Much has been made of the divisive nature of The Last Jedi. Love it or hate it, the praise or blame, depending on your view, rests squarely on the shoulders of writer/director Rian Johnson. He is the sole credited screenwriter and he shepherded this movie from day one, with the blessing of Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy and with the help of a massive cast and crew. However, as revealed in the intimate documentary The Director and the Jedi, this movie, for better or for worse, was absolutely an execution of a singular vision and this behind-the-scenes expose provides us an intimate look at that process from start to finish.

The Director and the Jedi comes from director Anthony Wonke and starts from the very beginning of this journey. We pick up the moment Rian Johnson was announced as the director of what was simply known as Star Wars: Episode VIII at the time. Up to that point, Johnson had been a respected filmmaker, but had never tackled anything even remotely close to the scale of a Star Wars movie. From that point, we go on the journey with him, from writing the script, to the earliest days of pre-production, all the way through the final day of shooting.

Even if you're the type of Star Wars fan who doesn't really want to know how the sausage is made, so to speak, being that The Last Jedi now holds such a unique place within the fandom, this is well worth a watch. This is a documentary that has been approved and commissioned by Lucasfilm. That being the case, one would think it might be something of a softball effort and would try and avoid casting a light on any of the divisiveness that has popped up since the movie was released. While it's not some sort of expose piece to satisfy haters or anything like that, this Star Wars documentary truly is an honest, intimate look at how this movie came to be. It's not about good or bad. Things are just presented as they are. And they're quite revealing. What they reveal and how you feel about them comes down to your view of The Last Jedi, but it offers a lot of clarity.

Even though this ultimately is something that helps promote the home video release of The Last Jedi and serves as a bit of bonus content to throw on the Blu-ray, it actually feels like a real movie in itself. The Director and the Jedi has a story to tell, like all great documentaries do. It just so happens to be about a divisive movie within the biggest movie franchise ever. But that's part of what makes the intimate and quiet nature of this movie so effective. It feels like something that was made with Star Wars fans in mind.

One of the most impressive things that this documentary does is really help to provide a sense of scope. It shows just how much of an undertaking making one of these movies really is. No matter how much money one has to make a movie and no matter how much time one has to make it, there's never enough of either. It also reveals the scope of Rian Johnson's job as director. Casual movie fans have an understanding that directors make movies, but here, we see just what that entails and how much that encompasses. We see Johnson doing everything from approving creature designs, deciding what sets need to be built and which ones need to be on location, what every costume needs to look like on Canto Bight and boring, clerical work, such as signing budget forms. It's a lot of delegation, but ultimately, if he doesn't have a vision, it's easy to see how everything would just crumble. It takes an army to make a Star Wars movie, but that army goes through one man.

One of the most fascinating threads in The Director and the Jedi is seeing just how many people had to trust in Rian Johnson's vision, even if they didn't totally understand it or, in Mark Hamill's case, didn't agree with it. At least not in the beginning. But as the movie progresses, people begin to see the vision coming together and those questions and doubts seem to disappear. But it's an interesting thing to see now, given how many fans have reacted to The Last Jedi. Even while making the movie, people had questions.

There are plenty of Star Wars documentaries out there. Making of documentaries about these movies became popular because fans simply craved more. That said, they've almost always felt like supplemental pieces to the actual movies. They've always felt like something extra. The Director and the Jedi actually feels like its own movie and not just an obligatory Star Wars bonus feature. That's what makes this special and essential viewing for fans.

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Ryan Scott at Movieweb
Ryan Scott