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The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Cinema with Sam: ‘The Last Jedi’ remains masterpiece years after release

Rian Johnson’s “The Last Jedi” challenged viewers’ perceptions of beloved hero Luke Skywalker. (Photo Courtesy of IMDb)

I recall walking out of the movie theater with my dad after seeing “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” (2017) on opening night and saying to him, “This is my favorite Star Wars movie besides ‘The Empire Strikes Back (1980).'” Over time, Rian Johnson’s inspiring, gorgeous and heroic film has surpassed “The Empire Strikes Back” as my favorite Star Wars movie.

Since its release, “The Last Jedi” has sparked fervent debates among the Star Wars fanbase. While some, like myself, have praised the film’s bold storytelling and thematic depth, others have criticized it for diverging from traditional Star Wars tropes and misrepresenting the original characters, such as Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill).

Going into “The Last Jedi,” Star Wars fans had exceedingly high expectations for this film, as the prior installment in the famed Skywalker Saga, “The Force Awakens” (2015), grossed over $2 billion at the worldwide box office. Each fan going into opening weekend had their own set of expectations, hopes and predictions for what the film was going to be. Rian Johnson, the writer and director of the film, had his own.

I went into the movie with an open mindset, knowing the film could go in any direction. One of the most heavily debated aspects of the film is the handling of Luke Skywalker. Fans had not seen Hamill as Skywalker since 1983’s “Return of the Jedi,” many expected Luke to be the hero we all remember him being. 

But, Johnson has Luke become skeptical of the Jedi order and their power in the galaxy, rightfully so. He rejects the role of the savior for the rebellion, angering many fans, including Rey (Daisy Ridley) in the film. Many of these fans overlook Luke’s admittance of being wrong at the end of the film. Wrong about losing faith in the Force, the Resistance, the Jedi and — most importantly — hope. I think Luke’s character arc in “The Last Jedi” rivals some of the best character arcs I’ve seen in film and television.

The technical aspects of “The Last Jedi” are also the best in the entire franchise. Cinematographer Steve Yedlin perfectly frames, stages and lights each frame in the film. To complement the cinematography, the production, makeup and costume design are fantastic and other-worldly. Each faction/planet has its own style and culture embedded into the clothing. Canto Bight, the Las Vegas of planets, is a perfect example. The scene when Finn (John Boyega) and Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) go to Canto Bight and into the casino is jaw-dropping and best represents what Star Wars should be.

Furthermore, as always, the sound design by Matthew Wood and Ren Klyce is transportive, placing the viewer directly into the film. John Williams creates a moving and momentous score, which at times can still put me on the edge of my seat. “The Last Jedi” is also one of the few blockbuster films released in the 21st century that has this high level of seamless blending of visual and practical effects. The only other films that come close are the “Dune” films, “Blade Runner 2049” (2017) and the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is a triumph of storytelling, pushing the boundaries of the Star Wars saga while staying true to its core themes and spirit. The way this film tackles the themes of redemption, loss, hope, the power of myths and failure is masterfully done. The film is a testament to the power of imagination and innovation in filmmaking.

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About the Contributor
Sam Cohen
Sam Cohen, Movie Columnist
Sam Cohen (he/him/his) is a junior majoring in Film and Media Studies. He won the Special Grand Jury Prize for his Comedy short film “The Gum Run” at the 2019 Montclair Film Festival Emerging Filmmakers Competition. Sam writes weekly reviews of recent TV Shows and Movies while occasionally reviewing older, forgotten classics. When not reviewing, discussing, or watching films, Sam is also a part of many extracurriculars on campus, including being a co-captain of the Ultimate Frisbee team, a member of the Chi Phi Fraternity, and an officer of the Film Society.

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