Star Wars fans, your sky high expectations are rewarded. If possible, stoke your enthusiasm even further. Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a torrent of plot development. What you’ve pontificated, argued, and theorized about, is going to be shattered utterly. Rian Johnson takes the fabled lore from a galaxy far away into uncharted territory. He will have you spellbound. It’s a lot to comprehend at first blush, and there are a few down beats. The film is so packed with narrative, it doesn’t flow quite as effortlessly as Empire Strikes Back or Rogue One; but where it takes you is remarkable.
As the First Order marches to finish the Resistance, every character in The Last Jedi is faced with a reckoning. A hero’s journey does not take place without introspection. The search for answers sometimes leads to uncomfortable truths. Rey (Daisy Ridley) has found Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), but he is not at all the teacher she expected. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) killed his father to become more powerful in the dark side. His heinous act further driving the conflict within him. While Snoke (Andy Serkis) and General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) sense victory, General Organa (Carrie Fisher) understands the importance of hope. Her officers (Oscar Isaac, Laura Dern) may differ on tactics, but the Resistance can always depend on the iron will of its fighters (John Boyega, Kelly Tran) and droids.
The Last Jedi cuts no corners. Its greatest accomplishment is successfully managing the myriad of complex storylines. Heroes and villains have character arcs that are brewed like Star Wars tea. Their outcomes are seismic. Some scenes will floor you with astonishment. Rian Johnson challenges convention early and often. The genius of his approach is a firm foundation in the mythology; with, dare I say an enlightened take on its future. The Force Awakens was quite similar to A New Hope in plot and structure. The Last Jedi cannot be quantified as The Empire Strikes Back of this trilogy. What happens, where the characters go, and the impact of the climax stands resolutely on its own.
The Last Jedi has stupendously dramatic moments, but offsets the heaviness with sprinkles of sharp humor. These scenes have a decidedly more youthful manner indicative of the director. It helps to manage the staggering carnage. The battle scenes are epic in scope with casualties galore. Star Wars, as established in Rogue One, has taken the kids gloves off in its depiction of violence. War is hell and losses are real. The visual and sound effects deliver the sci-fi blows like a jackhammer. The lightsaber duels aren’t as intricate as the Lucas films, but are equally titanic in their resolve. There are two mind-blowing fight scenes that will have fans frothing at the bit for months.
The film does have a primary flaw. The flood of reveals and character exposition leads to choppiness. Johnson has so much to tell us, so much to do; it doesn’t all stitch together seamlessly. The Last Jedi tends to swing from jaw-dropping moments. The scenes in between are critical to the story, but feel distinctly less in gravitas. This issue is addressed rather poignantly in the close, when the future path of the Star Wars story is finally laid out.
The performances in The Last Jedi will be immensely rewarding to the fan base. Mark Hamill will have you cheering again for Luke Skywalker. He has changed significantly since Return of the Jedi, but is still the embodiment of the mythic hero. I was mesmerized by Mark Hamill here, just like I was as a child. He and Rian Johnson have succeeded in bringing the wonder of Luke Skywalker to a whole new generation. If you thought he was bad-ass before…
The Last Jedi has deeply philosophical moments. It takes the battle between light and darkness to a whole new place. The film is truly one surprise after the other. I can’t wait to hear what audiences think once all of the secrets are in the open. Lucasfilm has possibly made the most discussion worthy installment of Star Wars. Spoilers will ruin the experience, so tread carefully. And yes, the Porgs are freaking adorable.