The Best Films of the Decade, #37. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

| December 5, 2019
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In just 26 days, the decade will come to a close and so for movie lovers like me it is an opportunity to look over the decade of movies that are left behind. Over the next few weeks I am going to count down the best films of the past 10 years from #40 to #1. My choices are personal choices swayed by nothing but the love I have for this medium. These are all great movies. These films all achieved something great. All reached for something special. They are the best of the decade . . .

A screenshot of Rey, from Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Yeah . . . I know. Just bear with me.

One of the things that I appreciate about the new Disney-era Star Wars movies is how divided people are in how they feel about them. Unlike the Original Trilogy – which audiences generally loved, and the Prequels – which audiences generally hated, the Disney films have yielded a variety of opinion. None more, needless-to-say, then The Last Jedi.

The reason that this movie makes my list of the decade’s best is because it is the first Star Wars movie since Empire that has the value of being unpredictable. Watching the film for the first time, you genuinely have no idea where it is going or what is going to happen. Character motivations are questionable, loyalties are always in flux, and you really have no idea from one moment to the next what is going to happen. And when its all over, you aren’t sure what will happen in the next movie. How rare is that?

It also has the value of letting the characters grow with time, not into a new plot element but into a place of logic. Luke has failed and he has distanced himself from all of the optimism that saw from him all those years ago. Leia still maintains her fierce intensity, but it has mellowed into maturity and calm reason. Meanwhile, the newer characters like Rey and Finn are finding themselves in over their heads. The galactic battle isn’t the series of victories that they had imagined. It’s harsh, it’s mean, it’s heartbreaking.

The loyalties shift here on a dime so we’re not 100% sure where the story is going. That’s especially true with Kylo Ren, who is always in flux and always seems to be trading sides at will. His is the first true expression of the Sith – hatred mixed with trickery. He is not only embracing the Sith but trying to add elements of the unpredictable.

The movie was directed by Rian Johnson and this is the first time that I ever really felt the director’s hands on a Star Wars movie. If you’ve seen his other works like Looper and Brick then you know that he’s very good at laying out a complex plot that doesn’t seem to have a clear trajectory and you can sense his determination not to be a director-for-hire. There is a strong, vision here not on satisfying the fans but on offering the audience a challenge based on decisions made by the characters.

I know I’m alone here. I know there are actually people who hate this film, but, for me, it’s exactly what I wanted. This is what I hope to get in a new Star Wars movie.  It’s beautiful, it’s complex, it’s dramatic, it’s funny, it’s thrilling and again unpredictable.

Maybe it’s me. Maybe it has to do with my history with this series. Maybe my love for this film comes from the fact that this series and its history have been part of my cultural DNA since I saw 6 years old. I’ve been following these characters and their adventures for over 40 years so seeing them still struggling against the odds is kind of amazing. Maybe it just has something to do with the fact that I saw something different this time, an angle to the story that I didn’t expect. Your experience may vary but for me, it’s everything I wanted from a new Star Wars and so much more.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
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