The eighth episode of the Star Wars saga is here. 2015’s The Force Awakens (You can read that review here) breathed new life into the series by giving us the familiarity of that galaxy far, far away that captured our imagination while simultaneously giving us new characters to carry the torch. Now we move onto the second installment of the sequel trilogy. With The Last Jedi, we get something we know, but now we get something very unique for a Star Wars film. The story moves forward, and the franchise moves forward in a very special direction. Director Rian Johnson has taken what we know and loved, remixed it in a way and has given the future of the series an outlook I don’t think it has ever had before.
Episode VIII begins where it’s predecessor ends. Rey (Daisy Ridley) finds Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and attempts to convince him to return and help the Resistance led by his sister Leia (Carrie Fisher). Meanwhile Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) continues to find out what connects him and Rey. Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Issac) and Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) execute their own plan to take down the First Order.
That’s enough of plot. I don’t want to spoil anything. This review is going to be difficult because I have so much I wish to discuss and I run the risk of spoiling. I’ll first start with some of the basics.
Visually this is the best looking Star Wars film yet. Johnson gives the film a distinct style that captures the feelings of each character. Obviously from the posters, the main color is red and it’s incorporated in the film in many ways.
John Williams returns once again and what else is there to say about a legend? He delivers another fantastic entry into the musical arena of the franchise and gives us some special callbacks to the original Star Wars that will give you goosebumps as you hear it.
Acting? Everyone ups their game. Adam Driver continues to make Kylo Ren one of the most complex and complicated antagonists in Star Wars lore. His continued confusion makes for a compelling character arc. Daisy Ridley brings more to Rey as she searches for her own answers about herself. Mark Hamill gives his absolute best performance as Luke Skywalker. He is a man filled with many regrets despite the good he has done. He ponders his legacy, not in how much better he’s left the galaxy, but how much worse. Of course I must mention Carrie Fisher in her final portrayal as Leia Organa. Fisher, like her character is a veteran who leads and you clearly see the impact she has on those around her. Poe Dameron especially. You get the sense that the actors in the room wanted to be at their best for their general, Carrie as well as Leia. She has a very big moment in the film that’s underscored by a familiar Star Wars theme that had my eyes watering. There were quite a few moments like that.
Also, I’d like to mention Kelly Marie Tran as Rose. A new character, Rose brings a new perspective that we generally do not see in Star Wars. It was certainly welcoming to have this viewpoint and Tran gives Rose such resolve that differs from the motivations of our other heroes.
The word around the water cooler is that The Last Jedi is divisive in its reception amongst audiences. Yes it is. I can see why. And this is why I loved it. At the time of this writing, I don’t have the benefit of a second viewing. Yet walking out of the theater, these were my thoughts. Star Wars: A New Hope is my favorite film of all-time. That will never change. The Last Jedi however, may have become my favorite Star Wars film. It’s so thematic and layered, more so than any other film in the series. There’s a major message that’s given throughout the film. One that speaks to us as Star Wars fans. The film takes what we know, or what we thought we knew and says, nah. Do some questions from The Force Awakens get answers? Yes. Will some people like them? No. Luke says to Rey, “this is not going to go the way you think.” He’s speaking to us as well. In The Last Jedi, Star Wars breaks free from its past and once you get to the final shot of the film, you will understand. Some things are glamorous and The Last Jedi takes away some of that sheen for the betterment of the series. I’ll summarize by saying this, you, me, everyone matter and so do our stories.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is an impactful and important entry. Our heroes stories continue while simultaneously using them to open the doors of the franchise for an exciting new direction. Maybe for the first time since 1977, we’ve taken our first steps into a larger world.
I know I adjusted my rating system to a 4 point system, but this film has resonated really strong with me and so I am going to give it my highest regards.
Final Rating 5/5 – Star Wars: The Last Jedi might have become my favorite film in the series with a rich and thematic challenge to what we know about this franchise and push in a new direction.