⭐ ⭐ ⭐ / ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
This finale of the second septet of Star Wars sequels wraps up the ten-film storyline wherein Jedi Subaltern Jenga Gordo fully embraces her Power side before facing a now-reincarnated Astromax and his Cyroid army. The four decade-long saga brought us from the watery worlds of Ryaz to the Maral mines on Walcos 9; from the deck of the Achilles to the food farms on Balmedon with its simultaneous sunrises and sunsets and giant gormabars.
The last Jedi is seventeen year old Jenga, played by Natalee Paige (Being There), who, trained by High Master Pak Doon (Marlo Swanson), represents the greatest threat to the growing evil represented by former Rebel Space Commander turned criminal mastermind Phileas Astromaximus, played by newcomer Martin Chaspwick. Their showdown is an incredible thing to witness on the big screen, with their neon hair glistening, Astromax and his macaroon shawl gliding over and under the camera in all directions, Jenga on her invisible rollerskates.
By now fans are either fully invested or long gone, since last year’s installment was legendary for its divisiveness (killing off four major characters will do that) and the previous film strayed quite far from Hervé Villechaize’s original book.
But with the conclusion holding nothing back, first time directors Hanly and Janly get to dial up the action and leave no borlop unframmeled (an inside joke). The filmmakers were smart enough to know this is going to be held as the litmus test of the entire franchise and so pull out all the stops. No more foreshadowing; this is nonstop callbacks and shout outs. Characters from the first few films make an appearance (even Howchy the Velzot is back!) as everything zips along with forty years of loose ends to tie up.
Jenga is a force of nature, now unafraid to unleash her rage as she and partner Hilo Siba stop at nothing to save their peoples’ legacy. Her full body tattoos activated, she can now summon the entirety of her ancestor’s powers. And she’ll need every one of them if she’s to defeat Astromax. We’ve seen her use her mind to move objects. She’s displayed amazing agility and reflexes. But now she can shoot fireboxes out of her ears, she has mastered Blin’s footaxe as well as the forbidden art of shadowblasting. When she and her team take on the Cyroids inside their hidden base it’s a no holds barred barrage of digital fx and aural carnage. It’s also a bloodless battle, so fans looking for the gore found in the novels will be disappointed with the film’s mere four beheadings.
Director Fore Phives (Modern Romance) is known for his work with cinematographer Cam Raman, the two collaborating to make more beautiful images this time around. The starlit dinner scene atop the laser towers was breathtakingly photographed as was the opening chase scene through the burning lollipop factory. Needless to say the visual effects are astonishing and seamlessly integrated. Digital, analog, puppets or cgi: it’s no longer relevant because everything just works and nothing distracts.
Paige is very good in the role. She’s easily the best part of the film, bringing a welcome fierceness to the film, and her stunt work is to be commended. Her upside down water ballet was terrific as was her fight through the tigerswamp; the actress has no problem with either the physically demanding aspects or the real tearjerking ones.
All is not perfect, however, despite the amazing images. The tonal shifts are a little jarring, like after Siba learns the fate of her family before the film cuts to her laughing aboard the flying nursery, surrounded by borlops. The story calls for lots of characters to experience lots of emotions, some joyous, some dismal, and at the film’s breakneck pace the viewer is often left trying to process one scene as another, completely different one is already beginning. For anyone but a hyperactive child this can get tiresome, eventually leaving you apathetic. Not exactly what you want in a quarter-of-a-billion-dollar-plus culmination of forty years of films, but nobody and nothing is perfect.
Still, the good outweighs the bad and, after all, this is the last one, right? It says so in the title.