Knives Out revived the murder mystery genre, and The Last Jedi was Star Wars’ most ambitious film, but which is director Rian Johnson’s best film?
Rian Johnson’s first film Brick, a drug-centered crime noir set in a high school in California, bent a popular genre and set the high stakes amongst a group of teenagers. He’s always sought to defy expectations, and the tactic seems to work every time. 2012’s Looper pitted young hitman (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) against his older self (Bruce Willis) in an unexpected turn of events, and the story just never proceeds the way audiences expect it.
Chances are good that almost everyone on the internet knows his name following the divided reception of The Last Jedi by many Star Wars fans. Late 2019 Johnson’s murder-mystery revival Knives Out was released to critical acclaim, spelling certain future success for the controversial director. Here are five reasons why The Last Jedi is Rian Johnson’s best film and five reasons why Knives Out is his best. Beware, spoilers for both films ahead!
Knives Out: It’s A Smart Critique Of Wealth And Privilege
Rian Johnson had very specific and timely ideas for what he wanted his post-Star Wars movie to say, and Knives Out touches on many cultural hot topics with eloquence. The audience sees the Thrombeys as conceited and self-serving, even Marta’s friend Meg (Katherine Langford) turns against her at a critical point in the story. Marta is the underdog because of her class and status as the daughter of an immigrant, and her employer’s family seeks to leverage it against her for their benefit.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi: He Introduced Moral Ambiguity To The Series
Say what you will about The Last Jedi, but the film has some of the most interesting concepts in the series. The movie begins with a daring mission executed by Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) that leads to his demotion and rebuke at the hands of General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher). The Last Jedi then deconstructs the entire meaning behind the Jedi when Rey (Daisey Ridley) finally finds Luke Skywalker, only to find out that he has become a hopeless hermit.
Later, Finn (John Boyega) and Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) find out from a thief (Benicio del Toro) that war profiteers are selling weapons and battleships to the First Order, as well as the Resistance. These themes are all signature moves from Johnson demanding that the viewer look closer.
Knives Out: The Cast Is Timeless
The Thrombey family’s patriarch is the brilliant author Harlan (Christopher Plummer), possessor of the elusive inheritance worth millions of dollars, and all of his children and grandchildren are after it. Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her husband Richard (Don Johnson), and even their pretentious son Ransom (Chris Evans) seek the fortune.
The self-victimizing son Walt (Michael Shannon) and his internet-trolling son Jacob (Jaeden Martell), and his aunt Joni (Toni Collette) are all vying for it as well. On top of that, renowned P.I. Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) was hired to investigate the mystery of Harlan’s unexpected death. This stacked cast is one of the best ensembles of recent memory.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi: It Has Some Of The Most Memorable Scenes In Modern Sci-Fi/Action
The Holdo Maneuver, in which Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) sacrifices herself to ram the First Order battleship at lightspeed, is breathtaking and elicited gasps from viewers on opening night. The death of Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) by his student is another jaw-dropping moment, and the ensuing battle in the throne room with Rey and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) fending off Snoke’s vicious guards is one of the greatest fight scenes in the series. Kylo Ren catching Rey’s thrown lightsaber and turning it on right through the eye of a guard is still brilliant to watch.
Knives Out: It Revived Interest In The Murder-Mystery Genre
The box office results prove its success, and one reason the film is so successful is that Knives Out’s is fundamentally unique to the mystery sub-genre in that its setting is modern. Largely confined to certain period settings like Murder on the Orient Express, Knives Out broke that mold by featuring a timely theme set in the modern age.
Rian Johnson loves the genre and wrote his homage to play by many of its rules, but also cleverly reinvents many such rules by way of excellent character development.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi: It Is Visually Stunning (Which Enhances The Story)
Part of the reason The Last Jedi’s scenes are so memorable is because of their intense visual appeal. From the poster to the vicious throne room fight scene, red tinges the entire film. Its use isn’t heavy-handed, but just subtle enough to remain a background influence on the entire film.
During Kylo Ren’s final confrontation with Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) on the salt-white plains of Crait, the young First Order leader’s red footprints can be seen where he steps. Nearly every scene, including Rey’s self-discovery on Ahch-To, is beautiful, but also intentionally produced to enhance the story and the character’s journey.
Knives Out: It Proves Johnson’s Skill Directing Distinct Characters
Although Rian Johnson can’t claim to have tapped into the genius of Daniel Craig’s southern accent—it shows up in Logan Lucky—Benoit Blanc is Craig’s first Louisiana accent. As scene-stealing as he is in Knives Out, Blanc doesn’t overshadow his talented co-stars. Viewers get a peek into the grieving heart of Jamie Lee Curtis’ character Linda, Harlan’s daughter with whom he had a special bond, and even Chris Evans’ deep-fake villain Ransom is even given a distinct edge unique to any other character in the film.
Johnson wrote the characters excellently, it’s true, but he also directed his cast to clear success as he communicated his vision for the ensemble of characters.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi: The Story Is Meaningful To The Characters
While this might be a controversial point, The Last Jedi does nothing but prove this over and over. Finn is given a central role in the film and learns of the ambiguity of war, strengthening his resolve to be a truly good man in evil times. Rey accepts her lot as the forsaken child of junkers on her home planet, learning to seek answers from herself and not the world outside. Poe is humbled by multiple failures and his brash actions, yet forgiven and provided another chance to be the hero. Even Luke Skywalker in his unusual role in the film is given a hero’s sendoff by championing Rey as the next Jedi.
Knives Out: The Finale Works Almost Perfectly
Knives Out begins with the Thrombey family mansion and ends with Marta (Ana de Armas) staring down at the Thrombeys from her vantage point on the balcony. Every character is impacted by the film’s conclusion, none more so than Marta.
She has known the true nature of her employer’s children, in-laws, and grandchildren, but now she has seen it on display in all its ugliness. Benoit Blanc touchingly affirms Marta’s good heart, and the film ends with Harlan’s will fulfilled: the house and fortune go to Marta and her family.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi: Johnson Took The Biggest Risks Of Any Star Wars Movie
Luke Skywalker sees the events of episodes one through three and realizes that the Jedi’s ignorance led to Darth Sidious’ rise to power, and his failure is evidence of similar blindness. Killing the big bad in an unexpected turn of events proved Kylo Ren’s burning desire to be free of cruel humiliation, and his plea to Rey to join him in power hearkens back to Return of the Jedi and The Empire Strikes Back.
Luke’s final confrontation with Kylo isn’t about Luke’s force ghost, it’s about the survival of the small band of Resistance members, and Rey, who will save the day. All of the narrative risks Rian Johnson took writing and directing The Last Jedi pay off.
YOU MAY LIKE THIS DVD
DVD Region: 4, PAL (for AUS & NZ)
Number of Discs: 1
Shipping: Send in 1-2 days from NSW, ETA 6-8 working days.
Returns: 60 days money back for no reason, seller pays return postage.
Guarantee: Authentic DVD, send again or full refund if not delivered in 3 weekds.
Knives Out Complete Series