You know you're a cinephile when your reaction to the announcement of Star Wars: The Last Jedi is, "Oh boy, more Star Wars!" but rather "Oh boy, Rian Johnson gets to direct another movie!". I had high hopes for Star Wars: The Last Jedi primarily because Johnson is such a dynamic, interesting director of genre cinema, and secondarily because ermahgerdstarwars. As it turns out, I was correct in my excitement for The Last Jedi: it is easily the most visually accomplished film in the series, one that places emphasis on clarity of action and logical narrative progression. As a writer-director, Johnson streamlines the character motivations into something you can easily grasp from scene to scene so that even as the stakes spin dizzyingly high you have a clear idea of what our heroes intend to achieve and how the villains would like to see them fail. Johnson also exercises a considerable amount of discretion over delivering fan service throughout the film, in contrast to the previous entry's cozy wallow in the original's story beats. He takes the story in a bold new direction and leaves you at a complete loss as to what may happen next, a true accomplishment in the realm of franchise-building.

Statistically, you have already seen The Last Jedi, but I will alert you of spoilers, nonetheless.

Johnson's masterstroke was to take the question of Rey's origins and make it a complete non-issue. I do hope that the story continues in this vein through the next film--for which Abrams will return, having replaced the hapless Colin Trevorrow--rather than undoing such a compelling plot development. When The Empire Strikes Back connected Luke back to Darth Vader, it was a revolutionary twist that laid the foundation for blockbuster storytelling for years to come. You can find precedents for this sort of thing as far back as Shakespeare, but Star Wars would return to the well of the galaxy far far away being much smaller than you thought, particularly in how it doubled down by including Leia as a long-lost sister.

In The Last Jedi, Rey can actually hold on to the mantle of being no one from nowhere who just happens to be blessed with Force sensitivity. It falls neatly into the thematic arc of the now-aged Luke's resistance against the idea of control over and understanding of the Force being a natural right as opposed to a undemocratic privilege granted only to the Jedi. The identity of a hero from small beginnings who has larger dreams is a time-tested one, but to actually keep those beginnings small (or even tragic, if Kylo Ren's characterization of Rey's parents as heartless drunkards is to be believed) is an uncommon move in the Star Wars universe.

Coincidentally, we saw a similar (here comes another spoiler) plot development in Denis Villeneuve's Blade Runner 2049, in which we are lulled into the idea that K may be the miraculous love child of Rick Deckard and Rachael, but it turns out that he's just a normal, run-of-the-mill replicant who got caught up in something larger than himself (and who happens to look like Ryan Gosling). BR2049 may share little with The Last Jedi in the way of tone, but its emphasis on irregular blockbuster storytelling is certainly a commonality, a trend that I hope to see continue in future films of this scale.

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