s no question that writer-director Johnson brings a surprising new equilibrium to the Star Wars franchise. The Last Jedi is refreshingly youthful yet also stirringly mature. Johnson has infused what could have been just another retread with elastic humor, visual luster and vitality, and a slow-burning passion.”

    The Last Jedi is shockingly good. You’d expect it to be loud and gargantuan and to hit its marks,” writes David Edelstein at Vulture, but: “What you’d never dare expect is high style, let alone the kind of emotion that holds you through the requisite hopscotching among three different story arcs. There’s no such thing anymore as a straight, single-strand narrative in this kind of ‘universe’ movie, which has a mandate to look backward and forward as well as sideward at any character with the potential to be spun off into his or her own vehicle. But the new writer-director, Rian Johnson, isn’t an impersonal technician (or a rote imitator, like Abrams). He pinpoints the intersection between characters’ desperate need to belong and the special effects that will lift those longings into the realm of myth.”

    “Johnson brings to The Last Jedi a cinephile’s erudition as well as a geek’s devotion,” writes Slate’s Sam Adams, “and he’s made a film that connects to Star Wars at the root—not just the first movie, but the ones that inspired it. There’s Kurosawa in it, both the rowdy fabulism of The Hidden Fortress and the impressionist choreography of Ran, a sword fight in a scarlet throne room that draws on Powell and Pressburger’s Tales of Hoffman, even an overt nod to Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch. . . . The Last Jedi isn’t content to revive past glories or re-establish a valuable piece of intellectual property’s commercial viability. There are moments in it that feel genuinely new, not just for the world of Star Wars but the universe of movies as a whole.”

    “The spectacles in Star Wars: The Last Jedi are some of the most powerful and believable in the franchises,” writes Charles Mudede in the Stranger. “But what do we find once our surrender has immersed us in this distant and faraway galaxy, with all of its troubles, its wars, its suffering and struggles? A scene that's recognizably pro-vegetarianism; a sophisticated (and I would argue even academic) critique of the destructive elitist principle of the Jedi religion; a feminist rejection of male impulsiveness and a celebration of rational, thoughtful female leadership; and a political economy that springs from the idea that much of the problems of this galaxy might be related to its laissez-faire market.”

    “It’s the Star Wars movie we deserve,” writes the Ringer’s K. Austin Collins, “not because it’s some perfect piece of cinema, but because it’s as good as a movie could possibly be with this many obligations—to fans and newcomers, old markets and new ones, with every variety of expectation laid at its feet by eager audiences worldwide—and then some. It’s one of the few franchise sequels of any kind in recent memory that feels like it could stand on its own—a feat in and of itself. It’s also, quite simply, a big, glorious, heartfelt, satisfying piece of pop filmmaking, the kind of movie we haven’t seen from a major movie studio in way too long.”

    At Ferdy on Films, Roderick Heath argues that Johnson’s “best work post-debut was actually on several episodes of the TV series Breaking Bad, including ‘Fly,’ a memorable instalment regarding its antiheroes’ efforts to catch a dogging fly in their underground met lab, provoking all their festering anxieties to hatch out, as well as the pivotal episode ‘Ozymandias’ where their lives actually fell to ruins. The Last Jedi actually takes on themes similar to those episodes, as it puts the Star Wars characters old and new in a pressure cooker and slowly but surely forces them to make choices regarding their lives, their beliefs, their loyalties, whilst their world topples.”

    “In the final analysis,” writes Ryan Gilbey for the New Statesman, “this is still a film about an attempt to turn off a tracking device. There’s no getting around that. . . . I appreciate that not every Star Wars movie can revolve around the destruction of a Death Star, and nor would anyone wish it to, but this must be said to be at the low end of compelling. However many special effects are thrown at the film, however demonstrative the score, it is still not the 40th-anniversary high-point that might have been hoped for.”

    And the Las Vegas Weekly’s Josh Bell finds that “Johnson doesn’t quite have a handle on how to take the franchise effectively into (relatively) uncharted territory.”

    “Believe the hype, and then some,” counters Andrew Wright in the Portland Mercury. “There’s just so much neat stuff here to take in at any given moment: a terrifically staged ground skirmish that lifts its color scheme from late Kurosawa; a return to the pleasantly ramshackle vehicle designs of the original films; and plenty of lines for the late, great Carrie Fisher to absolutely demolish. . . . Throughout, The Last Jedi delivers the all-too-rare thrill of a huge popcorn movie that respects the intelligence of its audience, while also serving up plenty of moments designed to make them lose their damn minds.”

    “The good news is that Johnson will stay with the Star Wars universe, creating his own trilogy away from the Skywalker bloodline,” writes Richard Whittaker in the Austin Chronicle. “The bad news is that Abrams takes over the reins again in the next installment. With The Last Jedi, Johnson breathed life into his pastiche. Now the question is whether Abrams can give the saga the ending it deserves.”

    Updates, 12/17: Ignatiy Vishnevetsky’s piece for the A.V. Club “contains major spoilers,” but this much is safe: “The humor is wacky and Spaceballs-and-Looney-Tunes-ish, the staging stark and operatic, the sense of mythology expressive and terrific; it brushes away the prequel trilogy’s pseudo-rationalization of the Force, the mystical animating power of the Star-Wars-verse, and makes it purely dramatic, even going beyond George Lucas’s original transcendental concept. (Star Wars may be set in a galaxy far, far away, but it was born in ‘70s San Francisco.) In short, it’s bound to piss off some of this forty-year-old, multi-billion-dollar franchise’s more dogmatic fans. Johnson’s script—the busiest in the series, though it’s more nuanced than might appear at first glance—is driven almost exclusively by individual failures and foiled intentions, the Joseph Campbell hero’s journey torn into pieces.”

    “My notes are mostly of moments of grace, of precise, yet gnomic movie-movie dialogue, and of startling images, all of which are worth seeing with fresh eyes,” writes Ray Pride in Newcity. “The ending indicates hope for generational change, the power of any single, small, nameless dreamer, who may yet know a world not manipulated by gunrunners, moneychangers, the venal and power-mad.”

    “Whereas certain previous installments suffered from George Lucas’s drama-free formula of having two-dimensional ciphers explain the plot to each other, Johnson adheres to the maxim that ‘action is character,’ nowhere more so than in the introduction of Kelly Marie Tran’s winning Rose Tico—already a firm fan favorite who turns out to be much more than a mere maintenance engineer for the Resistance,” writes the Observer’s Mark Kermode.

    Vulture’s Kyle Buchanan gets Johnson talking in considerable detail about how he decided to take on The Last Jedi.

    On a Slate Spoiler Special podcast (59’04”), Sam Adams, Forrest Wickman, and Dana Stevens address these questions and more: “What do we make of the big reveal about Rey’s parents? Does the movie do justice to Carrie Fisher? And do the third-act twists make sense, or are there plot holes so big you could drive a Star Destroyer through them?”

    Updates, 12/18: Variety’s Owen Gleiberman argues that there are “four ways that The Last Jedi doesn’t measure up.” And “even as a non-Star Wars fanatic, I want these movies to be great. Don’t you? The enemy of greatness, at this point, may be nothing less than the overly facile and calculated imitation of greatness.”

    “Both in terms of women and non-white characters, there’s a celebratory inclusiveness that seems entirely in the Jedi spirit,” finds Anna Smith in the Guardian.

    For Fandango, Erik Davis asks Paul Thomas Anderson what a Star Wars movie he directed might look like. “Anderson smirked, leaned back in his chair and gave it a moment of thought. ‘Fucking over-long and depressing, probably,’ he said, laughing. ‘Moody. Obtuse. And look, you know… if it ticks the box of rebels vs. empires, in any form, I’m in. That story never gets old for me.’”

    Updates, 12/20: “It’s a funny, rousing space adventure that sends the saga in surprising new directions and is by far the most elegantly crafted of all the films,” writes Sean Burns. “Here’s the first Star Wars movie since Empire that you don’t have to make excuses for enjoying.”

    When Johnson took the job, “he set up a film camp of sorts for the Lucasfilm Story Group, screening six films that would relay the kind of tone and themes that would be influencing him in creating what eventually became The Last Jedi,” writes Mike Ryan introducing his interview with the director for Uproxx in which “Johnson goes through those six movies and explains just how each of them relates to what we saw in The Last Jedi.” And you can listen to Sean Fennessey’s talk with Johnson for the Ringer (15’54”).

    At the Playlist, Gregory Ellwood has three questions for Mark Hamill.

    “Since 2014, Connor Ratliff has hosted The George Lucas Talk Show at UCB East,” writes the Village Voice’s Alan Scherstuhl, introducing an interview. “Ratliff’s Lucas impersonation has love in it. It’s the creation of a comic who commits imaginative effort toward understanding his subject, an examination of Lucas as an artist, a marketer, a man, a crank, and an often sweet but confused old gent still stung over the world’s response to the prequels.”

    Updates, 12/24: The Last Jedi “directly addresses the franchise’s glorification of mass violence in a subplot that introduces a political economy of arms dealers and exploitative capitalists profiting from conflict by selling weapons to both sides,” writes Dan Hassler-Forest in the Los Angeles Review of Books. “It’s one of the slippery ingredients that make this eighth episode in the ongoing Star Wars saga a deceptively subversive film. Not only does it question and even challenge its own legacy, but it also accepts responsibility for a cultural phenomenon that is itself part of a frighteningly powerful media empire. This makes The Last Jedi a whole lot more than just another episode in an ongoing series; it is also a film that struggles to distance itself from the most toxic elements of Star Wars in order to chart a more progressive terrain.”

    Taking How to Read Donald Duck: Imperialist Ideology in the Disney Comic (1971) by Chilean radicals Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart as a model—the book “analyzed decades of postwar Disney comics designed to indoctrinate the children of Latin America with pro-capitalist propaganda”—M. W. Lipschutz, also in the LARB, offers thirteen ways to read Star Wars.

    “Was Star Wars always so philosophical?” asks Joshua Rothman in the New Yorker. “Or did it stumble into this glum view of life by accident, as its original saga repeated itself and its world, as a consequence, grew smaller and darker? Personally, I enjoy the dark undertones of Rogue One and The Last Jedi. I also suspect that they’re not really in the spirit of Star Wars. . . . Perhaps the Star Wars franchise has fallen victim to an interpretive mistake. For many years, in trying to explain the appeal of the original films, fans and critics cited their mythic qualities; they read Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces and praised the movies’ supposedly ‘universal’ dramatic shape. In fact, they had it backward. The magic of Star Wars was never the formula. It was novelty.”

    “J.J. Abrams said that when he began devising the story for Star Wars: The Force Awakens—the long-awaited seventh episode of the franchise that came out in 2015—he quickly realized the film had to return to that good-vs.-evil dynamic, even though Return of the Jedi (a.k.a. Episode VI) had ended with the downfall of the Empire.” In a piece riddled with spoilers, the Atlantic’s David Sims delves into the idea that “The Last Jedi actually digs into the underpinnings of this ongoing good vs. evil battle for the first time in the franchise’s long history, defining the heroes aligned with the Light Side by more than just their righteousness.”

    More interviews with Johnson: Rodrigo Perez (Playlist) and Anne Thompson (IndieWire). For the Los Angeles Times, Jen Yamato talks with Laura Dern. And Christopher Laverty interviews costume designer Michael Kaplan.

    Updates, 12/26: “It wasn’t Johnson’s attempts to critique and deepen the social context of the saga or his brusque approach to inherited infrastructure that bothered me,” writes Roderick Heath, “so much as how he did it, continuing and exacerbating the series’ decline into a mere martial melodrama with added teen soap dynamics, the mythopoeic edge and holistic conceptualism of George Lucas’s films falling by the wayside along with another poorly served old hero. The filmmaking was still tremendous in tactile force, but the palette dismayingly reduced.”

    For Buzzfeed’s Alison Willmore, “Kylo Ren is such an intriguing villain that, despite everything he shows us about who he is, we—like the characters in the film—keep trying to turn him into something else: an anti-hero, a romantic lead, someone due for a happy ending instead of just possible redemption. Star Wars continues to struggle to introduce moral complexity into its fictional universe. But in Kylo Ren, the franchise has certainly introduced some complexity to its fandom, by reminding us how susceptible we are to giving unlimited chances to sad, angry young men.”

    Updates, 12/27: Nathaniel Rogers argues that “this galaxy will never be as diverse as the real world. Take for instance the recent petition to include LGBT people in that universe. That plea has garnered a lot of traction and interest despite the fact that Star Wars is a largely sexless franchise where love, romance, and companionship (beyond the ‘in the trenches’ soldier kind), are virtually the last thing on anyone’s mind. . . . We can safely blame Oscar Isaac’s lip bite while talking to John Boyega’s Finn for opening this queer pandora’s box. But, lip-biting aside, Star Wars has never been about orientation, unless you’re talking about the light and dark sides of the Force.”

    Screen’s Jeremy Kay talks with Johnson and producer Ram Bergman about Mark Hamill’s doubts about where they’ve taken Luke Skywalker, Carrie Fisher and tackling “the biggest franchise of them all.”

    Update, 12/28: “Johnson’s film lifts most of its framework and sensibility from the safer-than-safe ‘coming attractions’ reel that was The Force Awakens,” writes Mike Thorn for Bright Lights Film Journal. “The main difference between the two films is that Johnson’s work shows some evidence of authorial perspective and formal attentiveness, whereas Abrams’s carries the uncanny sense of something carefully and neurotically manufactured by a corporate collective in an effort to appease fans’ broadest, basest desires.”

    Update, 1/3: For Nicole Dieker, writing at Longreads, “the movie didn’t give us the emotions we wanted. We had a very divisive year, after all. And it ended with a divisive movie.” Among the articles cited here are “Star Wars in the Reddit Age” by Miles Surrey (Ringer), “The Last Jedi Killed My Childhood, and That's Exactly Why It's Great” by Rob Bricken (io9), “‘This is Not Going to Go the Way You Think’: The Last Jedi Is Subversive AF, and I Am Here for It” by Melissa Hillman, and “Ok, We Need to Talk about This Controversy with Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” a discussion at Wired.

    Update, 1/4: “In decades past, it was fashionable for self-styled serious music types to look down on Williams, but the Star Wars corpus has increasingly attracted scholarly scrutiny,” writes Alex Ross for the New Yorker. “This attention has come about not only because of the mythic weight that George Lucas’s space operas have acquired in the contemporary imagination; the music is also superbly crafted and rewards close analysis. Williams’s latest score is one the most compelling in his forty-year Star Wars career: Rian Johnson’s film complicates and enriches the familiar template, and Williams responds with intricate, ambiguous variations on his canon of themes.”

    Updates, 1/6: “We don’t actually need another Star Wars,” writes Eric Hynes at Reverse Shot, “and we certainly don’t need another Star Wars that treats its own third-hand mythology as sacred text. But we’ll always need to try to make sense of our conflicted selves, as Milton did, as Goethe did, as Freud did, as Dostoyevsky did, as Shepard did, as Didion does, as Scorsese does. We’re caught between how we’re made and who we might become, what is right versus what feels right, the past and the future, restraint and release. For as long as these characters and this ongoing saga provide an adequate arena for wrestling with this struggle, there will be value in it. Tasked with the pivot film in a trilogy, Johnson chose the right time to reinvigorate the narrative with irreconcilable forces, doubts, and conflicts. Suspension is a middle chapter’s best asset. And best in that it’s truest.”

    The Last Jedi struck me as a movie that flamboyantly hates the conditions that made it possible, populated conspicuously by millennials, a generation accustomed to being blamed for conditions that they have inherited,” writes Rob Horning for the New Inquiry. “They are trapped in a galaxy where they have to process all the nonsense and mouth all the incoherent lines about ‘the Force’ and ‘trusting your feelings,’ while all the fruits of their efforts are funneled out to a few hundred people who couldn’t care less. In fact, those people enjoy the privilege of their own cynicism, producing movies about how tricky it is to make popular movies, or movies that seem full of ill-concealed contempt for their audiences.”

    For news and items of interest throughout the day, every day, follow @CriterionDaily.

2 comments

  • By Sean Ramsdell
    December 12, 2017
    03:55 PM

    Rian going from high school neo-noir to The Force :`)
    Reply
    • By Joey Pellegrino
      December 20, 2017
      01:06 AM

      The man's come a long way, and he deserves it.