“This is not going to go how you think” utters Luke Skywalker in one of the few promotional glimpses we received for The Last Jedi; a follow up to 2015’s Force Awakens, and the eighth installment in the Star Wars franchise.
The film continues the story of Rey (Daisy Ridley) who tries to convince a disgruntled Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to return and fight with the resistance. The resistance led by General Leia (the late Carrie Fisher) is a rebellion-fueled effort to stop Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and his regime, the First Order, from consuming the galaxy.
Rian Johnson, who directed this film, has given audiences and fans alike one of the most unique and boundary-pushing Star Wars films of all time. Ever since he was a child, Johnson has been a huge fan of the Star Wars franchise. Johnson recalled playing with Star Wars action figures as a kid. He personifies his passion for Star Wars through the entirety of this 152 minute science fiction epic he directed.
The characters in The Last Jedi are taken in so many new directions, and we explore new sides to each character, never seen in a Star Wars film before. Luke Skywalker (Hamill) is one of these, and while controversial amongst fans of the series as well as Hamill himself, the direction Johnson pushes Luke made for the greatest incarnation of this character ever. He is gruff, bitter, and disgruntled, but the heart and soul of this entire film.
We also see General Leia (Fisher) from a different angle than previously portrayed in this franchise. From Empire Strikes Back we know that Leia is force-sensitive. Johnson finally utilizes that with Leia’s character, yielding a deeply satisfying scene. Of course there’s Kylo Ren (Driver) who cements his position as the greatest Star Wars villain ever. His character (not unlike Rey) feels incomplete. It is almost as if Johnson purposefully neglected some of his character development, and allowed the cards to fall into place. Thus allowing the story and script to shape him.
The script for this film is also hysterically funny. Between Chewbacca devouring a porg (one of the new creatures) and Luke milking an alien for a terrific gross out scene, the jokes hit hard. Fans shook in their seats laughing, and all of the gags are brilliant and welcomed. Sure there are funny moments in other Star Wars movies, but never before have we seen a Star Wars film use humor as one of the main driving forces behind the screenplay.
Performance-wise, the main cast is impeccable. Mark Hamill does the best performance of Luke ever in film history. Fans will also be satisfied–if not a bit saddened–at the last film role of Carrie Fisher. Between her crackly voice and flat-out baddie demeanor, General Leia has never been so good. Yet it was Oscar Isaac, as pilot Poe Dameron, whose performance was far better than his already fantastic work in The Force Awakens. Arrogant, yet so likeable, Poe is one of the greatest additions to the new trilogy of Star Wars movies.
The Last Jedi is close to perfection, but there is one conspicuous flaw that cannot be ignored. There are sporadic moments, roughly no more than five minutes of screen time, where the pacing begins to lag. It is in those few minutes of film where you realize how long you have been sitting in your seat, and just how long this nearly three hour movie is. Those moments do fade, and the film picks back up and seeks to thrill again.
Conclusion-wise, this movie is excellent. The third act is wildly shocking and entertaining, yet still manages to push the boundaries of this universe in new directions. Some fans will critique The Last Jedi for just how “defying the odds” and “risky” it is. Yet to criticize a film series about talking aliens, men and women who wield colored-glow sticks, and individuals capable of semi-telekinesis, and call it outlandish, does not really work as a valid criticism.
The Last Jedi is a great film that deeply explores the corners of every character, and gives us a fresh vision for the series. It is funny, shocking, and most of all; yet another reason to love these movies.