This Review is Spoilers-Free
It has become a yearly tradition now. The holiday season already upon us, colder weather and snow on the ground and a brand new Star Wars film releasing in theaters everywhere. This year it’s Episode VIII and it’s called Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The title not only suggests solitude and sadness but dark foreboding. When we last saw our favorite characters, the Resistance had struck a significant blow to the First Order when they destroyed Starkiller Base, but at a large cost. Their numbers have thinned, while the First Order grows and looms larger on the horizon, tracking the Resistance at every turn. J.J. Abrams started us down a new path in the universe and this time Rian Johnson would steer the ship through an asteroid field of plot twists and new characters. The moment we’ve all been waiting for is here, the familiar orchestral melodies have struck, the crawl is scrolling along the stars, and it’s time to talk about a new Star Wars story!
The biggest fear going into The Last Jedi was that it be a rehash or new version of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, much in the way critics and fans felt that Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a retelling of Star Wars: A New Hope. While The Last Jedi repeatedly beat us over the head with dread and doom, it is by no means an Empire remake with fresh new characters. As Johnson winds the bends of this new story, you feel it going one way, however, he turns you into a new and fresh direction you hadn’t even expected. By the time the movie ends, you’re left with no idea of where they’re going to go, aside from the hope of a new day.
The Last Jedi is full of action and character development. While it’s the longest Star Wars film in the saga, it certainly doesn’t feel like a two and a half hour film. There are points at the end where you feel, oh here’s the conclusion and then it continues but not in a “when will this end” kind of way. We’re introduced very organically to several brand new characters who definitely rise to the occasion. The inclusion of Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), the loyal and strong behind the scenes Resistance maintenance worker who believes in the cause. Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo (Laura Dern) who is at odds with Poe Dameron throughout the movie makes you uncertain where her allegiances might actually lie. And finally an underworld thief and hacker (Benicio del Toro) who provides our friends with a little comic relief and some interesting character choices throughout.
Our already established new and returning characters all grow within the film. Each one of them, trying to find their place in all this. Poe within the higher ranks of the Resistance, Finn finding his footing in a world of free will, and Rey, who is pleading her case with Jedi Master Luke Skywalker to rejoin the fight. Luke has been tormented by his past, his failures with training Ben Solo and allowing him to turn so fully to the dark side. He has given up on his religion and believes the Jedi need to end. He reluctantly takes on Rey as a student, but only to teach her why the Jedi must end. Kylo Ren is on a journey all his own as he still hasn’t advanced with Supreme Leader Snoke after murdering his father. He is still conflicted with his emotions and Snoke sees this as an extreme weakness. Speaking of Snoke, we finally meet the Supreme Leader in the flesh and get to experience what power he truly possesses.
This film was fantastic and fun. The over-used cliche of it being an emotional rollercoaster could fit perfectly here as with every turn or screen wipe we take a ride both up and down the emotional scale. The action was gripping and the cinematography allowed to see a new side of the Star Wars experience. Rian Johnson had a difficult task of taking a new story we haven’t seen before within such a well-defined universe. He did this masterfully, however, not without mistake. There are particular turns taken that were a stretch, even as far as pointless, but you understand that Johnson had to make them as he needed to show us something fresh not just another retelling of a Lucas story we’ve seen. The final shot of the film poetically gives us hope and reminds us all of being that child ready to take on the Empire or First Order or whichever dark entity that stands in the path of the light. For this writer, The Last Jedi, stands tall with giants like Empire and is a proud addition to the Skywalker Saga.
What did you guys think of the movie? Are you excited for Abrams to return for Episode IX? Are you comforted now knowing that Johnson will be creating a brand new trilogy of Star Wars films? What were you disappointed about with the movie? Who is your favorite new character?